Thursday 23 January 2020

Household wealth hits new high due to reduced debts and property price rises

Central Bank sums: Net worth of households is now €780.4bn. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Central Bank sums: Net worth of households is now €780.4bn. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The wealth of households in this country has hit a new high, at least on paper, driven by rises in the values of homes and more savings in banks.

The figures appear to indicate that households are now wealthier than at any other period in the country's history.

Figures from the Central Bank show the average person now has a net worth of almost €160,000.

A rise in the value of housing and a fall in debts to an 11-year low are the factors behind the latest rise in the worth of households.

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Debts have fallen back to 2005 levels, and now average €27,000 per head. This is a fall of a third since the peak of the Celtic Tiger boom.

Statisticians in the Central Bank have calculated that the net worth of households in the State has climbed to €780.4bn. This works out at €158,574 per head.

Net worth is defined as the assets of households, minus what is owed in debts.

The figures are aggregates, and many people are yet to feel that they have recovered from the downturn.

In the April to May period, the net worth of households rose by €12.2bn alone, the Central Bank worked out.

Rises in the value of property and higher values of deposits in banks and credit unions were behind the rise in the worth of households.

The value of housing assets shot up by €5.6bn in the second quarter of the year to stand at €537bn, the Central Bank said.

This is the highest value of housing since 2008, when the property boom was at its peak.

There was also a rise in the value of what the Central Bank calls "insurance technical reserves", which is understood to be higher values of pensions and life insurance policies.

There was a rise in the value of deposits and pensions of €5bn in the April to May period.

Loans of households saw a drop of €1.6bn, mainly down to people coming to the end of mortgages. Overall, households owe €135.3bn, according to the Quarterly Financial Accounts release.

Low interest rates and the scars of the downturn mean households are hoarding cash in banks and credit unions and are too scared to borrow.

The net worth of households has hit a new peak, according to Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O'Leary.

Household debt has fallen below that of the UK in recent quarters for the first time since the early 2000s, Mr O'Leary said.

"A combination of a recovery in house prices, a 20pc jump in financial assets and a substantial decline in household debt have all contributed to a complete reversal in Irish household balance sheets."

Central Bank statisticians said the debt pile works out at just shy of €27,000 per head.

"Household debt is at its lowest level since the third quarter of 2005.

"Since its peak of €202.9bn in the third quarter of 2008, household debt has decreased by 33.3pc, or €67.6bn," the Central Bank number crunchers wrote.

Irish Independent

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