HOUSEBUILDER Bovis Homes today said underlying profits more than doubled after it sold more properties at higher average prices than last year.
Average selling prices rose 4% to £160,700 as the Kent-based group built more family homes to reduce its exposure to first-time buyers who are struggling to find mortgages.
Pre-tax profits rose 147% to £18.5 million as profit margins increased after the group brought down the cost of building homes.
The number of homes sold increased 5% to 1,900, which helped to drive a 6% increase in revenues to £298.6 million.
After the ``strong improvement in profit in 2010'' the group is to pay a dividend to shareholders for the first time for two-and-a-half years.
Bovis has made an "encouraging" start to 2011, with reservations up 11% in the first nine weeks of the year, and the number of people visiting sites up 28%.
It expects to launch 33 new sales outlets, which would be its "most significant site launch programme for many years".
Bovis also reported that it has increased the amount of land it has bought for future development, adding that it was now an "excellent time to invest" after prices fell from pre-recession peaks.
By the end of 2010 it had agreements to buy a further 2,500 plots of land, in addition to 13,800 plots with planning consent.
Bovis said mortgage availability will continue to restrain buyers in 2011 but expects prices to remain stable as a whole. It has been buying more land in the south of England where it believes prices will remain more robust than the north.
Rival housebuilders Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Redrow have also reported improved profits in recent weeks as the sector recovers from the recession that caused sales and property prices to plummet.