Are things looking up for the first-time buyer?

House price inflation has slowed and the number of first-time buyers increased by 3% in February, so are things looking up for those looking to get on the first rung of the property ladder?

The total value of first-time buyer loans made was equivalent to £2million, 18% higher than February 2012 according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), which says that improved market conditions could be partly responsible for the continuing interest from first-time buyers.

According to separate figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), house price inflation across the UK fell to 1.9% in the year leading up to February 2013 and stood at 1.6% for first-time buyers across the same period of time, a figure that falls slightly behind average salary increases recorded between December 2011 and December 2012.

When you drill down into the data offered by the ONS there is wide disparity in house price inflation across different areas of the UK. While house prices increased in London by 5.9% in the year leading up to February, house prices in Northern Ireland fell by a whopping 7.7%.

Excluding London and the south east, house prices in the UK increased by only 0.6% in the 12 months up to February 2013. In other words, cracking into the housing market is likely to be far more expensive in some areas compared to others.

There was also some good news for first-time buyers at the beginning of this month with several measures introduced as part of the budget aimed to increase lending and ease demands on first-time buyers and movers alike, including the Help to Buy scheme which will provide assistance for those struggling to raise the deposit required for a new home.

CML Director General Paul Smee said:

"First-time buyers are continuing to take advantage of more favourable market conditions, helping to drive the underlying trend for resilient house purchase lending.”

Nevertheless with the average deposit at 20% many first-time buyers may still face a hard slog when it comes to saving for their first home, and the market is still a tough one to move into.