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First-time buyers feeling upbeat

The number of first-time buyers stepping on to the property ladder is at a three-year high in Scotland, with lenders declaring they are open for business to those wanting to move in to a home of their own.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) Scotland said 5100 mortgages for first-time buyers were issued between July and September, up 9% on the year.

This rate of lending has not been seen since the summer of 2009, CML Scotland said.

However, while the number of loans has picked up, lending conditions still remain tough for first-time purchasers. The average mortgage is now £82,806, the smallest figure since the beginning of 2011, with the average deposit required remaining static at 20% of the price paid.

In addition, mortgages for other home buyers wishing to move to a new property have reduced, limiting buoyancy in the market.

While lending to first-time buyers has increased north of the Border, the rate significantly lags behind the rest of the UK, where lending was 16% up on the year. Kennedy Foster, policy director for CML Scotland, said: "While we are seeing an increase in mortgages for first-time buyers in Scotland, lending here is not quite as buoyant as elsewhere in the UK.

"There is no definitive answer as to why that is the case but it could be that consumer confidence isn't quite as high as in other areas.

"The market is still very flat but it is encouraging that there are more first-time buyers."

He added: "Lenders are very much open for mortgage business."

The number of loans advanced to homeowners between July and September stood at 7400, down 6% on the year.

Home movers borrowed £1bn in the third quarter of 2012 compared to £1.05bn during the same period last year.

The increase in first-time buyers, combined with the slight fall in home movers, led to a small overall increase in the total number of mortgages approved in Scotland.

More than £1.46bn was loaned in the third quarter, with a total of 12,500 mortgages advanced. This was up 1% on the quarter but down 1% on the year.

A spokesman for Clyde Property said: "Overall, these are encouraging figures and they bear out our own statistics. First- time buyer confidence is increasing significantly. This won't happen overnight but confidence has increased to some extent.

"There is a greater availability of mortgages for first-time buyers, but of course the issue remains the need for a larger deposit. This is still the final sticking point for many."

The findings by CML Scotland follow a recent Scotland House Price Index, by LSL Property Services, which found the average house price north of the Border was £143,406 in September, down almost 3% over the year.

l Sales of luxury properties in Edinburgh have reached the highest level since the banking crash. Estate agents say it has been the best year for £2m-plus house transactions since the 2008 financial meltdown.

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