It doesn't add up: 20,000 first-time buyers chase 10,000 new homes
Twenty-thousand first-time buyers are now set to chase half as many new homes, which will drive property prices sharply upwards for the rest of this year.
New buyers and investors have been cleared to borrow for around 20,000 mortgages in the past year, according to figures from the Irish Banking and Payments Federation.
But there will be only about half of this number of new properties for sale this year.
This will leave many first-timers with no option but to compete with movers for a limited supply of second-hand homes.
Experts said the mismatch between supply and the strong demand meant property prices would keep rising amid the clamour for family homes.
New figures show that buyers have been approved to borrow almost €2bn in the first three months of the year to finance the purchase of a home.
This is almost double the amounts approved for mortgages in the first three months of last year.
The average approval amount was €214,400 in March, which was up 9pc on the year.
However, economists have dismissed fears we are witnessing a new housing bubble.
Central Bank Governor Philip Lane rejected claims the economy is on the brink of another property bubble.
He said the regulatory restriction that meant people were limited to only borrowing three-and-a-half times their income would put the brakes on price rises in the long term.
He said there were a number of factors driving prices up, including the lack of supply and the strength of the economy.
However, this optimism is not shared by a large part of the Irish people, as 38pc believe we are heading for another property collapse, according to the latest 'Sunday Independent'/Kantar Millward Brown poll.
Commentators have blamed the loosening of Central Bank rules on the size of deposits first-time buyers need, and the Government's help-to-buy rebate, for the surge in lending.
Property prices are rising at an annual rate of 11pc. But Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O'Leary also denied we were seeing a new bubble.
He said a key attribute of a property bubble was expectations of price surges. This meant people, and especially investors, were buying expecting prices to be higher in the months ahead than they were a year ago. He said there were few investors in the market.
"Do we have a property bubble? No. A massive problem? Yes. What we have is a chronic imbalance between supply and demand," Mr O'Leary said.
"If one takes the sum of approvals for first-time buyers and investors - new entrants to the market - this amounts to around 20,000 over the past year.
"This is substantially more than the amount of new properties that will come to the market this year, thus the obvious conclusion is that prices will continue to be bid up."
Most experts have now revised upwards the value of mortgage lending they expect this year, as surging prices and strong mortgage demand push up the level of lending.
Davy Stockbrokers now expects mortgage lending to jump to €7.5bn this year, up from €5bn last years.
Economist with Davy Conall Mac Coille said: "These spectacular growth rates reflect a weak base in early 2017. Nonetheless, March's approvals figure is the highest since the series began in 2010."
He said that, given that the normal seasonal peak occurs in July, underlying activity has gathered momentum. The Irish Banking and Payments also said there were almost 7,000 mortgages drawn down in the first three months of the year, worth €1.4bn.