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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 10:34 GMT
Strong growth in mortgage lending
Browsing an estate agents window.
First-time buyers could be returning, an expert says.
Mortgage lending showed unexpected vigour in December, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

The CML said that mortgage lending totalled 26.3bn, 25% higher than during the same month in 2004.

At the same time, the British Bankers' Association said net mortgage lending rose by 5.4bn during December, the strongest monthly rise since June 2004.

However, it added that unsecured lending, credit cards and personal loans, was "subdued" in December.

Growth in loans and overdrafts was "virtually flat", while credit card debt increased by 200m, the BBA said.

During December, growth in credit card debt was in line with the average for the previous six months.

"Mortgage lending strengthened in the final months of the year, but in sharp contrast, unsecured lending continued to be subdued," David Dooks, BBA director of statistics, said.

First-time buyers

According to Duncan Pownall, spokesman for Bradford & Bingley, mortgage lending picking up in the latter part of 2005 could indicate first-time buyers returning to the property market.

"Strength in the housing market combined with buyers realisation that prices will not significantly fall has encouraged more and more people to step onto the property ladder," he said.

"Over the coming year we anticipate increased activity in the first time buyer market in particular," Mr Pownall added.

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