THE incoming chief executive of Persimmon has warned the Scottish housing market will remain a mixed bag until mortgages are easier to secure.
Jeff Fairburn, currently group managing director and head of the northern division, says he is positive on the company's prospects in Scotland but does not expect volumes to significantly increase until mortgage availability improves.
Persimmon expects to bring on the first phase of houses at the large regeneration of the former Bishopton munitions works soon and has a number of other projects pencilled in for 2013 including a 300-unit site at Baillieston and a Charles Church development at Bathgate.
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However, Mr Fairburn emphasised more help from lenders is needed to get people on to and up the property ladder.
The FirstBuy scheme in England was renewed last year and Persimmon has forecast an increase in first time-buyer sales this spring.
But the Scottish Government backed Mi New Home scheme offering 95% mortgages has not yet had much of an impact since its September launch.
Although part exchange remains a popular choice in Scotland that option is being funded mainly by developers.
Mr Fairburn said: "There are only a few lenders involved in [Mi New Home] in Scotland so we need a few more lenders offering support. We hope it picks up a bit more volume this year."
Mr Fairburn believes there are some early indications mortgage availability will ease in 2013 with recent Bank of England data suggesting the main lenders plan to offer more loans.
He said: "The qualification criteria [for a mortgage] may tighten but generally if there is more money coming into the mortgage market we can only welcome that."
Persimmon legally completed 9903 homes in 2012 – 6% ahead on the previous year.
Average selling prices increased from £163,999 to £173,400 while total revenues surged 12% from £1.54 billion to £1.72bn.
Margins improved from 10% to around 13% and the company's cash balance almost quintupled from £41m to £200m.
Forward sales at the end of 2012 were £645m, compared to £615m at the culmination of 2011, while the plots held in the land bank increased from 63,335 to 68,000.
Mr Fairburn, who will replace outgoing group chief executive Mike Farley in April, said Persimmon had benefited from lower land prices and a focus on family homes.
Mr Fairburn said: "We have been concentrating on family housing and that mix has improved our average selling price.
"Buyers for apartments are finding things tougher so we are tending to concentrate more on family housing where access to mortgages is a bit easier."
Mr Fairburn does not expect any major changes in the Scottish property market this year.
He added: "Like the rest of the UK, Scotland is a bit of a mixed bag.
"As we move on to the newer land we have purchased in good locations and put family housing in, then there is a demand for that.
"I think we will see similar levels of interest and market conditions so we are positive about it.
"We don't see volumes racing away until such times as the mortgage market improves significantly."
Persimmon confirmed its south division chief executive Nigel Greenaway is joining the board as an executive director while regional chairman Dave Jenkinson takes control of the north division.
Marion Sears, senior independent director at Dunelm Group and a non-executive at Octopus Investments, has been appointed as a non-executive director.