The Council of Mortgage Lenders estimates that total gross mortgage lending increased to £11.6billion in March. This is 9% higher than February's gross lending figure of £10.6 billion but 8% lower than £12.6 billion in March 2012. However, this was just before the first-time buyer stamp duty holiday expired, distorting meaningful comparison. Gross lending for the first quarter of 2013 was therefore an estimated £33.8 billion. This represents a 9% drop from the last three months of 2012 but matches the gross mortgage lending total for the first quarter of 2012.

CML chief economist Bob Pannell said: "Conditions in the housing and mortgage markets continue to show signs of improving. The improvement in funding markets over the past year, reinforced by the incremental benefits of the Funding for Lending Scheme, has been the key catalyst behind stronger housing activity.

"The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme - while still embryonic as yet - holds significant firepower, and has the potential to increase activity from 2014."