There were 32,300 new buy-to-let loans during the first quarter of this year, which represents an increase of more than one third (32 per cent) from the first three months of 2011.

This is according to figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), which also revealed that the total value of the loans amounts to £3.7 billion.

While the year-on-year figures are encouraging, the number of new loans is down five per cent from the fourth quarter of 2011, while buy-to-let lending as a whole is approximately only one third of what it was in 2007.

The CML’s findings also revealed that the buy-to-let sector’s share of the mortgage market is on the rise – 12.8 per cent for the first quarter of 2012; a modest increase from the 12.6 per cent recorded at the end of last year and the 12.2 per cent 12 months ago.

In total, there are 1.4 million buy-to-let mortgages in the UK, which have a combined value of £159.4 billion.

Paul Smee, the CML’s director general, said that the buy-to-let market has become “an important part of the overall landscape” of the provision of housing in Britain.

“Even though buy-to-let lending is running at only around a third of its peak levels, the sector is continuing its gradual expansion,” he commented.

The first quarter of this year didn’t spell such good news for the retail sector, with the RICS UK Commercial Market Survey revealing a stuttering demand for retail premises and a decline in rental expectations.

There was a net balance of 11 per cent more respondents reporting a fall in demand for commercial space, which may implicate the ongoing take-up of commercial property insurance. RICS also revealed an increased availability in the amount of unoccupied floor space in UK retail space.

Responding to the findings, over one quarter (28 per cent) of chartered surveyors predicted a decline in retail property values during the second quarter of 2012, with every region in the country having published negative readings in their rental predictions.

The surveyors also said that many landlords are having difficulty securing affordable finance – and subsequently commercial contents insurance – while there was also a degree of caution and uncertainty thanks to the ongoing economic woes, which are affecting the UK and the global marketplace as a whole.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS’ chief economist, admitted that 2012 had so far proved a tricky year for the commercial property sector.

“Across many parts of the country, it seems that the commercial property sector in general is continuing to struggle, with a lack of affordable finance proving a big barrier to growth,” he commented.

Unsurprisingly, this has implicated the number of new commercial property developments, which RICS said were again in “negative territory” between January and March – something that’s been the case in every quarter since the credit crunch started emerging in the summer of 2007.

The lack of new builds isn’t just something the UK reported as a whole, but every region in the country.

By Jasmina