Average interest rates on new mortgages crept upwards in March, ahead of an expected hike in rates by the European Central Bank this summer.

The weighted average interest rate for house purchases rose 2 basis points in March versus February, to 2.78%, according to the latest Central Bank of Ireland data.

However, compared to the same month last year the rate was 1 basis point lower.

New mortgages during the month totalled €669m, a 1% decrease on the same month last year, but a 7% rise on the previous month.

Average fixed rates were unchanged compared to February at 2.6%.

However, new variable rate mortgages were up 18 basis points on the previous month.

The euro area average stood at 1.46% in March, up 9 basis points on February.

Earlier, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde hinted that the ECB could raise its interest rates from historic lows as soon as July as inflation in the eurozone soars.

The ECB should end bond-buying "early in the third quarter", Lagarde said in a speech in Ljubljana, and could then raise interest rates "only a few weeks" later.

In recent weeks some providers offering mortgages in the Irish market have begun announcing interest rate increases.

"With rate these increases imminent, existing borrowers would be well advised to review their existing mortgage terms and consider their switching options as soon as possible," said Trevor Grant, Chairperson, of the Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors.

"Some fixed rates have already increased, so time is of the essence."

"We anticipate that more people will look to switch as we get closer to the summer but with the clock ticking, we would suggest that people act as soon as possible."