Ireland named Europe's fourth most indebted country

Average household debt stands at €30,199

Irish households are the fourth most indebted in Europe, according to new figures from the Central Bank.

Its Household Credit Market Report puts debt at €30,199 on a per capita basis, behind just Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden.

Ireland is managing to pay off its debtors, however. Debt in the last quarter of 2016 was down €3.9 billion to €143.8bn in total.

Household debt has fallen every quarter since it hit a peak of €203.7bn in the third quarter of 2008. It has dropped some 29% in that time.

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Other debt indicators are also falling – the debt-to-disposable income ratio had dropped to 140.9 at the end of 2016, compared to 151.1 in the same period the year previous, while the debt-to-asset ratio fell from 19.3 to 17.8.

The Central Bank stated:

"Both indicators suggest a continued improvement in the sustainability of household balance sheets."

Mortgage Lending

The new Central Bank data also shows that variable mortgage interest rates fell to 3.75% in the first quarter of 2017, down from 3.95% in the same period last year.

Rates remain considerably higher than across Europe – in March, the typical rate on a new loan here was 3.2%, the highest in the region.

New mortgage approvals and drawdowns increased by value and volume in the year to the end of March. First-time buyers represented just under half of this activity.