Mortgage lending down 53% on last year

MORTGAGE lending has halved, with an average of just 36 approved per day in the first three months of the year.

This compares to 519 approvals a day at the height of the boom in the first quarter of 2006.

Figures from the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) show that in the first quarter of this year 3,259 mortgages were issued, to the total value of €577 million.

This is a drop of more than 53% on the same period last year and a fall of 42% on the previous quarter.

First-time buyers and mover-purchasers accounted for 77% of the value market, while they made up 67% of the volume.

In effect, more than three-quarters of all mortgage credit now issued goes to the home purchasing segments of the market.

The average first-time buyer loan was down from €201,516 in the first quarter of last year to €183,543 in the first quarter of 2011. That compares to €212,053 in the first quarter if 2006.

The IBF said lenders are reporting “subdued” underlying demand for new mortgage finance but that banks are pointing to the need for “prudent lending”, with the focus on the borrower’s employment situation and capacity to repay.

IBF chief executive Pat Farrell said: “The economic situation remains challenging and prudence remains the order of the day. For customers that means manageable borrowing and for financial institutions it means prudent lending.”

Irish Mortgage Corporation director Frank Conway said the figures demonstrate the continued “wipeout” of the mortgage and property market as consumers remain absent from buying and lenders remain absent from funding.

“This is a meltdown of epic proportions and a trend that is showing little sign of abating,” he said.

Mr Conway said Ireland needs banks that can return to funding mortgage requests soon.

“We need our labour market to stabilise before would-be first-time buyers feel confident enough to return to buying,” he said.

Chief executive of the Irish Brokers Association Ciaran Phelan said that experience among brokers indicated a heightened demand for mortgages in the first quarter of 2011 but a “dearth of available credit”.

“It’s not difficult to see why the property market is struggling with confirmation that the banks are effectively closed to mortgage lending,” he said.

Mr Phelan said the €577m lent represents an almost 95% drop in mortgage advancements compared to the peak in 2006.

“While no one want to go back to those days, this level of available credit will stifle any property or economic stabilisation never mind a recovery,” he said.

Head of residential at Savills Ronan O’Driscoll said the figures show some activity in the housing market.

“Clearly, securing mortgage finance remains a very significant challenge for many people, but those who are buying right now are availing of excellent value in the market,” he said.

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