Mortgage lending increase by Principality Building Society
Wales' biggest building society has set out plans to increase mortgage lending by 50% over the next five years.
Latest figures from the Principality show there was a big rise in its mortgage lending last year, particularly for first time buyers in Wales.
The figures also show the company made a profit of £25m in 2012, up marginally on the previous year.
Chief executive Graeme Yorston said confidence was returning to the market.
The Principality said the value of all its new mortgages was worth more than £1bn for the first time in its history.
The Principality admits this expansion in lending is ambitious but realistic.
For the UK's seventh biggest building society to set out plans to grow its mortgage book in this way has to be seen as a positive sign, even amid the talk of a triple-dip recession.
There are factors which are allowing the mutual to be upbeat such as cheaper cash being made available by the UK government and a flight of customers from the scandal-hit banking industry.
But ultimately the building society wouldn't feel confident about its lending unless it felt the worst of the falls in the property market were over.
So strong signs then that the supply side in the mortgage market is improving, now it's over to the demand side and much of that depends on how confident people feel in their jobs.
It also created nearly 100 jobs during the year.
But there was a more cautious approach to commercial lending as it increased its capacity to withstand any losses as a result of conditions it described as "challenging."
Net lending for the Principality - which is all new money after taking into account the older loans which are repaid - stood at £430m.
Mr Yorston said: "People are beginning to believe that affordability, with interest rates having dropped significantly for mortgages, gives them the opportunity to re-enter the housing market, whereas before they were holding off on that decision.
"With the level of stability that we think will return to the UK economy, we just feel there's an opportunity for a Welsh-based business to do more both in Wales and in England.
"Growth is where we are trying to take this business over the next five years."Savers suffer
The Principality is the biggest lender based in Wales with 53 branches. It has around 5% of the mortgage market and around 12% of the savings market in Wales.
Just 40% of its total mortgages are in Wales with the rest sold in England, while 70% of its savings products are sold in Wales.
For every one borrower, the Principality has 10 savers and the outlook for them is more difficult.
The introduction of the UK government's Funding for Lending Scheme, which provides cheaper sources of money for banks and building societies, means that lenders have less of a need to attract savers' deposits as a source of cash.
Mr Yorston said that rates for savers had fallen by as much as one percentage point in the final quarter of the year as a result of the scheme's impact.
However, it still managed to attract 20,000 new Welsh savers in 2012. In recent years mutual building societies have been seen as safe havens after the recent scandals surrounding the banking industry.Repossessions down
When asked about prospects for savings rates, Mr Yorston said: "I'm hoping we have reached the bottom of the cycle now.
"If you're at the bottom of that cycle then I'm hopeful that you will see some interest rate uplift during 2013, particularly in the ISA season.
"I'm hopeful we'll see a bit of competitiveness return to the savings market but it's going to be a long year and we'll have to wait to see what happens."
The Principality also owns the largest estate agency in Wales, Peter Alan.
Last year sales were up 3% and lettings up 37% on the year.
Peter Alan's repossession rates are down to their lowest levels since 2008 and the number of its High Street branches has also climbed back up to its pre-recession levels for the first time.
On the issue of property prices, Mr Yorston says he believes they'll be stable in the coming year, after a slight reduction last year, and he doesn't see interest rates rising over the next 18 months to two years.