Mortgage lending reached an estimated £220.3bn in 2015 – an 8% increase on 2014’s total of £203.3bn, Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show.
This is the highest annual gross lending figure since 2008.
CML economist Mohammad Jamei said the lending total was “slightly higher than we anticipated”.
He added: “The low inflation environment, along with real wage growth, an improving labour market and competitive mortgage deals have all helped to underpin demand.
“Having said this, the upside potential looks limited over the near-term, as the supply of existing and new properties on the market remains weak, and affordability pressures weigh on activity. There is an added element of uncertainty as we wait to see the impact of tax changes on the buy-to-let sector.”
The market saw a strong December with lending reaching £19.9bn, a 23% increase year-on-year.
In the fourth quarter of 2015 lending reached £62.3bn, a 1% increase on the third quarter.
Adrian Whittaker, sales director at New Street Mortgages, said: “These figures from the CML round off a strong year of growth in mortgage lending. It’s great to see that the mortgage market is well on its way to a so-called ‘new normal’, with more people now able to secure the mortgages they need.
“In today’s competitive environment, the mortgage application process can often be a bottleneck, so advisers need to be confident that the lender they choose can deliver the speed of application their client needs. It’s crucial that as an industry we look to update systems and processes with the latest advances in technology. That way we can better serve borrowers with the fastest and most consistent approach to lending possible.”
And Jeremy Duncombe, director of Legal & General Mortgage Club, added: “2015 has been an exceedingly strong year for mortgage lending, and we expect favourable UK economic conditions to further drive demand in 2016.”
Richard Pike, Phoebus Software sales and marketing director, said the higher level of activity in the second half was beyond most expectations.
“There was of course the increased activity around the time the governor of the Bank of England warned of early interest rates, which manifested itself in October’s peak, but every month showed an increase on 2014,” he added.
“The interest will be in what happens next; the world economy is shaky to say the least and with UK inflation remaining low, we are more than likely looking at a longer period of low interest rates then was intimated last year.
“This may be good for the housing market with more people taking advantage, especially as they come to the end of higher fixed rates. We all know that supply is a problem for many, but we could see a healthier remortgage market and of course a surge in buy-to-let in the first quarter before new rules kick in.”
And John Phillips, group operations director of Spicerhaart and Just Mortgages said: “The total lending figure is significantly higher than the CML’s previous estimation. Despite a slow start to the year, the amount of money lent out to UK home buyers staged an unexpected resurgence, as concerns over political uncertainly faded away following the general election in May.
“It is promising to see that gross mortgage lending increased by eight per cent last year and the underlying picture is one of modest recovery. The level of demand is likely to be a result of low inflation, strong wage growth and competitive mortgage deals, but there is still an element of uncertainty as demand continues to outstrip supply.”