Irish house prices return to 2007 peak for first time

A general view of a residential housing construction site amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Galway, Ireland, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
  • Average house prices 123% above lowest point hit in 2013
  • Mortgage rules tightened since bubble burst in 2008
  • June prices up 14.1% y/y, growth slowing slightly
  • Dearth of supply a major market factor

DUBLIN, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Irish house prices returned in June to levels not seen since the credit-fuelLed peak of 2007,after data on Friday showed further rapid rises that experts have this time attributed to a dearth of supply rather than an overabundance of credit.

Prices have snapped back sharply since they started increasing a decade ago, four years after a bubble collapsed and cut values in half. They are now 123% above a trough reached in 2013 when Ireland was emerging from an international bailout, the Central Statistics Office said.

The central bank, which has since put in place some of the toughest curbs on mortgage lending in the euro zone, said in a Nov 2021 assessment that prices were around the level expected based on economic fundamentals such an income growth.

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House prices have risen sharply since then, growing 14.1% year-on-year in June, down from 14.4% in May and cooling slightly for the third successive month. Month-on-month growth of 1.2% was the highest since late last year.

But the system remains "much safer" than previously, Goodbody Stockbrokers Chief Economist Dermot O'Leary said.

"The macro-prudential rules are a crucial distinguishing feature," he said, pointing to the curbs that limit mortgage lending to 3.5 times a borrower's gross income.

Buyers also have to have a deposit of at least 10% compared to the 100% mortgages offered during the runaway Celtic Tiger economic boom that ended in the euro zone's costliest banking rescue.

Mortgage drawdowns, which ballooned to an unsustainable 40 billion euros in 2006, are growing at a far steadier rate and reached 10.5 billion euros last year. The country's much shrunken banking sector is also far better capitalised.

However purchasing a home remains out of reach for many.

While Ireland built too many homes in the wrong places in the 2000s, supply has since constantly fallen short of demand and rents have long passed their previous peak, limiting prospective buyers' ability to save a deposit.

Daft.ie, Ireland's main listings site for residential property, had just 716 homes available to rent for a population of 5.1 million people at the start of August.

"Just because the fundamentals support it, doesn't mean it's necessarily the healthy outcome or the outcome you'd want as a policymaker," said Ronan Lyons, an assistant economics professor at Trinity College Dublin who analyses the data for Daft.

"It is the case that for the supply we have, we've got the prices we have. It could be different if more homes had been built."

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Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and John Stonestreet

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