Rate cut ‘mortgage war’ in lending sector

An “ongoing mortgage war” is firmly under way as Ulster Bank became the fifth lender in recent weeks to cut its mortgage rates, a financial comparison expert has said, writes Pádraig Hoare and Geoff Percival.

Ulster Bank cut a number of its three-, four-, five-, and seven-year fixed mortgage rates, joining AIB and Haven which cut their standard variable rates, and EBS and Bank of Ireland which cut a number of fixed mortgage rates in the past six weeks.

Price comparison website Bonkers.ie said the “ongoing mortgage war” was good for customers.

Spokesman Mark Whelan said: “The fact that AIB, Haven, EBS, Bank of Ireland, and now Ulster Bank have all cut rates in quick succession indicates that the Irish mortgage market is becoming increasingly competitive. However, it is not before time. Irish mortgage holders have been paying much more than their fellow Europeans for years.

Irish mortgage interest rates are still nearly double that of the average for the eurozone as a whole, according to the latest monthly Central Bank figures.

The regulator’s retail interest rates roundup for September shows the average interest rate attached by the Irish banks to new variable rate mortgages — excluding the renegotiation of existing mortgages — stood at 3.37% in the month. The equivalent rate for the wider eurozone was 1.86% in September.

The latest figures from Banking and Payments Federation Ireland this week showed a 17% year-on-year jump in the number of mortgage drawdowns in the third quarter, with the average loan size growing 7%, translating into a 29% annualised jump in loan value.

Growth in mortgage approval rates is moderating, but Goodbody has maintained its forecast of 30% growth in approvals this year and a 20% increase next year.

Meanwhile, banks have been accused of allowing a culture of fear to fester that allowed the tracker mortgage scandal to happen.

Financial Services Union general secretary Larry Broderick said that fear permeates the banking industry and has destroyed it for many years.

Of 6,000 new affected Bank of Ireland tracker customers identified this week, almost 2,000 are its own staff.


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