YORKSHIRE housebuilder Persimmon reported strong visitor numbers and resilient demand – despite surveys suggesting the housing market is weak outside London.

The York-based group, whose brands include Charles Church and Westbury, said demand for new properties sped up through the spring selling season to lift orders above this time last year.

Private sales reservations since April have been 6% higher than last year and the forward sales order book is now £725m against first half turnover of £715m.

Persimmon sold fewer houses than the comparable period – 4,439 against 4,657 –but it expects to reverse this over the rest of the year as volumes pick up.

Selling prices are also expected to increase during the rest of 2011 from £162,000 in the first half. That is almost 4% lower than last year, as more sales of larger, detached houses come through.

Although Persimmon described the market as stable, it said output was still held back by constrained mortgage lending – despite a greater number of higher loan to value products being made available.

The group received £35m of funding from the Government under the FirstBuy scheme where the housebuilder and the state stump up the deposit between them – the largest allocation given to a housebuilder under the scheme.

It was launched after mortgage lenders demanded bigger deposits, which is making it harder for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

Persimmon, which has 25 regional offices, also bought an additional 7,500 plots over the period, which included 800 plots at Gatwick and 200 at Whinmoor in Leeds. Both sites are expected to generate “superior returns”.

Net borrowing at the end of the first half fell to £15m from £122m, despite the extra land buying.