MORTGAGE rates in this country have fallen below 3pc for the first time in years.
But there is scope for much deeper cuts, mortgage experts said.
New figures show home buyers in this country with new mortgage agreements are still paying double the average rate in the rest of the Eurozone despite the fall in rates.
This is costing the typical new buyer €2,000 more a year than their European counterpart.
The average rate paid on a new mortgage in this country was 2.88pc in December, the Central Bank said.
This was down 13 basis points on the same month in the previous year.
However, the average rate being paid in the Eurozone is half of the one in this country, at 1.37pc.
Ireland is the second most expensive country in the Eurozone for mortgage rates after Greece.
There was a bigger fall in fixed rate mortgage deals, with a drop of 12 basis points to 2.81 in December when compared with the same month a year previously.
Mortgage experts said there was scope for lenders to cut their rates again.
Rates are coming down due to more competition between lenders, according to Joey Sheahan, head of credit of MyMortgages.ie and author of ‘The Mortgage Coach’.
“But there is still a gulf between what our lenders are charging and what our European counterparts are offering their mortgage holders.
“We would hope that this gulf will continue to narrow over the coming years. We believe that there is scope for a cut of up to 0.25pc on some fixed rate terms,” he said.
Daragh Cassidy of price comparison site Bonkers.ie said the average first-time buyer mortgage in Ireland is around €225,000.
This means someone borrowing this amount over 30 years is paying almost €172 extra a month or over €2,058 a year compared to our European neighbours.
“That’s money that could be put to far better use,” he said.
He advised potential first-time buyers who are at the start of the mortgage journey to do their research.
“While the average new mortgage rate in Ireland is still close to 3pc, there are now rates as low as 2.25pc on offer,” he said.
Banks here blame higher levels of arrears and the difficulty repossessing properties, where the mortgage is not being paid, for the high lending rates and near-zero deposit interest.
Banks here are required to set aside more capital than their Eurozone counterparts when they issue a mortgage.
Last month Ulster Bank reduced its five-year fixed rate to 2.2pc for those borrowing more than €300,000.
This is the lowest mortgage rate in the market.
And recent entrant into the mortgage market, ICS Mortgages, reduced its three and five-year rates for first-time buyers, movers and switchers.
Other banks are now expected to react with lower rates.