Britons believe that mortgages are at their easiest to come by for at least five years, research by building societies has found.

Two-fifths (42 per cent) still see access to mortgage finance as a barrier to buying a home but this is the lowest percentage recorded since the Building Societies Association (BSA) began its study at the height of the credit crunch in June 2008.

First-time buyers also find it easier to make the jump onto the property ladder, according to the findings.

Confidence that house prices will increase over the next year is also growing, according to the BSA Property Tracker survey of 2,000 people in March.

Almost half (45 per cent) predict house prices will increase over the next year, showing a strong increase of 11 percentage points compared with research in December.

There have been several signs of confidence returning to the housing market in recent months, following Government efforts to unblock lending.

Around a third more mortgages are on the market since last August’s launch of the Government's Funding for Lending scheme which gives lenders access to cheap finance to help borrowers. A mortgage price war has also broken out, with some of the lowest-ever rates being offered.

Last week, the Council of Mortgage Lenders reported that mortgage lending to home buyers got off to its best start to the year since 2008.

Calls have been made for the Government to build on the momentum in Budget with further measures to help home builders and people trying to get on the property ladder or move up it.

Adrian Coles, director-general of the BSA, said: “On the mortgage supply side, a number of building societies have made it clear in their results that they intend to lend more in 2013 than in 2012. However, this market is also driven by demand and this is why customer sentiment is such an important lead indicator and why the results are encouraging.”

Over the past year, mutual lenders have increased mortgage lending by 30% and around one in every three loans made have been to a first-time buyer, he said. But the Government needs to do more to tackle the “desperate need for more homes”.