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Drop of nearly 10% in mortgage approvals in March compared to 2019

The figures offer an early indication of the impact of Covid-19 on lending.

THE NUMBER OF mortgages approved by Irish banks in March fell by 9.9% compared to the same time last year, an early indication of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The figures, from the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, show that while the number of mortgage approvals rose by 6.2% month-on-month, there was a nearly 10% drop compared to 2019. 

In March, 3,733 mortgages were approved – with the majority for first-time buyers. 

“Looking ahead, there is no doubt that the period ahead is going to be challenging for the mortgage market and the housing market as a whole, given the changing conditions in the economy and its direct impact on incomes and employment,” said Brian Hayes, the Chief Executive of the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland. 

“We expect to see the first effects of Covid-19 on the mortgage market coming through in April’s mortgage approvals figures which will be published at the end of May,” he said.

“The change in individuals’ financial and employment circumstances will have an impact on mortgage approvals, with banks taking a pragmatic and responsible assessment of all applications from both a borrower and lender perspective,” Hayes added. 

During the first quarter of 2020, 8,728 new mortgages to the value of nearly €2 billion were drawn down by borrowers – an 1.8% increase in volume compared to the first quarter of 2019. 

First-time buyers made up over 50% of the mortgages drawn down. 

“As we navigate our way through these unprecedented times it will be necessary for both lenders and borrowers to take a realistic and pragmatic approach until such time as we have more clarity on the wider impact of the pandemic as a whole,” Hayes said.

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