Crest Nicholson says sales ‘resilient’ in the face of Brexit uncertainty

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson has insisted sales are proving “resilient” despite an uncertain outlook for homebuyer demand amid Brexit worries.

The group – which has paused its growth strategy due to Brexit uncertainty – said residential sales to date, and those forward-sold in 2018-19, were 4% lower at £715 million in the half-year to April 30.

But total residential forward sales including joint ventures rose 11% to £500.5 million, while weekly sales per outlook has “proven resilient”, remaining unchanged at 0.78 during the six months, according to Crest.

Total sales and forward orders, including land and commercial, lifted 4.2% to £792 million in the first half, it said.

The group said the housing market continues to be buoyed by the Government’s Help to Buy scheme for first-time buyers, as well as good mortgage availability.

But it added: “Despite the wider positive macro-economic backdrop, as previously noted, with the ongoing political turbulence, the demand outlook in the short-term remains uncertain.”

It also said build costs are expected to rise by between 3% to 4% over the year to October.

In January, Crest reported a 15% tumble in annual profits to £176.4 million, blaming Brexit uncertainties for putting off buyers and “breeding unease”, compounding an already sluggish London market.

Crest had already warned over profits in October after trading in the traditionally-strong autumn selling season had been subdued.

It announced chairman Stephen Stone is leading a new strategy which aims to stem the decline in profits, while new chief executive Peter Truscott is set to join in September.

As part of its overhaul, Crest is looking to cut costs and has put growth plans on hold, shelving the opening of its South East division while also recently closing its central London office.

The builder has taken action to prop up sales while also slowing some developments.

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