There have been 120 online applications to the Help-to-Buy scheme for first-time buyers scheme so far.

The scheme, which was announced in the Budget last October, opened for applications today.

It allows first-time buyers of new homes an income tax rebate of up to €20,000 up to a value of €400,000, to fund their deposit.

It is estimated the scheme will cost the Exchequer around €50 million in its first year of operation.

The opening of the scheme coincides with the publication of two reports on the property market.

One report speculates that residential property prices could register increases of above 10% nationally this year on the back of the scheme and a relaxation of borrowing restrictions for first-time buyers.

Improving economic circumstances for some and a general lack of housing supply has seen the price of property rise at a fairly steady pace.

The introduction of mortgage lending restrictions put something of a cap on increases but these have now been eased for first-time buyers.

Together with a tax incentive for first-time buyers - it provides a tax rebate worth 5% of the purchase price of newly-built homes to first-time buyers - this could result in property price increases hitting in excess of 10% this year, according to a report from

It points out that just 1% of the housing stock nationally is listed for sale at the moment.

A separate report from says asking prices for properties went up by as much as 8% nationally in 2016, with prices in cities outside of the capital putting in the strongest increases.

Compared to the same period in 2015, prices in the final quarter of 2016 were nearly 15% higher in Waterford, 14% higher in Limerick and 13% higher in Galway, according to

In Cork, prices rose by 9%, while in Dublin the rise was 5%.

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