New figures out today from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that there are a third more first-time buyers in Northern Ireland than 12 months ago.
Between April and June this year, there were 1,800 first-time buyer loans in Northern Ireland, up 13 per cent on the previous three months and 29 per cent on the same time last year. First-time buyers borrowed £150 million, a jump of 36 per cent compared to 2013.
"There has been substantial growth in both house purchase and remortgage lending suggesting the market is in a much healthier state than it was this time last year," said Jackie Bennett, head of policy at CML. "Affordability in Northern Ireland is currently better than in the UK overall and, with house price growth also seen over the past few months, it would suggest potential for optimism in the second half of the year."
The CML figures also show that first-time buyers in Wales were also up by nearly a third between April and June compared to 12 months ago.
"With new FCA mortgage market rules being introduced in this quarter, there was potential for a period of adjustment as the market adapts to the new rules," said Peter Hughes, chair of CML Cymru. "However, this does not seem to be the case in Wales. First-time buyers and home movers have shown substantial growth on the previous quarter and compared to this period last year. The affordability constraints are less in Wales compared to the UK overall, which suggests there are relatively favourable conditions for those looking to own a home."
Scotland also registered the largest number of first-time buyers since 2007, with 7,500 first-time buyer loans, while first-time buyers in Greater London borrowed 27 per cent more than a year ago.
A separate report from LSL Property Services suggests that the number of first-time buyer sales rose to a seven year high in July of 30,000, a quarter more than a year before and the highest number of monthly first-time buyers since August 2007.
Its figures show that first-time buyer deposits fell 10m per cent year-on-year from £29,609 a year ago to £26,642 in June 2014.
David Newnes, director of estate agents Your Move and Reeds Rains, part of LSL Property Services group, said: "The first-time buyer market is still active, even as the wider property market is starting to show signs of cooling down. As the economic recovery gathers momentum, more buyers are finding themselves in a position where they can afford to own their own home.
"A whole generation of young buyers were trapped on the side-lines of the property market as the economy recovered from the recession, struggling to save for a deposit while inflation remained stubbornly high, savings rates were stuck at a historic low, and real wages fell. But the recent increase in high LTV lending options enabled by Help to Buy has allowed them a shot at getting on the ladder at long last, and the number of first-time buyers has climbed to a seven year high."
The average first-time buyer purchase price has risen eight per cent over the last year according to LSL to £155,844 in July, with the average first-time buyer purchase price rising above £150,000 in five UK regions: London (£251,061); South East (£194,955); East of England (£173,550); South West (£155,484) and Wales (£152,970).
First-time buyers in the North East had the smallest deposits on average at £10,710, followed by Scotland at £15,005, and Yorkshire & Humber (£16,760).