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Better news for domestic HVAC operators

Housebuilder Bellway has reported a healthy spring selling season as consumer confidence improved, providing a glimmer of hope that an improved housing market will bring more business to domestic HVAC service suppliers.

The UK’s fourth biggest housebuilder said uncertainties in the autumn period had diminished as a more normal reservation pattern returned.

The Newcastle-based company posted a 9 per cent increase in its sales rate in the 17 weeks to May 31 to 111 units per week as the average selling price increased 4 per cent to £182,000.

Housebuilders are expecting a difficult 2011 as public spending cuts and weaker consumer confidence test the market.

Bellway said the improvement in average house prices was drive by changes in its product mix and a greater contribution from higher-value units in and around London, where demand is strongest.

Bellway said it spent £220 million on land and land creditors in the year to date, which saw net debt rise to £57 million as at May 31.

The company warned constraints to mortgage supply, particularly to first-time buyers, combined with wider economic concerns, posed challenges to the housing market.

But it added with a strong order book and the increasing contribution from sites acquired since the downturn it was well positioned to deliver growth.

However, the news for the market in general does not look particularly encouraging.

The number of housing project starts was down nearly a third year-on-year in the three months to May, construction analyst Glenigan said.

The fall covered both the private and public sector, with private housing development starts down 32 per cent and social housing projects down 28 per cent compared with the same period of 2010.

The hardest hit areas were the North East and South East, which suffered 76 per cent and 42 per cent falls for private housing project starts, but London managed to buck the trend on the back of a stronger housing market in the capital.