The number of mortgage approvals for house purchases hit a two-year high in January ahead of the withdrawal of a stamp duty concession, banks have said.
There were 38,092 approvals during the month, reflecting a move by some first-time buyers to enter the market before the tax is levied again.
However, activity in the market remains low compared with the housing boom.
Meanwhile, borrowers remained cautious with loans and credit cards, the British Bankers' Association said.
"January saw the high street banks approve more mortgages for house purchase than of late, despite low household confidence, as some people try to complete transactions before the stamp duty holiday ends in March," said the association's statistics director David Dooks.
"Demand for unsecured personal borrowing remains low as consumers continue to repay debt."
The pick-up in mortgage lending came from approvals for house purchases, rather than with remortgaging.
Beyond March the mortgage market is likely to click back into its default mode of flat”
The total number of approvals for house purchases in January was 34% higher than the same month a year earlier, when the figure was at a particularly low evel.
The average mortgage approved amounted to £144,400.
The BBA said some of the extra activity was linked to the 1% stamp duty rate for first-time buyers, on properties worth between £125,000 and £250,000, being reintroduced on 24 March.