Bellway says house sales starting to improve

Bellway worker
Image caption Bellway said that the average price of its homes rose 8% to £168,000

Housebuilder Bellway saw a jump in sales in January, and forecast continued recovery as long as there were no shocks to the UK economy.

The firm, which has shifted away from building flats to two-storey houses, said it had managed to push through an 8% rise in its average sale price.

"The early signs that we've had in January are encouraging," said Bellway finance director Alistair Leitch.

But he warned against reading too much into one month's figures.

Nevertheless, he believes the momentum will continue into the all-important spring buying season so long as nothing "untoward" happens to the economy.

A positive start to the year will come as a relief to the sector after a weak autumn and bad weather in December.

Last week, Halifax said house prices rose 0.8% in January, but this was seen largely as a bounce-back after a 1.3% drop in December.

Some economists have predicted house prices could fall 10% this year, as public spending cuts and tax rises start to bite.

In a trading statement, Bellway said that it completed 3.8% more sales in the half-year to 31 January, at 2,332 homes, and said average selling prices rose to £168,000.

The company said: "Whilst site visitors and reservations were obviously hampered by the cold weather in December, the number of visitors and subsequent reservations since the beginning of January has been encouraging.

"However, four weeks is too short a time to consider revising our forecast for the full year," the company said.

Bellway also increased its land-buying programme during the six months, spending about £130m, compared with £76m for the same period in 2009.

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