The latest Mortgage Monitor from residential chartered surveyors e.surv found that there were 66,390 mortgages approved during the final month of the year (seasonally adjusted).
While December is often a quiet month for mortgage approvals, 2018’s number of approvals was 4.2% higher than November’s figure.
In addition, December’s 2018 total was 7.8% up compared to the same month in 2017.
E.surv said there are several reasons for the boost in activity. In a year where homeowners had to contend with a further rise in the Bank of England’s base rate, competition between banks and building societies has helped keep rates at a historically low level.
The base rate rise in August was the catalyst for many existing homeowners to remortgage to a cheaper deal, of which many have been available. By the end of the year, lenders were actually cutting rates in order to meet ambitious end-of-year lending targets.
Lenders also became more receptive to first-time buyers and others with smaller deposits, with a rise in the number of 5% deposit mortgage deals on the market.
By December, 25.2% of all loans went to borrowers with a small deposit. This was marginally down on November’s 25.9% figure, but higher than other recent months.
Richard Sexton (pictured), director at e.surv, said: “2018 saw the second base rate rise in less than a year, continued uncertainty over Brexit and wider global economic issues.
“Yet the mortgage market demonstrated its resilience with strong activity in most segments of the market.
“First-time buyers, remortgage customers and second steppers all jumped at the chance to bag a cheap mortgage rate while they last.
“The outlook for 2019 is again one of uncertainty, but the figures from the final few months of 2018 suggest that the mortgage market has the power tobattle through tough market conditions.”