Subhead: leads to targeted revenue of £65m next year

It is a busy time in the Cumbrian housing market.

Pent up demand has been released as lockdown restrictions have eased with more people looking to move to rural areas. Combine this with a general lack of supply, people using lockdown to save toward a deposit and Government incentives such as 95 per cent mortgages and Stamp Duty waivers and it is a recipe for a strong market.

"We are getting a lot of enquiries from out of county," says Nicky Gordon, managing director of Penrith-based Genesis Homes.

"It's very, very vibrant and sale value has increased by 15 per cent in certain areas, particularly in the South Lakes. There's not enough secondhand stock coming onto the market, it’s not coming on very quickly and no-one can build them fast enough.”

In April, Genesis Homes, which Nicky founded back in 2017, acquired the long-established Kendal-based housebuilder Russell Armer - putting it in a good position to take advantage of a property market that shows little sign of slowing down.

Nicky says Genesis' plan was always to move into the South Lakes and north Lancashire area organically.

However, it has now been able to do this via the purchase of Russell Armer, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

"It was obviously highly desirable in terms of name and establishment, but beyond that it had quite a number of land positions in ownership in the South Lakes and north Lancashire area, which provide well in excess of 10 years of development pipeline," says Nicky.

As a group Genesis and Russell Armer are now working on seven development sites and are on track to produce 200 homes per year from 2022.

It has options on enough land across the county to build 2000 new homes in the next 15 years.

“The Russell Armer acquisition has catapulted us to our ultimate five-year business plan of being a significant producer of new homes in Cumbria alongside regional and national competitors” says Nicky.

“We’re targeting growth to over £65m group revenue next year, with the establishment of multiple new developments”

The group now has around 80 staff, with Russell Armer keeping its own brand and identity and focusing on growth in Lancashire and South Cumbria while Genesis developments will continue in the north, east and west of the county.

Among the group’s developments are the 160-home Russell Armer Meadow Rigg development on Burneside Road, Kendal, with work due to begin this year and Genesis’ Lonsdale Park, near Hackthorpe, and Farries Field, near Stainburn, which have 25 and 81 homes respectively going on sale next month.

Nicky says despite the competition for homes and increased prices, many areas of Cumbria still represent value for money compared to other parts of the UK.

"If you look on the periphery of the Lake District, in places like Kendal, Penrith or Cockermouth then you could be paying five times that if you were looking in the south west for example,” he says

"As much as it's difficult to get on the property ladder nowadays, I still perceive Cumbria to be undervalued in comparison to other areas of the country.”

In this context a 15 per cent price hike represents a simple “levelling up” of the housing market between the north and south, he says.

However, at a time when demand for new houses is so high, the sector is facing significant challenges in sourcing the skills and materials it needs.

"It's been in the news for many years now about the construction industry having a lack of skills, it's a huge challenge and there's got to be a Government emphasis put on training and skills in the construction industry specifically targeted at school leavers," says Nicky.

"But the big hurdle that we've now got is raw material availability."

This covers everything from insulation, to bricks and engineered timber, with delays and shortages of supply being driven by anything from the pandemic to straightforward competition from national housebuilders.

"It's causing delays as well, so we've got inflated prices and long lead times, we're going from two or four weeks of standard lead times to six, eight and 10 weeks on some products. We’re having to be extremely proactive to ensure we achieve our build programmes.”

And, despite the group’s growth plans, Nicky says it is not looking to make any more acquisitions for now.

"We'll always take a look at acquisition if it suits our plan, but for the main part the focus is now on sustained growth in the existing group," he says.

"We're looking to extend the Russell Armer side of the business beyond north Lancashire towards central Lancashire and the Fylde coast and Genesis a little bit further north, maybe just over the border into the southwest of Scotland. The focus and commitment is on delivering plans in our established areas”