FIRST-time buyers capitalised on the December housing slump, says the professional body for estate agents.

Although the number of house hunters registered per estate agent branch fell by 20 per cent, first-time buyers took advantage of the quiet market. The percentage of sales made to this group increased to 32 per cent.

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: "We see this year in, year out. Buyers take a back seat in December to enjoy the festivities, while sellers keep their homes on the market in the hope someone will take interest and make an offer.

"What we don’t usually see is first-time buyers capitalising on this slump and using it to their advantage – 44 per cent of our members think the Chancellor’s stamp duty cut will encourage more to make offers, and it looks like that’s what we’re starting to see.

"Hopefully this enthusiasm won’t falter when the second and third-time buyers come back onto the market in the new year and competition hots up again.”