By Daniel Hunter

As expected, the end of the stamp duty concession led to a surge in activity in the mortgage market in March, according to new data released today (Wednesday) by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

The largest increase was in lending to first-time buyers, who took out 24,000 loans in March. This was an increase of 74% compared to February and 57% higher than March 2011. By value, first-time buyers took out loans worth £3 billion, up 76% from the previous month and 67% from March last year. First-time buyers accounted for 42% of total house purchase loans, the highest proportion since 2001.

Of those first-time buyers taking out a mortgage in March, 63% bought a property valued between £125,000 and £250,000 so were exempt from stamp duty. This compares to an average of around 50% since 2006 (except immediately before and after the end of the previous stamp duty concession). 98% of first-time buyers in March took out a repayment loan, the highest since CML records began.

Although the stamp duty holiday only related to first-time buyers, the tendency for property transactions to involve ‘chains’ resulted in knock on effects to other house purchasers also. 27,200 loans, worth £4.3 billion, were taken out by home movers in March, up by 25%, 19% by value, compared to February and 15%, 10% by value, compared to March 2011.

Combined, the total increase in the number of house purchase loans in March was 44% (40% by value) from February and 31% (30% by value) compared to last March.

Remortgage activity, on the other hand, was essentially flat. £3.6 billion was advanced in the month, unchanged from February, and 14% lower than March last year.

"We expected this significant increase in borrowing for March because of the stamp duty holiday," CML director general Paul Smee said.

"However, if lending follows the same pattern as after previous stamp duty concessions, we will likely see a drop in activity in the next few months. It will take some time before we can judge whether other initiatives such as the NewBuy scheme and the reinvigorated right to buy will compensate for this effect."