The European Central Bank (ECB)’s decision to raise the base lending rate to 1.25% on Thursday last (7th April) perhaps comes as no surprise, and it seems likely that further rises are due for the course of 2011.
Since many Estonians hold their mortgages in variable rate packages which follow the base rate, this means an increase in repayments (approximately 160 Euros per year, according to Baltic Business News, quoting business publication Äripäev).
However it needn’t mean that fixed lending rates in Estonian high street banks will go up just yet, since banks are prepared to absorb the increase in their margins. The current margin average is some two per cent (i.e. on top of the base rate) down from 2.4-2.6 per cent in 2009, but the all time typical margin stands at only 0.5 per cent. Therefore there is still plenty of room for a reduction of margins, rather than an increase in bank rates. This is significant in the rejuvenation of the Estonian property market after the recession of 2008-2010, since it means bank rates should remain at an affordable level for the meantime, and not act as a barrier to potential homeloan customers.
The increase in base rate is likely nevertheless to impact upwards on the Euribor index of average European banking interest rates.