With a new year and the green shoots of economic recovery emerging, the property market is back in bloom – and that’s good news for many Dacorum businesses.
UK economic growth has been steadily rising and you need look no further than Bovingdon Brickworks for evidence of the entrepreneurs looking to make a bottom line bonus from the steadily rising house prices and the demand for new homes.
Sales and production support manager Jonathan Driver said: “We have certainly seen an upturn.
“Clearly it’s been tough over the last four or five years, but I think probably from June, there has been a definite rise in enquiries and dispatches.”
The factory produces a staggering seven million bricks a year – a million are hand-crafted and the rest are made by machine.
Mr Driver thinks the firm’s unique style of making bricks from clay dug near to the brickworks site is behind its survival through the economic downturn.
He said: “It has been tough – it’s been a lot harder for the guys in the yard.
“Probably three or four years ago, we did cut production periods – we cut weeks out of production.
“We have managed to hang onto all our employees. We haven’t laid any off through redundancies.
“We have had short working periods, which has been extremely difficult for the guys in the yard – but we are pleased to say we got through that process.
“It only lasted one particularly bad year. The next year I think we probably had 10 days of shutdowns.
“Since then, we haven’t had any further shutdowns required, so we have done fairly well through the process.”
Rising property prices have been boosted in recent months by government schemes to provide 95 per cent mortgages for people who buy new-build homes.
This has also created a surge in the number of people looking to make money by building them – creating more demand for bricks.
Mr Driver said: “Certainly over the last five to six months, things have definitely improved and we see them continuing like that into next year, hopefully.”
He said Ley Hill brickmakers Dunton Brothers closed down last year – just before the government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme was launched in April.
Mr Driver said: “We are always sorry to see brickworks go – it is a dying art.
“As brickworks get bought up, it’s often the smaller less profitable brickworks that tend to be lost in the overall mix.
“It’s always a sad moment to see a brickworks go by the wayside, but we hope that the business will continue.
“We find there is a lot more interest in buying local materials that aren’t travelling so far, so that has helped us in expanding our business to local markets.”
The Help To Buy scheme – which allows people to buy new-build homes with a deposit of just five per cent – has led to rising property sales and prices.
Manager of the Hemel Hempstead branch of Taylors estate agents Scott Garlick said: “We have seen a large rise in demand for property. It started about three months ago.
“The market was still good before then, but now it’s become very good.”
Statistics suggest the Herts property market was more buoyant than neighbouring counties during the economic downturn.
According to property website Zoopla, the average two-bedroom home in Hemel Hempstead will set you back £197,000 – compared to the £161,060 you will pay in Bedford and £178,655 in Aylesbury.