A pick-up in mortgage inquiries for the first time in two years could be an early indicator that house prices will recover in future months.
Research by lending data provider Veda shows that while overall consumer credit demand remains soft, home loan inquiries rose 1.5 per cent in the year ending March - the first annual rise since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
"Turning points in mortgage inquiries usually occur one to three quarters ahead of turning points in house prices," Veda head of consumer risk Angus Luffman said on Tuesday.
"This is a trend to watch, particularly if you are hoping for a future pick-up in house prices."
However, in the three months to the end of March there were significant differences in mortgage demand between states.
Western Australia surged by 7.6 per cent, but NSW plunged by 7.6 per cent after stamp duty exemptions expired at the end of last year.
Overall credit demand fell by 4.8 per cent in the year to March, with credit card applications tumbling by 8 per cent and personal loan applications down 1.4 per cent.
"Australian households have spent the post-GFC period firmly in saving rather than spending mode, and the results show consumers are still cautious about taking on credit," Mr Luffman said in a statement.
He said weakness in credit card demand reflected a rise in debit card usage and the introduction of responsible lending laws in 2011, which added more steps to the application process.
It also highlights Australia's two-speed economy, with applications dropping sharply over the year in South Australia (down 12 per cent), NSW (11.3 per cent) and Victoria (8.8 per cent).
However, declines were less severe in the mining states of Queensland (down 1.6 per cent) and Western Australia (down 4.2 per cent).
Likewise, demand for personal loans fell in all states over the year, apart from Western Australia (up 8.3 per cent) and the Northern Territory (up 1.7 per cent).