187 per cent increase in lending

In fact, the Welsh building society said that February marked its biggest ever volume of mortgage applications since November 2007 - prior to the onset of the credit crunch - with lending for the month stretching over £143 million.

Graeme Yorston, chief operating officer, said: "These figures are a good sign of the gently recovering confidence in the housing market. The average mortgage rate has been steadily decreasing since the middle of last year and this, coupled with more affordable house prices has encouraged a healthy mix of buyers."

According to Principality's figures, 21% of mortgage applications received since the start of 2010 were from first time buyers.

Graeme continued: "Any sustainable recovery in the market is dependent on movement from both first and next time buyers. The dual benefit of reduced house prices and mortgage rates, makes buying more appealing than renting, but tightened mortgage criteria and the requirement for a much larger deposit, is continuing to present barriers for those trying to get their foot on the ladder.

"The introduction of a series of measures to help first time buyers get the key to their own home is critical to the future of the market and at Principality we are focusing on developing innovative products that will help to support them in achieving this goal."