Brisk bidding at distressed property auction interrupted by protester
Super-smooth auctioneer Gary Murphy barely missed a heartbeat when a man stood up in front of him at the Allsop Space auction of mostly distressed property in Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel yesterday and asked if he could guarantee that buyers wouldn’t also be getting “ill will with their neighbours and the people who can no longer afford to keep the property.” Murphy, who works for UK-based Allsop, replied ”don’t bid then” before thanking the protester for his “kind words” and continuing on to Lot 28.
Judging from the packed auction room, which from where I was sitting looked like a sea of mostly grey-haired men aged 50-plus, there weren’t that many bidders pausing to worry about the implications of buying into a community where they may not be welcome. Over 1,600 people turned up and spilled out of the auction room into the corridor and bar and the bidding was brisk. The appetite for distressed property seems to be as keen as ever with 92 per cent of the 108 properties selling under the hammer in lickety-split time. Around half were cash buyers. There were whoops of delight from the successful bidders after some of the lots were sold and Murphy commented on what a ”happy crowd” they were. The joviality was interrupted just before Lot 28 when the protester voiced his concerns.
I later spoke to the protester, Tom McNulty , from a group called the anti-eviction taskforce, who said he stood up at the auction because he felt while people were getting caught up in the excitement of the auction room they can forget there’s a “human side to many of these sales and there are families suffering”. Around three quarters of the properties at the auction were being sold by the receiver and were previously owned by investors and business people . With him was a man who was there to watch his family business being sold under the hammer. He said he appeared in the High Court recently and as he can’t afford a solicitor, had to defend himself . He felt powerless and “up against a massive machine” and felt he had been harshly dealt with in court.
Robert Hoban director of auctions at Allsop Space said he had no comment to make on the protest. “People are entitled to protest but these properties are going to be sold and what we’re offering is another method of selling this property.”
I sat beside a man called Jim Kelly who was keeping an eye on Lot 30 – a two-bed apartment at Beacon Court in Sandyford which sold for €152,000. His daughter bought a similar “but better positioned” apartment at Beacon Court four years ago for a cool €420,000 . “She told me not to tell her what it got,” he said. And who could blame her…you could really torture yourself over the life-long implications of paying that extra €268,000 .
Apart from the overwhelming majority of men over 50 (okay, I didn’t count them but it seemed like that ) there was a smattering of women at the auction as well as a number under-40s, and people from the Asian, African and middle-Eastern communities. Robert Hoban said he noticed a bigger turn-out of people from other communities at this auction than previous. “A lot of them have been watching and now they are taking part.”
The property that sold for the most was 174 Pembroke Road in Dublin 4 a mid-terrace building with two restaurants – Indian restaurant Chandni and Japanese restaurant Koshi - that went for €630,000 and has an annual rent of €92,000. House-wise the most expensive one was 13 Garville Road in Rathgar, Dublin 6 , a long leasehold property divided into eight self contained residential units which sold for €435,000 – €15,000 over the reserve price and has an annual rent of €12,920. One of the bargains of the auction was a four bed apartment in Northwood Santry which sold for€76,000 – less than a quarter of its original price.
A log cabin on the shores of Lough Sillan in Shercock, Co Cavan with access to a private marina went for €131,000, over four times the reserve.
The success rate of the four Allsop Space distressed auctions has averaged at 92 per cent. The agents themselves expect it will eventually level out at the UK average of around 80 per cent. But for now it appears that despite the current economic meltdown, there are still a lot of people out there with money and a thirst for a bargain.