New figures from the Central Bank show that the overall number of mortgage arrears continued to fall in the first quarter of this year. This marked the seventh quarter of decreases in a row.

The number of mortgage accounts in arrears for "principal dwelling houses" fell by 5,673 (5.1%) to stand at 104,693 in the first three months of the year compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

This represents 13.8% of all mortgage accounts. 

Today's figures show that mortgage accounts in arrears for over 90 days fell by 5.5% to stand at 74,395 on a quarterly basis - the lowest level in three years. 

But the number of mortgage accounts in long term arrears - over 720 days - continued to increase in the first quarter. 

The Central Bank noted, however, that the pace of increase has slowed significantly with an increase of just 155 accounts in the first quarter compared to an increase of 1,729 the same time last year.

Long term arrears now make up 36.2% of all accounts in arrears, the bank noted.

In the buy-to-let sector, mortgage accounts in arrears decreased by 5.9% to stand at 33,475. Of this total, 27,492 or almost 20%, were in arrears of over 90 days.

According to the Central Bank figures, there were a total of 757,175 private residential mortgages in Ireland by the end of March which were worth €104.3 billion.

The Central Bank also said today that about 117,263 mortgage accounts were classified as restructured by the end of March, up 2.3% on the previous quarter.

Of these restructures, 85.1% were deemed to be meeting the terms of their new deal. Split mortgages and arrears capitalisation were the main methods of restructuring.

Today's figures also show that a total of 351 homes were repossessed by banks during the first quarter, of which 156 were repossessed after a court order while the remaining 195 were voluntarily surrendered or abandoned. 224 properties were disposed of in the three month period.

In the buy-to-let sector, 206 properties were repossessed in the first quarter. Of these 123 were repossessed after a court order while 83 were voluntarily surrendered or abandoned.