Mortgage applications jump 20% in 12 months
The number of mortgages approved in the UK rose by 20% in 2013, Bank of England figures show.
In a further sign of a recovering housing market, 734,969 applications were approved in 2013, compared to 612,654 in 2012.
Property expert Henry Pryor said the trend can largely be put down to government packages such as the now finished Funding for Lending scheme.
"It is not surprising given the stimulus the market has had," he said. "If you give the patient a massive shot of adrenaline they tend to end up looking like a toddler after they've had a bar of chocolate.
"Most people do not want to mention it, but at the end of the day the government has pumped billions into the economy through quantitative easing. Bear in mind the taxpayers are holders in two of the biggest mortgage lenders.
It was announced in November the housing aspect of the Funding for Lending scheme – which allowed mortgage lenders to apply for cheap funding from the Treasury - would be stopped this year, a move widely seen as an attempt to soothe fears over a new housing bubble.
But the government's Help To Buy initiative remains in place. There are two parts to the Help to Buy scheme. The government will offer a five-year, interest free equity loan for buyers of a new build property worth up to £600,000 provided they can raise a 5% deposit.
The second part, the mortgage guarantee, came into effect in October and sees banks offer mortgages up to 95% if a buyer has a deposit of just 5%. The government will then guarantee up to 15% of the properties value.
"Now people would say this [the mortgage approval increase] is good news and something to celebrate, however I don't think things like Help to Buy have had an impact on prices. If you look at the latest numbers from the Land Registry it is clear talk of a housing bubble for many parts of the country is as frankly as laughable as a hose-pipe ban in Somerset.
"Talk of a bubble would be more appropriate in Hackney where prices rose by 17% last year, as opposed to somewhere like Salford where prices have dropped.
"It is good news mortgage levels are up and the impact it has had on builders to don their hard hats again. But I think the market is much more determined by people spending the money they want to spend, rather than any institution and their polices, which is probably the way it should be."
According to Nationwide, UK house prices increased by 0.7% in January, with the average home now costing buyers £176,491.
Lower interest rates encourage people to spend, not save. But when interest rates can go no lower and there is a sharp drop in consumer and business spending, a central bank’s only option to stimulate demand is to pump money into the economy directly. This is quantitative easing. The Bank of England purchases assets (usually government bonds, or gilts) from private sector businesses such as insurance companies, banks and pension funds financed by new money the Bank creates electronically (it doesn’t physically print the banknotes). The sellers use the money to switch into other assets, such as shares or corporate bonds or else use it to lend to consumers and businesses, which pushes up demand and stimulates the economy.