Workers priced out of housing market by cash-rich investors

First-time buyers are facing stiff competition from housing associations, investment firms and State bodies when trying to buy homes, a new report says.

Known as non-household buyers, they now make up 22pc of purchases for newly built homes, up from 7pc in 2010.

The latest housing monitor from the Irish Banking and Payments Federation says the rise in purchases by the institutional and State buyers comes as the figures show a decline in the number of cash buyers.

Cash buyers include people with spare funds who purchase a buy-to-let with their savings.

Back in 2010, non-household buyers represented only 4pc of all purchases of residential properties, both newly built and second-hand ones.

But this had climbed to 17pc by last year, according to the banks.

And the number of housing units being bought by the likes of institutional investors such as US fund Kennedy Wilson and housing charities is set to rise, according to the housing report.

Beverly Hills-based Kennedy Wilson has told its shareholders “billions” of dollars are poised to be invested in apartment projects in this country.

“Given the growing importance of involvement from institutional investors and higher social housing output in the short term, it is likely that a higher portion of the new housing units in the coming years will be accounted for by these segments,” said Banking and Payments Federation economist Dr Ali Uğur.

He added that institutional investor transactions should not be confused with pure cash sales.

“Institutional investor or non-household sector transactions should not be confused with cash transactions as these require financing to a certain extent, as opposed to pure cash sales or sales not financed with a mortgage,” he said.

He added that the statistics show the percentage of pure cash sales has fallen from 33pc in 2017 to 28pc last year.

The banks also revealed there was a fall in the number of buyers approved for a mortgage in January.

Some 3,037 people were approved to borrow to buy a home in the first month of the year, down 3.4pc on the same month last year.

Just shy of 49pc of the approvals were for first-time buyers. An approval does not always turn into a mortgage draw-down, especially if the potential buyers are outbid or cannot afford properties in the area they want to buy in.

The value of approvals over the past three months was flat. This is the slowest growth rate since April 2016.

Figures from the banks show the typical deposit a first-time buyer has is now €37,000, up 1.4pc from last year. For movers, a typical deposit is €95,000.

In Dublin, the median deposit is close to €54,000 for first-time buyers and €140,000 for movers.

The approvals figures are at variance with results from stock-market listed homebuilder Glenveagh Properties, which reported strong demand and forward sales.

Economists said potential buyers were being restricted by the Central Bank-imposed rules that people who do not get an exemption can borrow only three-and-a-half times their income.

Conall Mac Coille, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, said the fall in approvals could also be a sign that Brexit uncertainties were weighing on transactional activity.

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