HOUSE prices have fallen so much that takes just 13.4pc of a couple's income to pay a mortgage, if they can get one.
The slump in housing means prices have become the most affordable they have ever been, a new study contends.
The 13.4pc of a couple's combined income, to meet a mortgage payment, is down from 26pc of net income in December 2006 at the height of the property boom, new figures from DKM economic consultants and EBS show.
The study assumes that a new buyer couple can secure a mortgage and that they do not have any major hit to their income through a large pay cut or a job loss.
Average house prices had fallen by 27pc up to last October from the peak of the boom in 2006.
Yesterday's study assumes prices will go on to fall at the same rate and that they are down 34pc this month.
EBS director Dara Deering said she expects house prices to fall a further 5pc-10pc this year.
Economist Annette Hughes of DKM Economic Consultants added that a recovery in the housing market was not imminent.
"Any recovery is some way off in my opinion. Not until there is evidence that house prices have stabilised will we see large numbers going back into the market," she said.
The report also shows the average monthly mortgage repayment for first-time buyers fell by almost 50pc over the last three years.
Ms Deering added house prices were now back to 2003 levels.
The study assumes a first-time buyer couple has a combined income of €77,693, gets maximum mortgage interest relief and they have a 6pc cut in their incomes this year, but do not lose their jobs.
They borrow 90pc of the value of their home over 25 years.
If the couple buy a house in Dublin, they will need to set aside 16.4pc of their income to meet mortgage repayments as house prices are higher in the capital.
Confidence was now the key factor in ensuring there was a pick-up in the property market, Ms Hughes said.
"The labour market remains weak and there is anecdotal evidence that pay levels for some private sector workers have fallen by up to 20pc or more, while pay in the public sector will fall by up to 6.4pc in 2010 alone for persons earning up to €70,000, according to the December Budget."
The DKM economist said that it was still difficult for house buyers to get mortgages from some lenders.
She added that negative equity is a big problem for many new buyers who had purchased over the past five years and that consumer confidence remains low.
She continued: "Prospective buyers are reluctant to enter the market, on the expectation that further declines in house prices are possible."