Mortgage approvals hit 10-year high – but figures fail to the tell full story of the property market

Mortgage approvals hit 10-year high – but figures fail to the tell full story of the property market

Posted on 27Aug

New figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) show that a total of 5,033 mortgages, worth almost €1.3 billion, were approved in July – the most in any month since BPFI began collecting data in 2011.

On an annualised basis, 53,511 mortgage were approved in the twelve months ending July 2021, valued at €13.1 billion. This is up 3.15 per cent compared with the twelve months ending June 2021 and an increase in value terms by 3.72 per cent over the same period.

While the figures suggest an impressive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic for the housing sector, if we dig deeper into the numbers, the bounce back may not be as strong as it initially seems.

Breaking down the numbers

Of the 5,033 mortgages which were approved last month, first-time buyers (FTBs) were approved for 2,766 mortgages (55 per cent of total volume) while mover purchasers accounted for 1,272 (25.3 per cent).

It represented a 3.3 per cent decrease in approval volumes compared to June, but when compared to last July, approval volumes were up by 48.2 per cent.

In total, mortgages approved in July 2021 were valued at €1.2 billion – of which FTBs accounted for €707 million (55.1 per cent) and mover purchasers for €382 million (29.7 per cent). The value of mortgage approvals rose by 0.6 per cent month-on-month and by 58.3 per cent year-on-year.

What is a mortgage approval?

A mortgage approval is defined as a “firm offer” to a customer of a credit facility secured on a specific residential property.

A mortgage approval arises when the lender issues a formal offer of mortgage finance to the customer (whether it be in print or some other durable form) for a specific residential property which contains the Notice of important information to be included in a housing loan agreement specified in the Consumer Credit Act 1995.

All mortgage loans must be secured on residential property in Ireland.

What has been said

Speaking on the latest figures, Brian Hayes, Chief Executive, BPFI said: “The latest mortgage approvals for July show continued growth, especially for FTB mortgages. In total almost €1.3 billion in mortgages were approved, the most in any month since BPFI began collecting this data in 2011.”

“Looking at the annualised figures which allows us to more accurately assess emerging key trends, there were 53,511 mortgage approvals in the twelve months ending July 2021, valued at almost €13.2 billion – again, the highest level since the data series began.

“The value of approvals more than doubled since the twelve months ending October 2016, driven by growth in lending to FTBs and re-mortgages or switching.”

“These are significant figures and very much signal a robust pipeline for drawdown activity later in the year.”

Figures may not paint an full picture of the property market

While Hayes claims these figures show continued growth in the housing market, there are a number of factors we must consider while analysing them in order to get a complete picture.

As pointed out by Joey Sheahan, Head of Credit with, 2020 was a tumultuous year for the housing sector, as activity in the market was very low as a result of the initial lockdown.

“Year on year comparisons on mortgage approval figures aren’t currently the most telling as the market has been an absolute roller-coaster during Covid,” Sheahan said.

“While the overall market is booming, we are seeing a lot of borrowers renewing their mortgage approvals as their previous approvals didn’t give them sufficient time to view and enter into an agreement on a house.

“Others were unable to progress previous approval due to being on the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

“These issues were particularly challenging during lockdown in the first four months of the year so the mortgage drawdown figures could be artificially high.”

The figures in context

While the figures suggest things are improving significantly in the housing sector, it is important to remember that the mortgage market was still relatively depressed in July of last year owing to uncertainty around the trajectory of the pandemic which impacted the property market generally.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office earlier this month show the property market continues to be stoked by pandemic-related factors, such as increased savings and lower-than-anticipated supply.

Transaction prices in June 2021 were 6.9 per cent higher -than they were in the same month last year and the spread of price increases was countrywide.


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