A big rise in the number of first-time buyers could herald good news for a ‘housing time-bomb’ in Bradford.

The outlook for the district’s housing market was also boosted by figures showing that this region has most affordable homes in the UK and that house prices in Yorkshire are set to rise by seven per cent in 2014.

Local estate agents say there has been a definite return of the first-time buyer since last Easter, with one firm reporting a 25 per cent rise in sales over the past year.

A report published today now shows the number of first-time buyers in the UK grew by about a fifth in 2013 to 265,000 – the strongest annual increase in more than a decade.

And the Halifax and the Council of Mortgage Lenders say the rise means first-time buyers increased their share of all house purchases made with a mortgage to 44 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 2012.

But they also report that less than a third of all local authority areas have house prices affordable to first-time buyers on average earnings. Yorkshire and Humberside was found to be the region most affordable for first-time buyers at 76 per cent.

These results were welcomed by Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council’s executive member for housing.

“It is very important that we maximise the number of affordable homes and we are doing all we can to facilitate that,” she said.

“We are aware there is a housing time-bomb in Bradford, especially for first-time buyers. We have a shortage of first-time buyer homes here and ten per cent overcrowding in some inner city wards.

“There is a big job to be done and our efforts will continue, but these signs are encouraging.”

Patrick McCutcheon, of Dacre Son and Hartley’s Ilkley office, said: “This region is benefiting from their return of the first-time buyer because we remain one of the more affordable parts of the UK and because we have a diverse economy which means buyers can afford to pay back what they borrow. However, we need to see how this develops before we take a view on house price inflation.”

James Watts, Cleckheaton-based director of Robert Watts estate agents, said the outlook was ‘very positive’. “We have seen a 25 per cent increase in sales,” he said.

“In recent months first-time buyers have been showing more confidence. They are going for it. But the next six months will be crucial.”