Sales of new homes in England are continuing to rise despite significant economic uncertainty, according to Vistry Group, one of the country’s largest housebuilders.

“I’ve not been this happy since the start of the year,” said Greg Fitzgerald, the chief executive, after the company announced its results for the six months to June on Tuesday. The housebuilder, formerly Bovis Homes, is selling 0.73 homes per site per week, compared with 0.61 homes a year earlier — “the highest rate we can ever remember”, said Mr Fitzgerald.

However Vistry swung to a loss before tax of £12.2m for the half year, having posted a £72.5m profit in the same period in 2019. 

Its share price fell 2.5 per cent in early trading.

“In keeping with the other housebuilders, Covid has impacted Vistry’s short-term financials hard, but it does appear the group is emerging from this exceptional situation faster than most,” said analysts from Numis.

Vistry’s forward sales are at record levels, with £2.7bn of transactions agreed as at June 30 compared with £2.6bn a year earlier.

Government interventions — the Help to Buy scheme and the introduction of a stamp duty holiday — and the release of pent-up buyer demand after property sales were in effect forbidden during lockdown, have led to a dramatic increase in sales across the industry. 

Barratt Developments, another leading builder, is also selling homes far faster than it was last year. 

Two closely watched indices published in the past week showed house prices had hit record levels, even as the UK faces its worst recession in modern history and the prospect of rising unemployment. 

“We are a lucky industry: there are not enough houses for people to buy and the government is supportive of the housing market,” said Mr Fitzgerald. Almost a third of Vistry’s homes are currently sold to buyers using the government’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which saves them from having to pull together a large deposit. 

But there are fears the boom will not persist. Help to Buy will be restricted to first-time buyers and regional price caps introduced from April 2021, and the stamp duty holiday, which came into effect in July and will save buyers up to £15,000 on the purchase of a home, is set to end in March.

“I think we will be incredibly busy up to March, then maybe a slightly slower April, May and June. Any units we aim to have complete by April, May or June I’m asking to bring forward to catch the stamp duty holiday,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Travis Perkins, the UK’s largest builders’ merchant, also reported its half-year results on Tuesday. Alan Williams, the company’s chief financial officer, said it was too soon to say “whether the release of pent-up demand will be sustained”. 

Travis Perkins, which announced in June it was cutting 2,500 jobs, about a tenth of its workforce, swung to an operating loss of £92m, from a profit of £62m a year earlier. 

Shares in the company fell 7.5 per cent on Tuesday morning.

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