" December results are notoriously difficult to use to identify a trend because of the peculiar nature of the festive season where people often put decisions on hold."
2017 saw 365,000 first-time buyers, the highest number since 2006 and an annual increase of 7.4% from 340,000 in 2016, according to new data from UK Finance.
This is despite the number of first-time buyer completions falling by 5.2% in December.
Mortgage lending for first-time buyers, home movers and buy-to-let purchases all fell in December 2017 compared to the previous year.
Home mover completions fell by 4.7% and remortgage lending dropped by 7.4%.
For buy-to-let, purchases were down by 17.2% and remortages fell 11.6% by volume.
Paul Smee, Head of Mortgages at UK Finance, said: “2017 saw the number of first-time buyers reach its highest level in a decade, which is welcome news for those getting started on the housing ladder.
“But although the market remains competitive there is no room for complacency, with weaker December figures consistent with our market forecast of subdued growth this year.
“We are also seeing a less buoyant buy-to-let market, which continues to be impacted by recent tax and regulatory changes. This will continue to flatten gross lending volumes this year.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, commented: "These figures don’t tell the whole story. December results are notoriously difficult to use to identify a trend because of the peculiar nature of the festive season where people often put decisions on hold. What we do know is that this year has started fairly typically in that viewings and instructions are up although buyers are naturally nervous about making commitment until they see which way prices are moving.
"Encouragingly, first-time buyers are starting to replace investors at the smaller property end of the market which is good news because they buy at the bottom and trade up whereas investors tend to buy there and stay there."