Savills economist warns that relaxed mortgage rules will push prices even higher

While Enda Kenny hopes it will level the playing field, there are concerns that it will only fuel competition between first0time buyers...

Savills economist warns that relaxed mortgage rules will push prices even higher

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The Central Bank has scrapped part of their lending rules, meaning that first-time buyers will only have to save a 10% deposit, regardless of the house price, from January 1st.

The requirement to have a 20% deposit for properties above €220,000 introduced in February 2015 is being done away with in an effort to help people looking to get a footing on the property ladder.

As was the case with the introduction of the first-time buyers grant in Budget 2017, however, there are concerns that the move will simply serve to fuel demand even further, forcing prices ever higher.

Dr John McCartney, an economist and director of research at Savills Ireland, said: 

"Over the next 12 months we will see prices rising because, although today's announcement... is only a sort of minor tweaking of these mortgage rules... when you combine it with the help to buy, it is pretty significant.

"And of course we have to remember that some banks are offering cashback deals which make life easier for first-time buyers as well. We're going to see more competition from these first-time buyers and that's going to drive prices."

Explaining today's "refinements", Central Bank governor Philip Lane said:

"I think the new system will be cleaner, deliver the same outcomes in an easier, simpler way...

"The median house price in Dublin in 2013 was €220k, so there's a match there, the median house price today in Dublin is around €280k. So the meaning of €220k today compared to three years ago is quite different."

He has stressed that the changes can only be judged when the economy or property market takes a dip in the future:

"Our measures are essentially designed to provide enough insulation so that households and lenders have some level of protection from downturns.

"The full impact of our measures will really only come into play the next time there is a downturn in the economy or downturn in house prices, and that is really what we have to guard against."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has backed the move, and noted that the Central Bank will be examining its impact in the months ahead:

"I welcome the decision of the Central Bank. Obviously they've made it perfectly clear that they will continue to monitor these conditions very carefully in the hope that they level the opportunity for people to be able to get on the housing ladder without walking over a cliff."

Prior to the Central Bank's announcement, DIT housing lecturer Lorcan Sirr expressed his hope that the bank would not continue to interfere with the housing crisis, arguing that it is a supply issue that they cannot solve.

He said:

"Their role is recognise or to make sure that we have a stable, financial system - and the housing market is kind of ancillary to that.

"Their focus won't be on sorting out housing supply, their focus will be making sure that the banks have enough reserves and that the banks are lending prudently".