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Housing market 'could be returning to normal'

The housing boom that has been taking place in many parts of the UK could be coming to an end, according to one of the country's largest builders.Founder and chairman of Berkeley Homes Tony Ridgley said "normal transaction levels" have resumed following 2013's high point, resulting in "a stable operating environment".The announcement follows statements from other quarters that suggest a cooling of the housing market is currently taking place.Estate agent Hamptons has warned of a weakening of sentiment and recently cut its forecasts for the rise in London prices to just three per cent for this year.Measures have recently been taken by the Bank of England to cool the housing market, with the imposition of new affordability tests for borrowers and limits on the proportion of high loan-to-income mortgages that can be issued by lenders.In a trading statement released by Berkeley Homes, the housebuilder said it had enjoyed a period of sustained investment in land and construction over the past five years, enabling the delivery of 15,750 new homes in London and the south-east of England.Berkeley was well placed at the beginning of this year to maintain its investment levels, following a strong market last year, in which forward sales rose to over £2.2 billion."With a strong balance sheet and land bank Berkeley is well positioned to continue to invest in the business and deliver returns to shareholders," Mr Ridgley said. "Earnings this year are anticipated to be in line with current market expectations."The economic upturn has led to robust financial performances from a number of major housebuilders.Last month, Bellway announced that it achieved record forward sales during the year to July 31st. It reported a 36 per cent growth in the value of its forward order book to £924.3 million, compared with £679.5 million last year.There was also a 21.2 per cent increase in the number of housing completions and a ten per cent rise in the average selling price of a Bellway home. 

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