New figures from Banking & Payments Federation Ireland show that the number of mortgages approved rose by 8.8% in February on a monthly basis and by 3.9% compared with the same time last year.

BPFI said that a total of 3,651 mortgages were approved in February.

It noted that first-time buyers were approved for 1,969 mortgages, which made up 53.9% of the total volume, while mover purchasers accounted for 903 of these mortgages, 24.7% of the total. 

Today's figures also show that the value of mortgages approved in February amounted to €902m, a rise of 9.6% on a monthly basis and 9.4% on an annual basis.

Brian Hayes, chief executive of BPFI, said the latest approvals figures show another month of solid albeit slower growth, especially for first-time buyers who now account for over half of all approvals both in volume and value terms. 

"This growth is taking place against a backdrop of continued level 5 restrictions throughout February which underlines lenders' continued support for the mortgage market particularly when we consider that February 2020 was a relatively normal month preceding any Covid restrictions," Mr Hayes said.

Brian Hayes also said that lenders are not using wage subsidy support schemes as a way to blackball mortgage applicants. 

He said that banks apply a precautionary principle and deal with each application on a case by case basis.

It is not unreasonable for lenders to ask these questions, he added.

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Mr Hayes also noted that re-mortgage/switching was the fastest growing segment in February, with volumes up 15.1% year on year to more than 500. 

He said that lenders are supporting large numbers of customers who want to switch. In the past three years, lenders have approved almost 17,900 re-mortgages valued at €4.2 billion.