There was a 40% decline in new mortgage lending in the month of April, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank.

Total new mortgage lending in the month amounted to €407 million which, as in previous months, was made up mainly of new fixed rate mortgages.

Commenting on the figures, Brokers Ireland said, given that the pandemic was at its height during the month, the drop in new mortgage agreements was not surprising. 

The magnitude of the decline, it said, was likely to signal a much more cautious attitude by lenders, as well as consumers.

"A lot now depends on how quickly the country can recover from the devastation of the pandemic and how employment levels will hold up," Rachel McGovern, Director of Financial Services at Brokers Ireland, which represents 1,250 Broker firms, said.

The Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors said there had been marked increase in activity in the mortgage market since restrictions were lifted.

"Although obviously reduced, the falls have not been quite as big as anticipated with the volumes of applications remaining relatively strong in May among our members particularly for those based in the cities," Trevor Grant, CEO of AIMA said.

"The applicants that can afford to borrow €300,000 and over to buy a house in Dublin or elsewhere typically work in secure employment that hasn't been impacted by COVID-19," he added.

The Central Bank figures also revealed the extent to which Irish mortgage holders pay more on average than their euro area counterparts.

"The differential, 1.49%, costs Irish consumers over €80,000 on a €300,000 mortgage over 30 years," Rachel McGovern said.

"Since your mortgage tends to be the biggest outlay from your income, and the fact that its repayable over a very long time, typically 25 to 30 years, the consequences of even a half or 1% differential are huge," she added.

The price comparison website said the differential between the euro zone average and here meant first time buyers in Ireland were paying almost €170 more each month on average.

"For all the talk of falling interest rates and a mortgage price war in recent months, mortgage rates in Ireland still remain hugely elevated compared to our euro zone neighbours," Daragh Cassidy, Head of Communications at the comparison and switching website, said.

"There is still a lack of competition in the Irish mortgage market as it remains heavily concentrated in the hands of a few main banks."