The number of first-time buyers in Wales was up 28 per cent year-on-year in the last three months of 2013, says the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the highest level since 2007.
Peter Hughes, chairman of CML Cymru, said: "It is very positive to see the momentum of first-time buyers in Wales has continued, closing the year strongly. The year-on-year growth in remortgage and home mover lending suggests the improving economic conditions in Wales are leading to increased activity in the market; a good signal for a continued upward trend in 2014.
"It will be interesting to see the effect Help to Buy - Wales will have on the market. There is a potential with the scheme to open the market in Wales to borrowers without large deposits, which might help ensure this momentum we have seen is sustained."
First-time buyer lending in Northern Ireland also rose sharply, up 29 per cent, again to its highest level since 2007. In Scotland, loans to first time buyers were up 26 per cent over the same period.
How are London's buyers different?
New figures released by Strutt & Parker underline the differences between the property market in Prime Central London (PCL) and the rest of the UK.
Those buying in PCL are becoming increasingly international - almost 44 per cent of all Strutt & Parker’s London buyers were foreign in 2013, while in the rest of the country only fiver per cent of buyers came from overseas.
Stephanie McMahon, Head of Research at Strutt & Parker, said: "We have seen Chelsea, South Kensington and Fulham assemble the most diverse spectrum of international buyers, while Knightsbridge is highly attractive to those from the Middle East. Kensington & Notting Hill has changed from being a more domestic market to an overseas hotspot."
Just over half of Strutt & Parker’s buyers in London are looing for property for their primary use, compared to 87 per cent outside of London. In the capital, 56 per cent of buyers were looking for a flat, while elsewhere 90 per cent are looking for a house.
Nine out of 10 buyers are not willing to compromise on their first choice location, according to Rightmove research, which also indicates that nearly eight out of 10 expect house prices to be higher this time next year
Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst said: "There’s a real mismatch between buyers’ no-compromise stance on their most favoured place to live and the rising tide of prices. Playing a waiting game and holding out for the right property in the right location could prove risky as, with prices in some locations rising by the month, buyers may discover that the one they’ve been waiting for is over their budget."
Help to Buy helping younger buyers on lower incomes
The Help to Buy scheme is improving access to mortgages for younger buyers and those with smaller deposits, according to the Mortgage Advice Bureau.
Its January figures show that the average applicant for Help to Buy equity loans in January was almost six years younger than the average homebuyer (31.6 vs. 37.2) and had an annual income 21 per cent less.
Andy Frankish, new homes director at Mortgage Advice Bureau, said: "The equity loan scheme continues to have the biggest positive impact of any government housing initiative in recent memory. It is giving hope to the younger generation especially, and making the difference between buying in your early 30s or having to wait until nearer your 40th birthday.