Would be home-buyers have been gearing up for the Spring house-hunting season, but much more cautiously than in recent years.
The number of loans for house purchase approved - but not yet paid out - by the big British banks during February rose by 42 per cent from a very low number in January, but were still 35 per cent fewer than in February last year.
Details from last week's lending numbers from the British Bankers' Association, which do not include building societies, show the average value of these loans approved for house purchase was £119,000, up sharply from £105,000 in February 3004 and £110,500 in January this year.
In all, the banks lent £11.9 billion in mortgages this February, three per cent more than in January, but 12 per cent less than in February last year.
A more buoyant trend emerges after repayments. These reduced last month's seasonally adjusted total for all mortgages to £4.8 billion, a 12.5 per cent recovery from January and 9.4 per cent short of the total in February, 2004.
"Whilst mortgage lending is clearly running at levels below those of a year earlier, February's figures indicate that the declining trend seen during 2004 may be bottoming out," said David Dooks, director of statistics at the BBA.
"We have seen the start of the seasonal upturn in loan approvals, albeit from a very low point in the case of house purchase loans. so it will be important to see how strong the usual Spring impetus will be in the coming months.
Howard Archer, at Global Insight, also said: "This points to further softness in house prices over the next few months, although they are unlikely to fall sharply.'
The picture was different in credit card lending.
Repayments were much heavier than in February last year.
Although the month's credit card spending of £6.8 billion was virtually unchanged from February last year, repayments reduced seasonally adjust net lending to £69 million compared with £498 million a year earlier.
Mr Dooks suggested this reflected a shift in mid-winter spending.
This time a large amount of pre-Christmas buying was held over until the January sales.
As a result credit card repayments that usually peak in January were deferred until February.
There was no similar fall in personal loans and overdrafts.
February's gross lending of £2.858 billion was slightly below an average of £3.055 billion for the previous six months.
But lower repayments left a net increase of £667 million against a recent average of £564 million.
Mr Dooks suggested that these loans are often taken out to buy "big-ticket" items - cars, kitchens and the like.
"These are things people consider before they go ahead," he said. "It looks as if they are still buying them.
"Our hunch is that frivolous expenditure is something people are being more careful about."