With so many dark clouds over Britain’s economic skies, it is nice to hear something positive from the UK mortgage market. The most recent figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) have revealed sharp increases in the sale of homes over the past few months, with the mortgage approval levels in January being the highest since the end of 2009. The CML’s chief economist Bob Pannell said that the underlying picture for house-purchase activity continues to show some buoyancy, adding: The launch of the NewBuy scheme is an important addition to lenders tool kit in addressing the various needs of would-be borrowers. The scheme has the potential to offset the dip in first-time buyer activity that the end of the stamp duty concession on 24 March may produce.” For its part, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has also been assisting the upbeat mood, revealing that its members generally believe that house prices have stopped falling with a similar assessment from the housebuilding industry. Nevertheless, there are still strong challenges facing the UK mortgage market, combined with the other economic uncertainties of growing unemployment, increased fuel prices and an increasingly strained household budget. Mortgage-holders who have the option are rushing to fix their mortgages in the face of rate increases although only 28 per cent of mortgage-holders can do this. Higher rates are a worry for many, as recent research shows in which most home-owners said that increases above 4 per cent would make things very difficult for them. Given this situation, it still makes the best sense for any potential borrowers to seek out the best mortgage deals online.