Wednesday 22 May 2019

Home lenders here charge €2,500 more every year than rest of EU

Brian Hayes MEP. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Brian Hayes MEP. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Variable mortgage rates in this country are costing homeowners up to €2,500 a year more than our European cousins.

But it is understood that banks are holding off on a cut to sky-high mortgage rates until after the new government is formed.

A new administration is expected to prioritise dealing with the overcharging of customers - a situation that means banks are prepared to drop rates.

But this will not happen until the pressure comes from a new Minister for Finance in the next Government - something for which the country has been waiting for the past two months.

In the meantime, mortgage customers here are getting "fleeced" compared to the rest of Europe.

A study by the Irish Independent shows first-time buyers and existing homeowners paying a huge premium for the same mortgage compared to their counterparts abroad.

Homeowners are paying €2,500 more a year for their variable mortgages than borrowers across the eurozone.

It means variable mortgage rates in this country are the highest in the eurozone.

On a €220,000 mortgage, the average monthly repayment is just €800 across the eurozone. This compares with around €1,000 in Ireland.

Over a year, this works out at a difference of €2,400.

In France, typical mortgage rates are 1.92pc, according to the European Central Bank. This means a French home buyer is paying €800 a month for a €220,000 mortgage.

German mortgages are slightly dearer, at an average of 2.45pc. But a German person borrowing €220,000 would still be €1,700 better off every year.

Borrowers in Cyprus pay an average of 3.12pc, while Spanish borrowers are on an average mortgage rate of 1.73pc.

Brendan Burgess of the Fair Mortgage Rates Campaign accused banks here of "fleecing" mortgage customers who do not have trackers.

And banks are actuallly now starting to make profits on tracker mortgages - raising questions about why they are charging so much for variable rate mortgages.

He said: "They are fleecing their customers. They are charging €8,000 a year in interest alone for a €200,000 mortgage, when they are paying less than €1,000 for the funds."

This is based on a variable interest rate of 4pc, but a cost of funds for the bank of just 0.55pc.

The variable rate here for existing mortgage holders is 3.96pc, Central Bank figures show. For new borrowers the average rate is 3.76pc.

According to the Central Bank's 'Household Credit Market Report', variable interest rates in Ireland were "the highest of the countries presented" when compared with other eurozone countries in February.

The average mortgage rate across the eurozone is just 2pc - almost half the rate here.

Meanwhile, MEP Brian Hayes has called on the next government to bring in a code of conduct to encourage mortgage holders to switch.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has recently published a survey which shows only 2pc of mortgage holders have switched in the last five years.

"People are still being ripped off by banks charging very high variable mortgage rates," said Mr Hayes. "The rates have come down by a small degree in the past year but Irish mortgage holders are still being overcharged compared to our eurozone neighbours."

Irish Independent

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