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Bovis Homes offered £3,000 incentives to customers to move in before Christmas ahead of profit warning

By Chris Price

Housebuilder Bovis Homes offered customers up to £3,000 to move into incomplete homes before Christmas shortly before it issued a surprise profit warning to investors.

The company, based in New Ash Green, near Dartford, offered the incentives to buyers in a bid to move them into homes before its end-of-year cut off on December 23.

Five days later, it made an unscheduled warning to shareholders that it had “deferred” 180 completions until the early part of this year.

A Bovis Homes development in Minster
A Bovis Homes development in Minster

It said this would reduce pre-tax profits for 2016 to between £160 million to £170 million, compared to analysts predictions of £183 million.

This week a group of unhappy customers on Facebook, dubbed the Bovis Homes Victims Group, has swelled to more than 700 members.

A number of families were forced to delay moving-in plans at its Orchard Fields site in Maidstone, after the developer was forced to delay completions at the 11th hour.

Kelly Terry and her husband, Scott, bought their off-plan home in April.

Helen Batt, Kelly Terry and Michelle Brown all had to delay plans to move into Bovis Homes at the last minute
Helen Batt, Kelly Terry and Michelle Brown all had to delay plans to move into Bovis Homes at the last minute

The 28-year-old teacher said: “We were told we were moving in on Wednesday and took time off work and ordered a van as we were doing it ourselves.

“At 8.30pm on Tuesday evening we were told we couldn’t move in. We had to spend the night in a hotel and were effectively homeless.”

On Monday, Bovis’ chief executive David Ritchie revealed he was quitting with immediate effect after 18 years with the company and eight years in the role.

Its problems are in stark contrast to the rest of the sector, with housebuilders Persimmon and Barratt both issuing upbeat trading updates this week.

The company admitted some customers were offered incentives to complete before the year end but insisted it only offered incentives on homes which were inhabitable and that the offers were entirely optional.

The Orchard Fields development by Bovis Homes was unfinished over Christmas
The Orchard Fields development by Bovis Homes was unfinished over Christmas

A spokesman said: “Bovis Homes is fully aware of the customer group and their complaints, and we take these issues very seriously.

“We recognise that in some of these cases we have not provided our best standard of customer service and have taken too long to rectify customer issues, for which we apologise.

“We recognise that our customer service has to improve and the leadership of the organisation is absolutely committed to getting this right.”

Despite the difficulties, David Cheetham, a market analyst at XTB.com, said Bovis’ stock price has been “remarkably sanguine”.

David Ritchie has quit as Bovis Homes chief executive
David Ritchie has quit as Bovis Homes chief executive

He said: “Whilst it is marginally lower on the day, it remains on course for a strong weekly gain.

“Like many in the housing sector the stock was pummelled following the Brexit vote, but it has since recovered fairly well and now sits closer to its 52-week high than the corresponding low.”

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