By Daniel Hunter

House purchase lending recorded its highest January total since 2008, according to new data released today by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

Despite a seasonal monthly fall, house purchase lending increased by 11% compared to January last year.

Driving this increase, first-time buyer and home mover activity rose compared to January last year, while remortgage lending was still 23% lower than at the start of 2012.

A total of 38,300 loans were advanced for house purchase in January, down on the 45,900 taken out in December, but an increase from the 34,600 loans advanced in January last year. By value, house purchase lending totalled £5.7 billion, compared to £5.2 billion in January last year, and £6.9 billion in December 2012.

Continuing the underlying trend for increased house purchase lending, January marked the best start to a year since 2008 - when 47,800 loans were advanced.

Both first-time buyer and home mover lending contributed to the rise in January compared to the same time last year, but the increase in lending to first-time buyers was proportionately higher.

A total of 15,900 loans (worth £2 billion) were advanced to first-time buyers in January, up by 24% compared to January last year (12,800 loans), but an 18% fall from December 2012 (19,500 loans).

It was the largest January total since January 2008 when 17,700 loans were advanced.

For the third consecutive month, first-time buyer activity accounted for 42% of all house purchase loans, suggesting that the market remains more favourable for first-time buyers.

There was also a slight shift towards cheaper properties among first-time buyers with a small increase in the proportion of properties bought for less than £125,000. This increase is likely to reflect monthly variation and is largely in line with recent months.

Associated with this, first-time buyers typically borrowed a smaller amount in January than in December - both in absolute terms and relative to their income. First-time buyers typically borrowed 3.2 times their income in January, down from 3.28 times in December and 3.23 in January last year.

The average loan-to-value ratio remained at 80% for first-time buyers in January - essentially unchanged for over two years.

"Seasonal factors clearly had an impact on lending figures in January, but it still remains the best start to a year since 2008," CML director general Paul Smee said.

"Mortgage finance is available and lenders are open for business, allowing more borrowers to take the step into homeownership or move house in line with their needs."

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