Saturday 22 October 2016

Variable rates set to become major issue in General Election

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

One Big Switch co-founder Oliver Tattan
One Big Switch co-founder Oliver Tattan

The high interest rates charged on variable mortgages are set to be a General Election issue with more than half of people surveyed on the topic saying it will influence their vote.

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The survey also shows consumers feel TDs do not understand the financial pain caused by high mortgage rates.

The poll by the One Big Switch campaign found that 53pc of respondents agreed that high mortgage rates would have a significant influence on how they will vote in the next election.

Some 65pc of consumers believe their TD has no, or very little, understanding of the financial stress caused by variable rates that are among the highest in the eurozone, according to a poll of 1,600 of the 6,000 mortgage holders who have registered with the One Big Switch.

The campaign aims to collect 20,000 consumers willing to switch banks together. It wants to do a deal with a bank for lower mortgage rates in return for delivering thousands of switchers to it.

One Big Switch co-founder Oliver Tattan said: "These survey results should be a wake-up call to politicians from all sides of the political fence; consumers are deeply concerned about high interest rates, and are determined to use their vote to reward the political party who tackles the problem head on."

It is estimated that switching to the best-value mortgage could see a family with a €250,000 home loan saving €1,500 a year.

Separate research from the Central Bank shows there has been a big rise in the numbers of people on variables opting for a fixed rate. However, this figure is coming off a low base.

The numbers who chose a fixed rate was up by a third in the year to September.

One in seven mortgage holders are on fixed rates, or 14.6pc, according to the Central Bank. Calculations by this newspaper indicate that this represents about 110,000 mortgage holders.

Some 46pc of mortgages are on variable rates, which works out at around 345,000 of home loans. Another 40pc are on trackers. This amounts to about 300,000 residential mortgages.

During the summer, lenders launched a number of fixed rates which were cheaper than variable rates. This was in response to calls from Finance Minister Michael Noonan to the six domestic lenders to ease the financial pressure on those with variables.

Broker body PIBA (the Professional Insurance Brokers' Association) said it was concerned that greater numbers of homeowners were opting for fixed rates, most of which were for between just one and three years.

PIBA's chief operating officer Rachel Doyle said: "Fixed interest rates for such short periods are not real fixed rates at all like you get in Europe and elsewhere where rates can be fixed for up to 20 years or for the lifetime of a mortgage."

Irish Independent

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