The number of valuations for first-time buyers rose by 52% compared to February 2011, reaching its highest number since March 2009.
On a monthly basis, first-time buyer valuations were up 56% on January, resulting in first-time buyer demand accounting for 35% of all valuations completed – the highest proportion since September 2010.
Overall, residential valuations rose by nearly a third in February compared to the same month last year, and were up 43% on January, boosted by first-time buyers looking to beat the deadline for the Stamp Duty tax exemption.
John Bagshaw, corporate services director of Connells Survey and Valuation, said: “Many first-time buyers are now feeling a real sense of urgency and this has boosted overall mortgage market activity in the last month.
“But the first-time buyer demand has also been supported by stronger lending figures at the lower end of the market, not to mention mortgage affordability.
“If this trend continues into the spring, the improvement should help soften the blow of the end of the Stamp Duty holiday in the longer term.”
In addition, Connells said that the buy-to-let market continued to expand in February, with valuations for property investors up 38% in February and up 50% year-on-year.
Bagshaw added: “The private rented sector is currently growing by 262,000 households a year and landlords are looking to take advantage of this swelling demand. An increasingly diverse set of mortgage finance options are being made available, and if lenders can maintain this progress, buy-to-let will help underpin growth in the mortgage market as the year progresses.”
The remortgage market also grew in February, with remortgage valuations rising by 18% compared to February 2011, a monthly increase of 21%, said Connells.