Average number of home loan increased despite coronavirus crisis

Apartment buildings in Tallinn.
Apartment buildings in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The number of people applying for home loans has started to increase compared to the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, although banks are more cautious about work-related risks when assessing an applicant's income. The average amount which is being applied for has also increased compared to data from previous years.

Swedbank's Head of Housing Loans, Anne Pärgma, said the applications are starting to resemble the time before the crisis.

According to commercial banks, the average number of home loans being applied for has increased. The average amount applied for to Swedbank was around €93,000 and last year, it was €91,000.

"We are assessing the solvency on the same basis, a sustainable salary is the most important factor and that the loan obligation is executable for the loan taker," Pärgma said.

Heiki Raadik, Luminor's head of credit products, noted the situation in the home loan market is a little controversial. "On one hand, people have clearly felt the negative impact of the coronavirus and applied for a grace period, but on the other hand, applying for new home loans is fairly active as well. We are receiving the same amount of home loan applications as we did before the crisis."

Raadik said banks are issuing loans more carefully at the moment: "There haven't been major changes in the assessing system. The terms and conditions of the loans will be adjusted in accordance with the principle of responsible loaning.

"The amount of loans issued has decreased but not majorly. Based on the statistics of the Bank of Estonia, the loan turnover was €80 million in May instead of the €117 million last May."

When the solvency of the client is strong and there is no significant risk of their income decreasing, the client can receive the loan under the same terms as before the crisis. "However, every application is being looked at in more detail. If we can see that the client's income has been affected by the coronavirus or we can see other dangers related to changes in his income, then we can ask the client for additional information and the client will be informed about all the possible risks."

The Estonia-Based LHV bank's Manager of Financing, Catlin Vatsel, said applications for home loans have decreased by one third. The real estate market has revived now, but people are careful and there are fewer applications than before the crisis.

LHV said it hasn't changed application terms. "We dare to and want to issue home loans during the crisis. Because we haven't changed the terms, the structure of the loans hasn't changed either. The average amount of home loans has stayed around €100,000. The main applicants are young families or a young specialist around the age of 30-35," she said.

Vatsel said the bank is analyzing every loan project separately and discussing, whether the crisis has affected or can affect the employer of the loan applicant or the sustainability of the income.

"The homes of our clients and the financial obligations related to the homes are our worry as well, so when the situation is unclear or the future seems insecure, people shouldn't rush to take loans," Vatsel said.

SEB bank has become more careful with financing certain projects like issuing loans for building homes.

SEB's Sales Manager of the Private Customer Segment, Evelin Tammearu, said the home loan application activity decreased by 25 percent during the coronavirus crisis. "The clients have become more active in applying for the loans in May and June, but still not as much as during the period before the crisis."

"The overall structure of home loans hasn't changed. But we have noticed that the average amount of the home loan has decreased by 5 -10 percent."

Coop bank said the number of home loans applied at the beginning of the emergency situation decreased, but is stable now.

"When comparing April, May and June in 2019 and 2020, then we have a little fewer applications this year. The decrease has been 12 percent when comparing the three months," Tene Mäerand, Head of Coop Pank's Private Loans Team, said.

The conditions for assessing and issuing loan applications have not been changed by the bank due to the crisis, but the bank recommends carefully considering all loan decisions.

"In the current situation, it is still especially important for people to take into account scenarios when new financial obligations occur, which would happen, for example, if the income of one income earner in a family were to decrease or disappear altogether.

"If the loan applicant is convinced of the sustainability of his income and we see that he can afford a loan obligation even if possible negative scenarios occur, then we have no reason not to give him a loan," Mäerand added.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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