Rise in first-time buyers strongest for a decade
There was a 22% increase in the number of first-time buyers (FTBs) in 2013, the biggest rise in more than a decade, according to the annual Halifax First Time Buyer Review.
Halifax estimated 265,000 first timers moved in to a home of their own in 2013, up from 218,000 in 2012 - in year that saw a 13% rise in the numbers of FTBs.
First-time buyers accounted for 44% of all house purchases made with a mortgage in 2103, up from 40% in 2012.
Halifax pointed to improvements in affordability as being a significant factor for the increase.
The proportion of disposable earnings taken up by mortgage payments for a FTB was 30% in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to a whopping 50% during the summer of 2007, it said.
Record low mortgage rates were cited as another "major contributing factor driving this improvement".
However, while the 2013 number of first timers was the highest annual total since 2007, it was nearly a third lower than the annual average between 2003 and 2007 - which stood at around 370,800.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: "Many potential first-time buyers continue to find raising the necessary deposit a problem. The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme should enable more buyers to get on to the property ladder with smaller deposits."
He added: "Continuing pressure on household finances during the next 12 months will no doubt remain a constraint."
In giving his prediction for how the property market will treat first timers in 2014, Ray Boulger, an adviser at mortgage broker John Charcol, told Moneywise: "Most of the major lenders, and many smaller ones, will be offering 95% loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages by the end of March 2014.
"The extra competition will result in a modest fall in the interest rates on offer and, equally importantly, more lenders in this sector of the market will help borrowers who might be declined by their first choice lender.
"However, FTBs who can stretch to a 10% or 15% deposit will find much cheaper rates are available."
However, buying agent Henry Pryor, warned some first-timers "may still struggle with the necessary credit checks as lenders demand pristine histories for the higher LTV products".
He added that for many first-timers, prices will continue to "climb out of reach as government schemes help more people to pay more for the finite number of homes that are for sale".