UK house builders announce a ‘phased return’ over the next month

Some of the UK’s largest house builders have confirmed a ‘phased return’ to working again on construction sites, following a 4-week hiatus as a result of the coronavirus.

House builders Taylor Wimpey and Vistry announced yesterday that they will be re-opening their sites on 27 April and 4 May, which has resulted in an increase in share price 3.7% higher to 140p (TW) and 5.2% higher to 764p (VTY).

Whilst house building is usually time sensitive, all UK companies have had to take the precautionary measures to limit the outbreak of the coronavirus and has put the nation in lockdown for over one month. This has resulted in hundreds of developments and regenerations projects put on hold for the time being.

In Vistry’s Partnerships regeneration business 90% of sites will be open from the beginning of next week with a significant number of housing sites also back up and running.

Both businesses have continued to sell homes through lockdown – Vistry exchanging on 170 homes and completing 193 private sales.

Taylor Wimpey’s order book totalled £2.7bn as at 19 April compared with £2.6bn at the end of February. House prices are also said to be comparable to those achieved earlier in its financial year.

“Updates from housebuilders Vistry and Taylor Wimpey today suggest the UK housing market is beginning to be defrosted,” commented Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Even through lockdown both Vistry and Taylor Wimpey have managed to sell homes remotely and digitally – even completing on some transactions – giving customers virtual tours of homes and handling all the admin online.

Whilst staff have been working remotely, sales have continued through agents selling properties off plan and offering virtual tours.

Moving forward, Taylor Wimpey has highlighted the importance of a new code of conduct for its contractors and sub-contractors which includes distancing at work, using protective masks and gloves and other necessary measures in line with coronavirus prevention.

Chris Griggs of Griggs Homes commented: “At Griggs the safety of our staff, clients, suppliers, sub-contractors and members of the public is our highest priority. Our site teams continue to take additional precautions by adhering to social distancing guidelines and we are limiting the number of people on site at any one time. Our office staff are all set up to work remotely and we are available at all times to deal with your enquiry.”

Although it has not been confirmed by the UK government, there are expectations that other places of interest may re-open in May too, including schools, nurseries and dental practices.