As an owner of housing stocks, I am a great believer in their capacity to deliver brilliant returns up until I retire. Countryside Properties (LSE: CSP) isn’t one that I own but it is nonetheless a stock I consider another top buy for the coming decades.
Home creation in the UK has clicked through the gears of late. Official data shows that there 241,130 new homes were made in 2018–19. This was the highest number since records began three decades ago.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that we could be at the beginning of a building renaissance, however. A large chunk (more than 10%) of the total were homes created through a change of use, like the conversion of office buildings. This finite supply is clearly not the answer to solving Britain’s housing crisis, one that continues to propel sales of newbuilds and keeps property prices largely rising. It will also likely not help government plans to create 300,000 new homesteads a year by 2025.
Which brings me neatly to Countryside Properties. This is a share which has long benefitted from the UK’s yawning supply and demand gap, as was highlighted in last week’s trading update.
Apparently the FTSE 250 firm’s net reservation rate had sprung to 0.81 between October and December. This represented a chunky 29% year-on-year improvement and helped the private forward order book to leap 46% to £344m.
There was “robust” demand for its affordable and private rented sector (or PRS) homes too, it said. Consequently Countryside’s total forward order book boomed 65% for the first fiscal quarter. Standing at £1.57bn as of December this set a new all-time high for the quarter.
The business is now operating at 142 sites versus 129 a year ago, it said. And it has six more selling outlets up and running too, at 60. This is no surprise given that Countryside continues to witness “strong customer demand across [the Partnerships and Housebuilding] divisions for all tenures of homes.”
The strong update enabled City analysts to keep their bullish earnings forecasts intact. They expect Countryside’s to continue with an 8% rise in the year ending September 2020. A further 9% annual increase is estimated for the following financial period.
It doesn’t matter that Brexit uncertainty looks set to persist through 2020 and possibly beyond. That nationwide supply shortage means that demand for Countryside’s product is likely to remain substantial. An environment of low interest rates and government support via Help to Buy has driven is supercharging sales, too.
Government continues to talk tough when it comes to the housing crisis. But it still has a jungle of regulations to unravel before it can get Britain building its way out of the problem. And to date it has shown little appetite to solve the problem. This is why I’m not alone in expecting profits for Countryside and its peers to keep bubbling higher long into the future. Its share price might have rocketed 38% in three months but it still looks cheap, in my opinion. I’d happily buy the business and its forward price-to-earnings ratio of 11.2 times for my retirement fund.
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Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.
Motley Fool UK 2020