Unsurprisingly, Mark Clare is a big fan of Help to Buy. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday he said: “The ability to buy homes with a 5% deposit is creating confidence in the housing market after years of uncertainty going back to the financial crisis in 2008. We are seeing queues outside our showhomes”
Clare 56, believes the market was already picking up, even before Help to Buy with demand being boosted by signs of a general economic recovery. Barratt recorded a record 73.7% rise in underlying pre tax profit to £192.3 million in the year to the end June 2013. The average price for a Barratt (privately-sold) home also increased to £213,900. In their Interim Statement last week, Barratt confirmed sales are up by 47%.
Mark Clare, a graduate from Portsmouth Polytechnic, has a background in accountancy. After 12 years at British Gas he joined Barratt as CEO in October 2006. In April 2007 he oversaw the £2.7bn acquisition of Wilson Bowden, which included the David Wilson Homes brand – just a year ahead of the global financial meltdown and the total collapse of the housing market created by the ‘credit crunch’. The company’s share price collapsed from 954p in August 2007 to just 39.5 in less than a year. A Rights Issue was required to raise additional funds from shareholders to keep the company afloat. Not a great start in a new job was it?
During the downturn, Barratt quickly shed 1000’s of jobs as it reduced activity, switching focus to social housing. Clare now says the company has “taken back some who lost jobs during the credit crisis – their skills are needed more than ever” A fair-weather employer? You decide!
Clare says “A grasp of numbers can steady a business when demand collapses – and it helps plan ways to recover and grow when times improve.”
Not acquiring David Wilson Homes at the top of the market would have shown a better “grasp of numbers” Mr Clare!
Clare says he visits at least one of his company’s sites each week, clocking up around 20,000 miles a year. (about the same as the firm expects the average site manager to travel driving to and from their site each day!)
Despite the benefit that Help to Buy has already brought the industry, Clare also wants the public sector to do more to free up land saying:
“The public sector from the Ministry of Defence to local authorities own more than a third of developable land and we have to find a better way of getting it to market. The planning process for new homes is also still much too slow and needs speeding up.”
Clare’s 29-year old son has bought a new flat from Barratt, whilst his daughter, 27, bought a new-build flat from a rival builder!