Smart Consumer: Promises, promises... but can politicians end your debt misery?
Published 10/02/2011 | 05:00
Consumers are being bombarded by different political parties scrambling to get onside with households that are swimming in a sea of debt.
This means the mortgage and personal debt crisis has moved centre stage in the election.
But how bad is the problem and what exactly are the parties proposing for our debt nation?
Mortgages a huge problem
Around one-in-10 mortgage holders is in trouble. Some 40,000 have not paid their mortgage for three months or more, while another 30,000 (who are not in arrears) have had to do a deal with their lender to get the monthly repayments reduced.
Mostly, these people agree to pay the interest only on their mortgage until they get back on their feet financially.
Additionally, some 18,000 of these are getting help from the State to pay their mortgages.
The scheme, known as the mortgage-interest supplement, has seen a five-fold increase in the numbers getting funds in four years.
Of the 40,000 in arrears, some 13,000 of them have made no payments on their mortgage for a year or more. This means these people are at a high risk of losing their homes.
Profile of typical person in mortgage arrears
Research has shown that the average mortgage defaulter is likely to be self-employed, and from Roscommon or Longford.
This person is also likely to have an interest-only mortgage, a high loan to value (probably 100pc) and a history of previous arrears, according to research by ratings agency Moody's.
Typically, these people bought in 2006 or 2007 -- the peak of the boom.
Age-wise, those in default tend to be in their 30s and 40s.
With variable-rate mortgage interest rates going up, the fear among experts is that thousands more will be forced into arrears.
Personal debt is a huge problem
When it comes to personal debt, one-in-four people were in arrears on one bill or loan in 2009, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Half of households would not be able to cope with an unexpected €1,000 bill.
And other research has shown that almost 100,000 people are three months or more in arrears on their payments on unsecured debts such as credit cards, overdrafts and credit union loans.
Credit-card bills are the most prominent of the unsecured debts, according to the survey of 1,000 adults that was conducted by market research company iReach for the Debt Advisory Centre.