While fears over the direction of the Brexit process may have dented investor demand for the homebuilders more recently, uncertainty over the future of the Help To Buy incentive scheme is an issue that’s been worrying the market for years.
Fresh news on the future of the purchase programme emerging this week though, reinforces my faith the housing sector should continue to print great profits growth for some time to come.
Resilient in tough times
There’s no doubt that the spectre of an economically-painful withdrawal from the European Union — a scenario that’s growing with the likely ascension of Boris Johnson to prime minister and with him a drive towards a no-deal exit — has had a devastating impact on home prices.
Gone are the astronomical home price increases that were the norm before the Brexit referendum. Compare the 5.3% annual rise in property values Nationwide reported for the first quarter of 2016 versus the 0.4% rise printed for the corresponding period of this year.
That said, this rapid slowdown in prices hasn’t been enough to stop earnings at the country’s housebuilders from (largely speaking) continuing to chug higher. And why’s this? The mortgage product wars that’s making owning a home more and more affordable for first-time buyers, underpinned by the persistence of rock-bottom interest rates, and the extra support provided by Help To Buy.
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The future of the government’s incentive plan has come under some scrutiny of late amid accusations that artificially-inflated property prices across the UK are exacerbated the existing housing crisis. And this has led to fears over whether profits at the builders can continue their relentless rise.
Judging from recent comments made by housing minister James Brokenshire in The Times though, it appears as if Help To Buy will remain for some time to come. He suggested the government has already begun planning for the revised version of the scheme due to run from 2021, and that this new programme would include “codes of practice” to ensure new homes are of good quality.
The comments are clearly a shot across the bows of Persimmon and Bovis Homes following claims they’ve been selling substandard homes in recent years. But, more importantly, Brokenshire’s statement shows the housing ministry is getting serious in keeping Help To Buy alive well into the next decade.
Now the incentive scheme isn’t as critical in driving newbuild sales as some would have you believe, but there’s no denying they’ve helped create the fertile buying environment for first-time purchasers. So news that Help To Buy should continue for some time into the future is great news and potentially a critical one should a damaging no-deal Brexit indeed transpire.
They’re clearly not without risk, but I consider prices of the FTSE 100’s homebuilders — all of which deal within the bargain territory of 10 times and below — to fully reflect the uncertain economic outlook.
In fact, throw bulging dividend yields of up to 12.1% into the equation as well (in the case of Persimmon, that is) and they’re very attractive income stocks, in my opinion. And that news on Help To Buy has made them even better buys.
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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.