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Figures dispel myth that we're top home buyers in Europe

HOME ownership in Ireland is in line with the average in the European Union -- debunking the myth that home ownership here is among the highest in the EU.

The Spanish, Greeks, Portuguese and people in a host of former Eastern Bloc states all have higher ownership levels than Ireland, figures obtained by the Irish Independent show.

Some 74pc of Irish people own their own home. This is in line with the average for the 27 members of the EU.

Ireland ranks 18th in home ownership levels out of 31 countries looked by the the EU statistics agency Eurostat. The figures are for 2009, the latest available.

The highest home ownership is in Romania (96pc), followed by Lithuania (91pc), Hungary (89pc), Slovakia (89pc), Estonia (87pc), Latvia (87pc), Bulgaria (87pc), Norway (85pc), Iceland (84pc), Spain (83pc), Slovenia (81pc), Malta (79pc), Czech Republic (77pc) and Greece (76pc).

Ireland comes in at 73.7pc, while 70pc of people in the UK own their own homes.

Irish home ownership levels have dropped from a high of 79pc in the 1990s to just short of 74pc at the start of this century, according to a new book on the economy, 'Sins Of The Father' by Conor McCabe.

Despite this, many commentators continue to insist that Irish ownership of homes is the highest in the EU, according to Mr McCabe.

"Ireland was bucking European trends with a declining level of home ownership, yet the popular narrative has Ireland with the highest rate of home ownership in Europe and, unlike the rest of Europe, obsessed with owning their homes," he said.

Meanwhile, a leading housing economist says house prices here will fall from an average of less than €200,000 to €150,000.

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We are just three quarters of the way to the end of the correction, Ronan Lyons of Daft.ie said.

The economist said that traditionally in this country it took 3.5 times the average household income to buy a house.

But even though house prices have fallen by up to 50pc, buying a house still takes between 4.5 and five times the average household income.

"This suggests that the typical house price in Ireland now should be of the order of €150,000, or a fall of 60pc from peak," he said.

House price falls have been far sharper in Dublin than in the rest of the country, suggesting that severe price falls are to come outside the capital, he added.

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