Spanish giant to rattle the cages of big firms who have Irish market cornered
You would be forgiven for thinking that competition in the mortgage market had gone by the wayside, like many things during the pandemic.
Banks are on their knees, and large numbers of their customers are in financial trouble.
Close to 62,500 households have availed of a mortgage payment break, with another 52,000 consumer loan breaks granted.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB face having to deal with more than €4bn of bad loan losses due to the Covid-19 crisis over the next three years, according to analysts at Goodbody Stockbrokers and Davy.
Lending has collapsed. Mortgage lending crashed to a seven-year low in May, as property transaction activity seized up.
Job losses and income hits for householders are to blame, with banks saying another factor is Central Bank mortgage rules and stricter general underwriting standards by a sector still scarred by the property market implosion.
These are the same reasons, they say, why we in Ireland are paying much higher mortgage rates than in other European countries.
The lack of lending has not been helped by the fact that all retail banks are blocking at least some mortgage drawdowns on previously approved loans for people on the Temporary Wage Support Scheme.
Lenders issued mortgages worth €9.5bn last year.
But Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O’Leary reckons home-loan lending will collapse by 40pc to €5.7bn this year.
Just 1,900 potential buyers were approved for a mortgage in May, a fall of 62pc on the same month last year.
Given all of this, the last thing that might have been expected was a new player, backed by a big European bank, entering the market.
And it has come at the same time one of our own lenders fired new salvos in a mortgage war that has seen little action in months.
The entry of Avant Money into the mortgage market here is the most significant move in years.
Avant Money is the new trading name for Avantcard. It has a large operation in Leitrim where it took over credit card operator MBNA.
Avant Money is owned by Spanish group Bankinter, which also has operations in Portugal and Luxembourg. Bankinter already has a substantial mortgage business in both Spain and Portugal. It has €93bn in assets.
The new player is set to severely disrupt the market here by offering fixed rates below 2pc, which would make it the cheapest in the State, according to mortgage broker Michael Dowling.
It is set to launch here in August and will have an initial focus on large towns and cities.
The entry of Spain’s fifth-largest bank into this market will put the frighteners on the existing players.
As a new participant in the mortgage war, it will leave a lot of casualties. Lenders here have little choice now except to keep cutting rates.
Permanent TSB has just announced a range of reductions in the fixed and variable rates.
But its rates are still expensive compared with other lenders here.
When the mortgage rates of all lenders are compared with those in the rest of the eurozone, the average comes out about double that across the zone.
The new Spanish giant will be doing more than tilting at windmills.
Its presence here will mean life is going to get even more uncomfortable for Irish mortgage lenders.
What this means is that we can expect some serious cuts in mortgage rates in the coming months.
News by independent.ie, edited by Dowling Financial.
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