House builders are adapting their businesses to the changed market conditions.
Amid the traditionally quiet summer months – sales always slow down over the holiday period and most companies are bound to silence in anticipation of their upcoming interim results – builders have found their first opportunity to consider long-term options.
'Until the last few weeks, all we’d been doing as an industry since April was fighting fires. A lot of decisions had to be made very quickly,' says one house building boss.
'Now we’re doing things like changing the design of our homes, for example, which is a more subtle thing, but that’s what will make the difference when the market recovers.'
The biggest priority is cashflow, in particular for those builders that amassed excessive debt in the consolidation bout that ended as the credit crunch started.
Thousands of jobs have been cut, with more expected if sales do not pick up in the autumn.
Nearly all house builders have also stopped buying land – typically their biggest single outlay – and most have slowed the build-out of their existing sites down to a trickle.
The hope is that selling the homes already on their books will bolster balance sheets enough to avoid asking shareholders for more cash