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House sales strong in January

Home sales in the UK have had their strongest start to the year since January 2008, official figures showed yesterday.

Some 64,000 homes were sold in January 2012, figures from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) showed - the highest figure for the first month of the year since January 2008, when 79,000 transactions were recorded.

This compares with 52,000 sales in January 2011 and follows reports of a surprisingly high 'spring bounce' seen in asking prices this year. The end to the two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers next month has been a strong influence on recent activity in the market, according to lenders.

Mortgage lending in January was 10% higher than a year ago as those getting their first foot on the property ladder rushed to complete deals, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reported yesterday. The CML said its year-on-year figures improved for the sixth month in a row after its members lent £10.5bn during the month.

It believes the March 24 end of the stamp duty-free period for first-time buyers on properties under £250,000 has boosted activity.

However, the market still experienced its traditional dip at the start of this year and sales were down on the 86,000 recorded in December 2011.