Housebuilders look to replenish land pipelines as optimism improves

UK housebuilders are back in the market for land in greater numbers following a hiatus in 2023 where many took a more cautious and selective approach to land buying, says Knight Frank’s development land index.

The report also features the results of Knight Frank’s quarterly survey of volume and SME housebuilders across the UK.

Nearly half of respondents said housebuilders were the most active group in their regions, a step change from previous quarters.

But while deals are underway as builders look to replenish pipelines, for the most-part there is still not much land changing hands.

For that to change, over 60% of the survey respondents said that an interest rate cut is top of their wishlist.

Money markets are currently betting on between one and two cuts this year, which will ease affordability pressures for buyers.

This ranked more highly than either planning reform (48%), a further fall in land pricing (29%) and more first-time buyer support (26%) when it comes to increasing their appetite for land and new development.

Knight Frank expects demand for land will continue to steadily recover if conditions in the wider housing market remain stable.

There has been a notable increase in sites coming to market in Q1.

While deal times have lengthened, this will lead to transactions volumes building later this year. 

That said, developers will be encouraged by data which points to sales conditions improving.

On average, housebuilder site sales per week have ticked up to 0.62, up from 0.56 in H1 2023 and from a low of 0.47 in H2 2022 following the mini-Budget in September.

This is reflected by the survey results: nearly 40% of respondents said site visits and reservations had increased.

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