Despite the rise in lending, YBS completed 2,460 fewer mortgages – down to 27,229 from 29,689.
Net lending was also down to £700m from £1.1bn last year.
However, it increased the total number of mortgages for first-time buyers to 6,398 up from 6,306.
YBS also increased the proportion of house purchase mortgages to first-time buyers to 45% (up from 37%), lending £1.3bn to those taking their first steps on to the housing ladder.
The mutual also said it had improved its mortgage underwriting services through its intermediary arm Accord Mortgages to reduce offer times by five days from 16 days to 11 days, on average.
Yorkshire Building Society chief executive Mike Regnier (pictured) said these and other changes had “resulted in materially increased broker satisfaction”.
“I’m proud that we’ve helped first-time buyers to take their first steps on to the property ladder 6,400 times this year, and we increased gross mortgage lending overall,” Regnier said.
“Throughout 2016, we’ve continued to invest in the business to improve the service and value we provide to our customers.
“This has included helping borrowers who may find it less straight-forward to access a traditional mortgage, including self-employed customers and single parents, by taking a principle-based, common-sense approach to lending,” he added.
Overall, the UK’s second largest building society saw its profit before tax and core operating profit figures fall, which YBS said was due to bolstering its customer savings rates.
Profit before tax dipped £21m (12%) to £152m (from £173m) and its core operating profit fell £57m (30%) to £128m (from £185m).
Regnier added that he was pleased the mutual had delivered “robust and sustainable growth” in line with its plans.
“In an extraordinarily difficult market for savers, we have chosen to forgo potential profits to protect savings rates as far as possible, while continuing to offer market-leading mortgages,” he said.
“We’ve recently announced a number of changes which reflect our customers’ evolving needs and will ensure we continue to operate efficiently and sustainably for the future. As we realise the benefits of the initiatives we’ve put in place to improve value and service for customers we expect to see a reduction in costs.”
Regnier also suggested that Brexit was unlikely to have a significant effect on its mortgages and savings business.
“The uncertainty caused by Brexit has impacted confidence and makes economic forecasting for the next five to 10 years even more difficult than usual. As a UK-focused business, we believe the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union should not materially affect our core mortgages and savings activities, aside from any impact on the wider economy and regulatory environment,” he said.