Mortgage lending at 7-year high.

Lending for house purchases rose by a net €27m in the last three months of last year. It was the first net increase in mortgage lending since the end of 2009.

Most new borrowers are opting for a fixed-rate mortgage. Fixed-rate loans for homes recorded a net increase of €657m. In contrast, variable rate loans recorded a fall of €208m.

“This reflects a current trend by borrowers to enter fixed-rate contracts in the current lower interest rate environment,” the Central Bank said. Meanwhile, the Government’s help-to-buy scheme is likely to cost more than originally expected. Based on average applications to date the cost of the scheme so far this year could be €56m