No mortgage stress for one-in-three homeowners
AT a time when so much fuss is made of the number of mortgages which are in arrears, it is good to know that many people do not suffer from such stress and I'm not just talking about those lucky enough to rent.
As many as one in every three Irish households who own their own home do not have a mortgage.
According to an analysis of the latest Irish census figures by property consultants CB Richard Ellis 34pc of households in the State own their homes outright and have no mortgage.
Furthermore, despite the economic downturn when more people might have been expected to increase their borrowings to cope with financial pressures, the opposite appears to have happened in many cases. These figures show that in many counties there has been an increase between 2006 and 2011 in the proportion of households that own their own properties without a mortgage.
As the census is now 13 months old and the recent levels of mortgage lending has been very low, it is likely that the proportion of mortgage free homes may now be even higher than at the time of the last census.
According to the census Co Mayo has the highest proportion of mortgage free households at 45.2pc.
At the opposite end of the scale Dublin has the lowest proportion of households owning their home outright at 27.5pc. But that's only one side of the story as in fact as many as 128,519 Dublin households are mortgage free -- six times the 21,698 equivalent in Mayo.
Interestingly in 12 counties many home owners have sought to fight the recession by slashing their borrowings.
Some of that deleveraging may have been inspired by the threat of increased mortgage rates in 2009 and 2010.
Marie Hunt, head of research at CBRE, also points out that it is not possible to determine what proportion of the change since the last census is attributable to homeowners paying off their mortgages and what proportion is attributable to the greater incidence of cash purchases in the current climate.
In any case counties Kildare, Louth and Limerick appear to have some of the most active home owners who are grasping the mortgage nettle. These counties have seen the largest proportional increases in the numbers of mortgage free home owners - up by about 1.5pc.
As a result Kildare now has the second highest number of mortgage free homes in the rest of Leinster with 19,514 homes -- exceeded only by 20,423 prudent Wexford home owners.
In Dublin, all four local authority areas have seen an increase in the proportion of households owning their homes outright.
The most dramatic increase occurred in Fingal, which saw the percentage increase from 21.2pc of households in 2006 to 23pc or 21,450 in 2011.
In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 36pc of households, or 27,261, own their homes outright. This suggests that banks control almost two out of every three houses in an area where the combined values would prove the most valuable in the country.
Nevertheless when one combines such high mortgage free levels in the area together with the numbers of households in positive equity in the area, then it is clearly scare mongering to claim, as one commentator told me recently, that half the homes in south Dublin are in danger of being repossessed.
When looked at on a county basis, half of the 26 counties have seen increases in the proportion of owner households with a mortgage since 2006.
According to CBRE this trend has been particularly evident in counties Laois, Leitrim, Longford and Cavan.
But such an increase need not be a cause for serious concern as these are relatively lowly populated counties.
Furthermore the increase in mortgage holders in three of these counties may be partly due to the extra generous tax incentives for those buying new homes as well as those acquiring buy-to-let properties in West Cavan, Leitrim and Longford.
While the CBRE survey is confined to owner occupier mortgages, some of these mortgages may well have been taken out to help finance buy to lets.
Nevertheless as some of these mortgage holders can write off a substantial portion of the cost of their houses against their income tax, many of those housholds who pay income taxes may not be in arrears.
However many of those owning tax incentive properties face a deadline as these tax incentives come to the end of their lives.
Consequently some of them fear that the properties may face a further drop in values when the incentives run out.
In the meantime the tax incentives will have helped many of them to reduce, not alone the interest, but also the capital borrowed for their mortgages.