BARRATT Developments said forward sales were almost £1 billion up on last year as it “modestly” hiked its outlook amid a booming property market and a strong start to 2021.

The housebuilder said it is set to complete more homes this year than first predicted, at between 16,000 and 16,250, with a further 650 joint venture completions.

It comes after the housing market roared ahead in recent months due largely to the stamp duty holiday, which was extended to the end of June south of the Border, and the equivalent in Scotland as well as changing demand due to the pandemic.

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UK house prices hit a new record of £238,831 in April after rising 2.1 per cent since March in the biggest monthly increase since 2004, according to figures last week from Nationwide Building Society.

Barratt said weekly average net private reservations per active outlet stood at 0.83 since the start of 2021, up from 0.79 a year earlier, with forward sales of £3.7 billion against £2.8bn a year ago.

The group announced it would repay around £3.5 million of business rates relief on its show homes and sales offices due to its strong trading.

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It has already repaid £26m of furlough cash in its first half.

Barratt said: “Reflecting both strong trading and our successful increase in construction activity, we now expect 2020-21 wholly owned completions to be between 16,000 and 16,250 homes and to deliver around 650 joint venture home completions.

“As a result, we now expect an out-turn for the full year modestly above the board’s previous expectations.”

Barratt revealed provisions of £163.1m since 2017-18 for remedial cladding work on developments following the Grenfell Tower disaster, after another £4.1m was put by in its second half so far.

It added that £85.6m remains unspent.

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In February, Barratt resumed shareholder dividend payouts as it announced interim pre-tax profits rising 1.7% to £430.2m on a 10% jump in revenues.

It completed a record 9,077 homes over the six months to December 31, a jump of 9.2% from the last six months of 2019 and the highest ever for its half-year.

Barratt earlier flagged new developments across Scotland including Whiteland Coast in the north of Scotland and Lime Grove in the east, with Merchant Quay in Edinburgh also set to launch, and backing for new homes in the Findrassie area of Elgin.

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David Thomas, Barratt Developments chief executive, said: “Our priority continues to be keeping our customers and colleagues safe as we deliver high quality sustainable homes and developments the country needs, creating jobs and supporting economic recovery across England, Scotland and Wales.”

The firm said: “We continue to manage the operational challenges created by Covid-19 across our business providing flexibility and support for employees.

“We recognise that following the initial national lockdown, unlike many other industries, we have been fortunate in our ability to continue operations across the country.”

David Kimberley, Freetrade analyst, said the group had “hit all the right notes” but warned over the potential direction of the boom.

He said: “Wholly owned completions for the year look likely to come in way ahead of prior predictions the group had made, and those were already looking like good numbers."

Mr Kimberley continued: “Net private reservations have also increased more than some analysts were saying they would.

“Combine that with a very strong balance sheet and it’s easy to see why Barratt has been such an appealing choice for investors over the past 12 months.

“Having said that, this is one of those cases where the wider economic picture matters more than most.

“Part of the success Barratt has seen in the past six months has been driven by pent up demand and the huge level of government support the housing sector has received over the course of the pandemic.”

He said: “The group will be hoping those measures served as a stop-gap, helping to keep things going during the pandemic and ensuring they can continue once we return to normality.

“But it’s easy to see how demand could peter out as the stamp duty holiday comes to an end and further restrictions are placed on the help to buy scheme.”

Shares closed up nearly 2%, or 14.2p, at 779.8p.