The Central Bank report on retail interest rates for February 2020 showed Irish mortgage holders are paying 1.56% more than their euro area counterparts.

This costs them in excess of €236 more every month on a €300k mortgage over 30 years. That is a massive €85,100 over the lifetime of the mortgage.

While Irish rates have come down over recent times, this is still an enormous gap, with little justification for it. The Report also shows that 76% of all new mortgage agreements in the three months to February are fixed rate mortgages, a new high.

This is an increasing trend and evidence that consumers are looking for security in their financial planning.

While the Covid-19 pandemic can be expected to slow the mortgage market for the near future, none of us know with any degree of certainty the full impact for interest rates over the medium to long-term.

People need to consider their decisions very carefully and take advice.

There is huge untapped value for consumers still to be got in switching between lenders.

Not enough people are shopping around and doing so can substantially reduce your repayments or force a better rate from your existing lender.

Irish mortgage holders still do not see the kind of good value long-term fixed interest rates available in other European countries, rates for periods beyond 10 years, for terms of 20 years or for the lifetime of a mortgage.

Irish consumers are losing out on every front, paying unjustifiably high interest rates and not having better euro area type mortgage products that enable people to plan their financial futures with confidence.

This is not just bad for consumers, it is ultimately bad for lenders too because over time consumers are likely to migrate to or find newer developing forms of borrowing.

Mortgage holders can benefit from rising house prices of recent years with an improved loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Most lenders offer a lower interest rate where there is a better LTV ratio. But consumers need to be proactive in seeking out a better rate from their lenders and should seek the advice of a broker.