The number of first-time buyers last year shot up to the highest level since 2007.
According to the Halifax, there were 326,500 first-time buyers in 2014 – up 22% on the year before, while the numbers of first-time buyers rose 23% during 2013.
During 2014, first-time buyers accounted for 46% of all home purchasers who bought with a mortgage, up from 44% in 2013.
The main drivers were cheap mortgage rates and government schemes such as Help to Buy which require deposits from as low as 5%.
About 80% of those using Help to Buy are first-time buyers.
Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at the Halifax, said: “Improving economic conditions and rising employment levels have also boosted confidence among those thinking about getting on to the housing ladder for the first time.”
In 2007, there were 359,900 first-time buyers. The following year, as the market crashed, there were just 192,300.
The Halifax research also showed that mortgage affordability has improved significantly, with the average first-time buyer now spending 32% of disposable earnings on mortgage payments compared with 50% of disposable earnings in 2007.
But while the average first-time buyer deposit fell from £31,582 in 2013 to £29,218 last year, that was still 67% higher than in 2007 when the average first-time deposit was £17,499.
Nearly six out of ten first-time buyer purchases are now above the £125,000 Stamp Duty Land Tax threshold.
Nationally, just 13% of purchases were above £250,000 in 2014, rising to 56% in Greater London.