The number of first-time buyers taking out mortgages rose by 38% in the 12 months to January, as initiatives like Help to Buy allowed those with small deposits to access the property market, according to the latest data from banks and building societies.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders said that despite a seasonal dip in the number of movers and new buyers at the start of the year, numbers still remained 30% above the same period in 2013.
A total of 21,800 home loans were advanced to first-time buyers, and at £3.1bn the value of these loans was 55% higher than in January 2013. The average loan to value crept up from 80% to 82%, as the government scheme to make more 95% mortgages available started to filter through to borrowers.
The figure is the highest since late 2008, when the credit crisis started to take a grip on the market, eventually leading to typical borrowing plunging to 75% LTV, but remains some way off the 90% recorded throughout 2006 and 2007.
The number of loans advanced to home movers for house purchase totalled 26,800 in January, down 15% in volume compared to December but up by a quarter on the previous year. Borrowing by movers added up to £4.9bn, 36% higher than in January 2013.
Buy-to-let investors continued to come into the market after the new year, with the number of loans to landlords for house purchases up by 11% on December’s figure and by 34% year-on-year at 8,100. A total of £900m was advanced on buy-to-let purchases over the month.
The director general of the CML, Paul Smee, said: “January is always a subdued month in the mortgage market but the underlying trend and strong year-on-year growth across all borrower groups indicates a strong start to 2014 continuing the sort of lending levels seen throughout 2013.
“Lending to first-time buyers and home movers has continued its upward trend and this, coupled with the growth in remortgage and buy-to-let activity, would suggest that all parts of the market are open for business.”
Howard Archer, the chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said the CML figures showed momentum was picking up in the housing market, with the annual rate of increase in buyer numbers above the average for the final quarter of 2013.
“The CML data will sustain concern that we are on the road to a new housing bubble. While mortgage activity is still not that strong compared to long-term norms, there is currently appreciable upward momentum,” he said.
“The strength of house prices is not yet a serious concern outside of London, but it is something that needs to be closely monitored given that a number of recent data and surveys have indicated that the strength in house prices is becoming more widespread.”