Home loan approvals on the rise
The number of UK mortgages approved increased during February, according to the latest lending figures from the Bank of England.
New loans increased to 85,000, from an upwardly revised 82,000 in January, their highest point in six months.
And mortgage lending rose by ?7.224bn, the strongest increase since September.
The figures back those from the British Bankers' Association earlier this week, which said the number of approved loans was at a four-month high.
The increase in approvals seem to show that stabilising house prices are luring buyers back to the market after five interest rate rises in a year-and-a-half.
The Bank said the total value of mortgage approvals stood at ?22,043bn in February, the highest since last August.
'No sharp fall'
"The essential stabilization in mortgage approvals and lending in February reinforces the impression that housing market activity could be past the worst after slowing markedly in the second half of 2004," said Howard Archer, analyst at Global Insight.
"This suggests that house prices will remain relatively resilient in the near term, rather than fall sharply. However, a significant rebound in house prices also currently seems unlikely."
Property website Hometrack has said the number of people on estate agents' books went up by 6.2% in March.
The signs of greater activity in the housing market come as the Nationwide Building Society said the once-booming UK housing market was experiencing a "soft landing", with prices cooling but no sign of a crash.
On Thursday, it said house prices fell 0.6% in March, the biggest monthly drop since June 1995.
As a result annual house price growth dipped to 7.9% - the first time the yearly growth rate has fallen below 10% since 2001.
"As we move into the summer, the housing market will become a bit more liquid," said James Carrick, an economist at ABN Amro.
Consumer credit slows
Mr Carrick said that although mortgage approval numbers had increased to 85,000 they were still way below the 133,000 of a year ago.
"Demand will remain weak but sellers might be more inclined to cash in at lower prices. The (Bank of England's) Monetary Policy Committee believes the consumer will rebound but I don't see any evidence that will happen."
Separately, on Thursday the Bank of England said consumer credit slowed down after January's near-record high.
The Bank said lending to consumers rose by ?1.689bn in February, the weakest rise in credit since April 2004.