Rachael Ainscough, managing director of Ainscough Strategic Land, said the “long game” which governs the housebuilding industry is ensuring activity continues, however she called on Government to extend Help to Buy to boost sales in the aftermath.
The housebuilders’ approach of ensuring a three to five-year pipeline means the deal flow is continuing, generating work for a wide range of professions according to Ainscough, whose Leigh-based company delivers consented sites to housebuilders.
She said activity is showing no signs of slowing down, despite the inconvenience of reorganising teams to work remotely.
“We have a number of acquisitions and disposals progressing with lawyers at the moment because, come what may, the industry has to be ready to push on when restrictions are lifted,” said Ainscough.
“Our place in the property cycle can cope with physical dislocation thanks to technology, so we can keep cracking on,” she added. All the Ainscough team are now working from home.
However Government needs to play its part to ensure consumers are “ready to go” when restrictions are lifted, she said, which means extending the timeframe for Help to Buy.
The existing Help to Buy will require properties being sold using this scheme to be built by December this year, and the new Help to Buy scheme running to 2023 is more limiting on who qualifies, based on regional caps on loan-to-value ratios and is only applicable to first time buyers.
“Those purchasers using the current scheme may well not be in a position to complete on their houses if the build is not completed in time, due to the anticipated slowdown in construction between now and then. It is clear the transition period from the current scheme to the new scheme needs extending. We need government to signal this now so that consumers and the industry can factor this into their planning. Not to do so will cause a logjam that will inevitably take months to unclog. If government takes the right decisions now, we could avoid that issue.”
Ainscough said listed housebuilders and others with the resources remain “firmly in the market”, seeking consented sites as before.
“The biggest short-term issue affecting us directly is planning committees being delayed, perhaps even temporarily closing down. One hopes for a technological solution such as virtual committee meeting, which could facilitate proper democratic scrutiny whilst allowing business to be conducted as close to normal as possible,” she added.