In Praise of Barratt Homes

The debate over the loans-link between Barratt Homes and Hitachi has been fascinating.

Some of the criticism of it has come from predictable quarters - look at many of the comments on the Guardian/Observer website here. There are some 'pro' comments, too, but the majority outweigh them.

But on Twitter and Facebook, some enthusiastic free-marketeers who normally embrace any private sector initiative (sometimes it seems without thinking) have been critical or at least sceptical. In a world where Tesco sells homes, Ikea builds them, and Sarah Beeny markets them, why is it strange that a company such as Hitachi, already with diverse interests, should not get into loans? It also seems odd that house-builders with links to 'establishment' mortgage companies are praised, yet one linking up with an unexpected (but respected) name from outside the industry, gets criticised.

I am just a journalist and report all this, but it strikes me as a coup for Barratt Homes. I am not talking about the product itself - it looks rather like an old-style 95% mortgage, with the risks sometimes involved in that, although this is somewhat cheaper and perhaps safer than parents remortgaging their own home to raise a deposit for their offspring.

No, my praise is because Barratt Homes is thinking outside the box.

There is little more depressing each day than receiving, as I do, many press releases from estate agents, builders, brokers and pundits 'demanding' that finance institutions lend more. Few put forward a cogent argument as to why, they just 'demand'.

What marks Barratt Homes out from the rest is that instead of just paying a small fortune to a PR company to issue a press release blaming the banks, the press or the government, it has done something to address the issue.

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