Brighter outlook for property – if banks keep their loan promises
IT could be said that 2013 is turning out to be the year of the big promise from bankers.
And if the commitments are kept, it could help lift the housing market out of its doldrums.
AIB was the latest out of the traps to promise to increase the amount of mortgage finance it will advance this year.
It plans to lend out €2bn – a doubling of the mortgage fund it had last year.
Last week, Bank of Ireland said it had a €2bn mortgage fund in place. And Permanent TSB is to increase its lending five-fold to €350m.
Barely €2bn was lent out for mortgages across the entire market last year, so if all the planned bank lending takes place, the total for 2013 should more than double.
It is still a far cry from the heady heights of 2006 when a total of €40bn was loaned out for mortgages.
Of course, each new loan given out by a bank helps a little to dilute their arrears mess.
Head of mortgages at the AIB Jim O'Keeffe (pictured) was coy yesterday when asked on RTE's Radio how many homeowners in arrears had been offered long-term forbearance arrangements.
The banks are still too slow at getting on top of the arrears issue.
But Mr O'Keeffe will be conscious that any rise in lending levels will be good for the troubled housing market which is struggling to lift itself off the ground.
The Punt, like the rest of us, has learned not to trust bankers.
But if what they are saying now about higher mortgage lending does come true it may speed up the end of one of the worst housing collapses in the world.
And new loans that are being repaid should also improve the look of the banks' balance sheets.