The recent rise in mortgage lending to house buyers has levelled off, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) says. In September, 51,000 mortgages were agreed for house purchase, up from 50,000 in August but lower than the 53,000 recorded in July. The CML said lending in each of those three months had been higher than in the same months last year, after 25 months of steady year-on-year decline. First-time buyers are still having to put down an average deposit of 25%. "Although the recent bounce-back in house purchase activity is holding up, we remain some way below what might be called 'normal' levels of transactions," said CML economist Paul Samter. Recovery The UK property market has staged a recovery since the spring, with sales and prices picking up again after the dramatic slump caused by the credit crisis. In October, the Bank of England reported that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase, but not yet lent, had risen to the highest level since March 2008. Approvals went up by 3,000 in September to 56,000. That suggests that sales funded by mortgages may continue at their current levels, or even rise gently, for at least the next few months. HM Revenue & Customs also reported last month that total house sales, including those that did not require a mortgage, rose to 82,000 in September, twice as many as were sold in January. The CML calculated that 132,500 house purchases, funded with a mortgage, had escaped stamp duty in the past year. This followed a tax concession by the government which came into effect in September 2008, in an attempt to help revive the increasingly moribund property market. It means 27% of all the house purchases agreed since then have escaped the 1% tax that would have been levied on properties sold for between £125,000 - the old stamp duty threshold - and the temporary new one of £175,000. The concession is due to end at the end of 2009.