New figures have revealed that the average price of a house for the first-time buyer has passed the quarter of a million euro mark.

According to the Permanent TSB/ESRI house price index, the price of houses for first-time buyers peaked in January of this year, with the average amount paid for a house at €251,281. This represented a 0.7% increase.

House prices overall rose by 1.2% in January, similar to the increases recorded in the final three months of 2005. The annual rate of growth in January picked up to 10.2% from 9.3% in December.

Separate figures from the Central Bank show that there was a strong start to mortgage lending in 2006, with the annual rate of growth climbing to a new record of 28.8% in January.

The volume of new mortgage lending is usually lower in January than in other months, but the €1.5 billion monthly increase was the strongest to be recorded in any January.