Persimmon unveiled a small rise in profits for 2007 despite selling fewer houses in tough conditions that the house builder expects will continue for the foreseeable future. Financial Times, The Times, Independent

Mike Farley, chief executive, said: 'We see a cautious start to the year, not surprisingly considering the tough last quarter of 2007, when the market became very difficult. That won’t change overnight.

'Buyers are more cautious. People who used to take two or three weeks to buy a house are now thinking about it for four or five weeks.'

Forward sales at the end of 2007 stood at £603m, about £100m lower than a year earlier, driven mainly by a 13% drop in the average price of its homes.

Figures released yesterday alongside its preliminary statement showed no improvement at the start of this year. Sales for the first few weeks of 2008 were a fifth lower than last year, with house volumes and prices both falling about 10 per cent year-on-year.

However, Farley said that some positive signs for the market had emerged in recent weeks.