SALES of new upmarket homes in the South-East should revive after a recent downturn, housebuilder Persimmon has forecast.

The York-based housebuilder, which snapped up rival Beazer in March, said higher priced properties in the region had suffered in a difficult market.

The firm's exposure to the South-East is less than ten per cent of all activity, although it believed the picture there was improving.

A trading statement said: "We believe that this is a temporary slowdown which, with an increasing shortage of supply, will return to normal levels of activity in the near future."

The company has seen price improvements in most areas outside the South-East, while sales reservations since September 11 have continued at "good rates" in all regions.

Persimmon said: "The UK market remains strong and, notwithstanding uncertainties in the global outlook, the environment for private housebuilding is positive, with low interest rates and good levels of consumer confidence."

The company said forward sales next year were encouraging with more than 3,000 homes already sold, producing sales revenue of about £380m.

Visitor levels have also been strong in recent weeks, while 100 new sales outlets are due to open in the first half of next year.

Persimmon said in August it had completed the integration of Beazer during the "most important period" in its history.

It added: "Since then we have continued to focus the enlarged business on maximising margins and profitability."