First Time Buyers lead the way as mortgage drawdowns and approvals continue to rise

As the Irish economy continues to reopen following the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, mortgage approvals and drawdowns have remained on the rise. Recent figures from the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has shown data on mortgage drawdowns and approvals for the second quarter of 2021.

According to the data from BPFI, some 9,625 new mortgages were drawn down in the second quarter of 2021. This represents an increase of 45.4 percent in volume when compared to the same data from the second quarter of 2020, when the pandemic was at its height. These new mortgages have a total value of €2.23 billion, representing an increase in value of 52.5 percent when compared with the same period a year ago. BPFI reports that of these new mortgages, first time buyers represent the largest segment, accounting for some 50.9 percent of all new mortgages.

The vast majority of new mortgages drawn down were to finance a purchase of a home. In the second quarter, there were 7,438 mortgage drawdowns for purchases, with a combined value totaling €1.8 billion, a 47.8 …

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Irish Households’ savings at record levels

Irish households saved more than 4 times the average amount during the first quarter of 2021, according to a recent study by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The CSO reports that Irish households saved more than €10 billion during the first three months of 2021.

This massive increase in savings was undoubtedly related to Covid-19 and it’s corresponding economic restrictions. Due to businesses being closed because of lockdowns, government unemployment benefits, or some combination of the two, incomes either held steady or increased, while spending was dramatically decreased. The CSO also reported that uncertainty about the pandemic and how long the lockdowns would last may have forced many Irish citizens to build up an increased amount of precautionary savings, in case money became tight in the future.

When looking at the numbers, it is no surprise that savings grew dramatically when compared to the first quarter of 2020. Compared to the first three months of last year, Government subsidies increased by €1.1 billion, and social protection payments rose by an even larger margin of €2.7 billion.

While the Pandemic Unemployment …

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Looking to renovate your home? Here’s how to pay for it

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been spending a lot more time at home. This newfound time in your house may have inspired you to make some changes around the house, such as a basement remodel or turning that spare room into a home office for your remote work. Renovating your home can be a major project, and there are a variety of ways to pay for it. Whether you are doing something as simple as a kitchen or bathroom remodel, or something major like changing your home’s appearance or adding an extension, these projects can become quite expensive. There are many ways to pay for these projects, such as cash, a credit card, or a loan.

The best and cheapest way to pay for anything, especially renovations, is cold, hard, cash. If you don’t have enough savings to complete your project, and can afford to wait until you do, there’s no better time to start than now. Start improving your bank balance by setting aside a certain amount of money each time you get paid. …

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AIB to close branches due to pandemic in controversial decision

The covid-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns have had a number of effects on the financial landscape both in Ireland and worldwide. One of the biggest effects has been the shift to contactless payments and online banking. This trend was only increased due to lockdowns, as the bank’s physical locations were closed, leading to more customers accessing their money online or through the bank’s app.

On Tuesday, Allied Irish Banks (AIB) said that it had conducted a “detailed strategic review” to examine the changes in how customers interact with banks. In the review, the bank stated that “Following the unrelenting shift in customer preference for digital banking over the last number of years, AIB is announcing the amalgamation of 15 branches in locations across the country by December this year”. The vast majority of these 15 branches being closed are in urban and suburban locations in Dublin and Cork. Accounts in the closing branches will be moved to neighboring branches, and these closures will leave AIB with 170 remaining physical branches. About 100 AIB employees will be affected by this …

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How do mortgages work?

If you’re looking to buy a home, you’ve probably already realized that this is not like most transactions. The average house price in Dublin is €396,000, and unless you’re very wealthy, you probably don’t have anywhere that much in savings. Because you likely can’t afford an expense of this magnitude out of your own pocket, you will need to finance the purchase through a mortgage, and if you’re new to the home-buying process, you may be a little confused as to how exactly these loans work.

A mortgage is a huge loan secured against the value of your house. A “secured” loan means that the borrower promises collateral to the lender in the event that they are unable to make payments, and in this case, the collateral is your home. In other words, the bank will kick you out and take possession of your house if you can’t make payments. In order to prevent this from happening, the lender will typically conduct a detailed review of the borrower’s finances in order to determine how much they can reasonably afford to …

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How has remote working affected rent prices in Ireland?

Because of the pandemic, so many people across Ireland have transitioned to remote work. While reopening is underway, it will still be some time before the majority of the workforce is back in their offices. During the pandemic, many people who lived and worked in major cities like Dublin found themselves returning to their home counties due to the opportunity to work from home. The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has found that a trend may be beginning with this movement of people away from urban centers due to covid-19.

Rents have increased across the State in the first three months of 2021 when compared to that same time period from last year. But perhaps as a reflection of people’s shift to remote work, rents have seen their sharpest increases outside of Dublin. During the first three months of the year, rents as a whole have seen a rise of 4.5 percent compared to the first quarter of last year. The nationwide average rent in euros for this quarter comes out to be €1,320, an increase of €33 when compared with …

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What is an Equity Release and how does it work?

Your equity in your home is how much you own. Think of it as the amount of your mortgage that you have already paid off, or the difference between your home’s market value and what you still owe the lender. So, once you have paid off your mortgage completely, you have 100% equity: you own it entirely. But as the value of your home appreciates, there is no immediate benefit to you in terms of cash. You will not be able to profit from the increase in value until you sell your property, and if you never sell, your estate and beneficiaries will be the only ones who are better off.

An equity release mortgage offers a way around this. These mortgages are becoming increasingly popular for homeowners aged 55 and older, as they give you a way to benefit from the equity you have built up in your home. An equity release involves a lender giving you a portion of the value of your home as a lump sum or a series of payments, in exchange for interest or …

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New Green mortgage offering one of Ireland’s lowest rates

AIB’s mortgage subsidiary Haven has launched a new, four-year, fixed rate green mortgage with one of the lowest rates currently available on the market.

Haven is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AIB which focuses solely on mortgage distribution through brokers. They offer a broad selection of fixed and variable rate mortgages to customers including first time buyers, movers, switchers, and investors.

The mortgage has a rate of 2.15 percent, and applies to both new and existing customers with a Building Energy Rating (BER) of between A1 and B3. The BER cert must also be less than 10 years old in order to be eligible. All new builds are expected to qualify for the low rate, and existing customers who remodel their home to meet the BER requirements will also qualify.

According to AIB, this low rate could result in substantial savings for the average customer. The lender reports that the new rate allows customers of a 25 year, €300,000 mortgage to save €155 monthly. This equates to a savings of €1,800 per year over the lifetime of the loan, when compared …

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COVID-19’s biggest effect on the Irish financial world

There is no doubt that the covid-19 pandemic has changed the financial landscape as we know it.

The pandemic has increased online shopping by great amounts, has changed the way individuals invest in the stock market, and has lead to many central banks around the world printing large sums of money in order to pay unemployment benefits and provide essential aid to businesses both small and large. Investors have began to hedge against growing inflation of currencies around the world by investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, sending them to sky-high prices.

But perhaps covid-19’s biggest – and surely its most noticeable –  effect has been a massive increase in contactless payments. Use of cash was already on the decline, but business closures and other covid restrictions, as well as new development in the fintech sector, have seen card and mobile payments soar to record highs.

Contactless payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as the new chip and tap-to-pay features included on most debit cards, are fast, easy and sanitary. And let’s face it, it’s much more …

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Central Bank accused of unjust regulations on credit unions

Credit union chief executives have recently criticized the Central Bank’s regulations on the sector, calling them “excessive and unjustified”. After conducting research, a group of CEOs from credit unions across Ireland, chaired by Queen’s University Belfast professor Donal McKillop, have claimed that under the Central Bank’s current regulations, Irish credit unions are forced to set aside unjustifiably high levels of their capital into reserves, much higher than that of Irish and European banks.

Under the Central Bank’s current rules, credit unions must set aside a minimum of 10 percent of their total assets in reserves. This means that when a credit union member saves €100 with a credit union, the credit union must then put €10 in its reserves, if a member saves €1000, the credit union must put €100 in reserves, and so on. In its research paper, the Credit Union CEO Forum deemed these rates “excessive” and many credit unions have put limits on amount of savings they will accept from members, with some capping savings at just €10,000.

The CEO Forum’s paper states that these reserve capital …

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