Houses have become much more affordable since 2008 and the ratio of first time house buyers to the total have increased significantly since then, according to First National Bank.
The FNB Estate Agent survey also showed that the ratio of black, coloured and Indian house buyers to the total improved slightly last year, after rising significantly between 2005 and 2008.
"This, we believe to be the lagged impact of a better performing economy since the end of the 2008-09 recession, along with lower interest rates, an effect which has also led to an improved first time buyer percentage," said FNB economist John Loos.
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The Reserve Bank has lowered interest rates by seven percentage points since December 2008, taking commercial lending rates to near-record lows.
The two traditional affordability measures for houses have both shown major improvements since early in 2008, Mr Loos said in a statement.
By the fourth quarter of 2012, only 17% of estate agents surveyed believed that income levels had not kept up with house prices, a dramatic reduction from the first quarter of 2008, when 72% of agents held that view, he said.
"It is possible that many agents perceive income levels keeping up, where it is actually more an interest rate cutting effect," he said.
"But the outcome is the same - improved housing affordability since the end of the real house price boom early in 2008."
Estate agents reported a slightly better picture of demand last year, when house prices rose by a nominal 5% compared to the previous year, according to FNB.
Its survey showed that first time buyers comprised 23% of total buyers in 2011 and 2012, up from 15% in 2008.
It also showed that the ratio of black, coloured and Indian buyers in suburban areas nudged up to 49.2% of the total, from 46.2% in 2011. In 2005 the ratio was just 43%.
"The faster the country can grow its economy, the more rapidly it can racially transform residential property ownership," Mr Loos said.