Tsunami of house repossessions fails to materialise, study finds

Dublin Economics Workshop hears that cases before Irish courts move slowly

Financial analyst and mortgage broker Karl Deeter, along with three colleagues, monitored 1,947 repossession cases before the courts between February and July and found only 52 (2.7 per cent) ended in repossession

Financial analyst and mortgage broker Karl Deeter, along with three colleagues, monitored 1,947 repossession cases before the courts between February and July and found only 52 (2.7 per cent) ended in repossession

 

The tsunami of house repossessions predicted in the wake of the property crash has not materialised, according to a study of repossession cases before the Irish courts.

Financial analyst and mortgage broker Karl Deeter, along with three colleagues, monitored 1,947 repossession cases before the courts between February and July of this year.

They found only 52 (2.7 per cent) ended in repossession and only three in cases where the homeowners were engaging with the bank.

Mr Deeter, who presented his findings the Dublin Economics Workshop on Friday in Athlone, said the rate of repossession was statistically lower than in countries which had not experienced a property crash.

His research also revealed that only 22 per cent of people showed up for their own cases. However, this did not appear to accelerate the repossession process with adjournments and stays regularly put in place by judges and registrars.

The study found that only 68 people (3 per cent) had any legal representation during their hearings. “The fact that you could lose your home with no legal representation is an error,” Mr Deeter said.

Of the 265 cases that got struck out, 157 were because borrowers had started paying again or had cleared their arrears, constituting about one in 12 cases. This suggested the threat of repossession did often provoke action by the borrower, he said.

Mr Deeter’s study also revealed the bank most likely to pursue legal cases against struggling borrowers, based on their representation in cases surveyed, is AIB, but the lender most likely to repossess a house is Permanent TSB.

The average year of default in cases that ended in repossession was 2010, suggesting the process took approximately five years.

Mr Deeter said his study indicated there were probably about 4,500 empty properties abandoned by debt-laden borrowers that have not been repossessed, and which could be used to tackle the current supply crisis.

A presentation by Trinity College economist Ronan Lyons traced the relationship between the Central Bank’s new mortgage rules, construction costs and social housing.

Mr Lyons said that, based on current market conditions, only the richest 15 per cent of Irish households have enough income to cover the cost of an average two-bedroom apartment.

If policymakers wanted a situation where 60 per cent of households could afford to live in two-bedroom apartments without subsidies, he said there would need to be a reduction in construction costs of more than 55 per cent.

Consumer advocate Brendan Burgess, meanwhile, said mortgage rates here were on average two percentage points higher than in the rest of the euro zone.

He claimed the Central Bank currently justifies the higher rates by arguing that Irish banks are not sufficiently profitable.

“This is a nonsense argument. If I own two convenience stores and one is heavily loss making because I have a very expensive lease in a bad area, I can’t double the prices to customers in the other store to compensate.”

Mr Burgess also dismissed the idea that the problem would be solved through greater competition, noting the likelihood of new market entrants was limited because of the market’s relatively small size.