The number of mortgages approved to home buyers was higher than average in February as buy-to-let landlords rushed to beat a stamp duty hike.

Bank of England figures showed that 73,871 loans for house purchase with a total value of £13 billion were approved in February - compared with an average of 70,991 over the previous six months.

February's figure was slightly down on the 74,085 mortgages given the go-ahead for house purchase in January.

Some 40,749 loans worth £7.3 billion collectively were also approved for re-mortgaging in February, which is broadly in line with the six-month average, the Bank said.

From Friday, people buying second homes, including buy-to-let landlords, will pay three percentage points above previous stamp duty rates when they buy a property.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) reported that its members have seen a surge of interest from investors as the deadline has approached.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "Mortgage approvals in February were higher than the monthly average over the past six months, which is no surprise even though it would normally be a relatively quiet time of year before the housing market's traditional spring rush.

"This time around, landlords and second home buyers have been keen to beat the stamp duty hike from April, by ensuring they complete on any purchases before then.

"We expect the number of mortgage approvals for March to also be high, before they fall back in April as the market takes a breath and reassesses where it is at."