Home movers now make up just under half of the market, a significant fall from 2011 when their share was 62%, according to research by Lloyds Bank.
First-time buyer numbers increased to 175,500 in the first six months of 2018, while movers fell to 170,000, the bank found.
The decline in home movers coincides with a 35% increase in the prices paid over the past five years by those taking their next step on the property ladder.
The changing patterns could reflect a shortage of suitable homes for sale for movers, but also reflects the wider market which is showing little signs of movement, Lloyds said.
Andrew Mason, Lloyds Bank mortgage products director, said: “Despite continuing low mortgage rates, the home mover market has stabilised with little movement in the first half of this year to leave first-time buyers now driving housing activity.
“This may be in part due to the Help to Buy scheme enabling first-time buyers to purchase a new property, combined with the low availability of the ‘right type’ of homes for those looking to move up the housing ladder.
“The costs of moving house and potential further interest rate rises may also be weighing on potential homebuyers’ minds.
“However, it is good to see the number of first-time buyers increasing, helping to keep some movement along the property ladder.”