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  • “Private island” is a bit steep

    February 14, 2013 @ 4:12 pm | by Edel Morgan

    When I received  an email about “the only private island in the UK”,  an exclusive escape with its own beach house,  I had visions of  long walks on an isolated windswept landscape followed by hot toddies by the beach house fire.

    I quickly realised that while the hot toddies by the beach house fire are perfectly feasible, any long walks on this particular island  - Towan Island in  New Quay, Cornwall – are not  advised, unless you are into abseiling.

    Click here for more photos……

    Calling it an island  may be  a bit of a stretch –  The House in the Sea, as it’s called,  is really a house perched on a rock with its own suspension bridge. According to Unique Home Stays,  the island and bridge is fenced and the fact that there are steep cliffs on all sides “should be of no concern, indeed that is one of the main attractions of this unique property! (For younger children, see Practicalities section below).”

    The Practicalities section  goes on to say “please consider carefully before bringing younger children who may be tempted to climb a fence or play on the bridge.”  However Unique Home Stays however says it’s a perfectly safe structure ” and has never had any problems in the 8 years it’s been let as a B&B!”

    The house in the sea costs €2,145 for a four-night stay in high season and accommodates up to six people.  Built in the  1930s, it was once owned by  Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge, inventor of the spark plug and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is thought to have visited there. The previous owners were  Lord and Lady Long who sold it last year for  a reported  £1 million – they paid £500,000 for it in 2001.


  • Leaving people with no room to manoeuvre financially could backfire

    December 6, 2012 @ 1:02 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Will we be taking hints from Tom and Barbara in The Good Life?

    I  can’t say I’m reeling after the Budget because we pretty much knew what was coming down the tracks but I’d say there’s definitely  an atmosphere of quiet contemplation today as many of us, especially those  with a hefty mortgage and kids, are wondering how we’re going to get through the next year. As we can now no longer afford to go out  it’s quite sobering – literally -  that even our last refuge  -a  bottle of wine on a Friday night – is going to cost more.  With even less money now to spend and a property tax to stump up  for, the  only route to survival for many families is  to not spend money .

    I’ve been thinking of watching re-runs of  1970s  BBC sitcom, The Good Life for tips on being self-supporting because we might look into  making our own clothes (although arguably it would be cheaper to buy them in Penneys or a charity shop),  growing  our own herbs and vegetables and bartering for goods and services.  We already buy a lot of the items we need  second-hand on adverts.ie  (nearly-new football boots for the kids, hurling helmets, a coffee maker…)  and were inundated with offers when we sold our baby buggies and  cot online. My microwave used to belong to a colleague who had his kitchen renovated.  We’d get a goat like Tom and Barbara  but it would cost too much money to feed.

    Going out en  famille for meals will remain a distant memory . When we do go out as a family it’s to the Kid’s Club in the Omniplex cinema  in Santry which costs €2.50 a head (that’s €12.50  for a family of five) and we sneak in  home-made popcorn in sandwich bags and diluted orange  .  I’ve seen other parents dole out sandwiches and produce flasks of soup during a Kid’s Club film so they are in effect having lunch while being entertained –   a clever strategy if you want to avoid pleas to go to McDonalds on the way home. I’ve started walking in and out of work (saving €21.50 a week since the fare hike), I will be bringing my lunch into work (saving at least €20 a week)  and won’t be going to the doctor unless I am on my last legs. I now baulk at paying full price for anything and accumulate  Tesco clubcard vouchers to pay for pricey family days out to the zoo and the National Aquatic centre etc. While we’ve always tried to buy Irish in the supermarket, now we have to choose goods according to their price.

    So in a nutshell,  we’re not going to be contributing hugely to the domestic economy next year and    if this situation continues we might start to enjoy the parsimony and the penny pinching and it could become a way of life rather than a necessity. Leaving people with no room to manoeuvre  financially may well  backfire long term.



  • Self assessment of property tax won’t be straightforward

    November 29, 2012 @ 12:48 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Will detective work be required to establish values?

    There are no houses on the market in the housing estate where I live  . When I key in the name of  my road  on  the property price register I find that there has been one  transaction  in the past 11 months where a house sold for €190,000 but they give no details as to whether the house has the same number of bedrooms as mine, what the condition of the house is or if it  has a  large back garden.  However two houses around the corner sold in September, one for €230,000 and one for €265,000. Again the register provides no detail as to the finer points of these houses. So if I have to  self-assess the value of my house for the property tax,  is it up to me to scope these houses out, quiz the owners  or the neighbours as to the number of bedrooms and compare and contrast them to my own? Well I have a life  as it happens and won’t be doing any of these things.

    In theory self assessment of the property tax sounds so simple. It is speculated that the value of the home will go up in bands of €50,000 and it will be calculated by self-assessment. Householders will pay the rate attached to the nearest €50,000 band, so a house worth €220,000 will pay the rate for all houses between €200,000 and €250,000 of €500. The bands go up in €50,000s . However, anyone who knows anything about property knows it won’t be that straightforward. There are all sorts of anomalies and grey areas that will make it difficult for homeowners to know how much their house is worth.

    Say for example you live on a road or in a development where there haven’t been any houses sold in recent months or even years? How do you even begin to value your property?  Or you live in an area where there have been a few sporadic sales but there has been no consistency in terms of the selling prices. This could happen where there are different house types on a road or where there’s been a receiver/bank sale and a  property sold for a rock bottom price. An estate agent told me yesterday that he sold a five bed house in a well regarded development in Dublin 9 for €170,000. Obviously the vendor wanted a quick sale because this is way below what the house is worth, even in the current market. But if , for example, this was the only recent sale in the development at the time of self assessment for the property tax, would other residents in the area be well within their rights to value their houses in the €150,000-€200,000 price band also?

    There are warnings of penalties for not paying the right amount but in this confused market, it might be hard to prove that a homeowner has under-declared . Another factor, particularly in Dublin, is that there are so few houses on the market so there will be many areas where a clear valuation is not easily deduced. There’s still  an element of trial and error with  the asking prices that estate agents affix to properties,  the property price register is still in its infancy and there has been a dearth of transactions. It has been suggested that homeowners may have to have their homes professionally valued and if that is the case,  it will be interesting to see how even a valuer would go about determining how much a property is worth in many areas where there have been no recent transactions. And if homeowners will be able to appeal if they don’t agree with the valuation or if the valuation turns out to be incorrect in the light of subsequent transactions….whatever happens it is bound to be tricky.






  • Reality of the market has yet to hit property brochures

    October 26, 2012 @ 1:42 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Now that's a residence!

    It’s almost  the end of 2012  and let’s face it, the property market is all about reality these days…some would say grim reality so why haven’t some estate agents tempered the grandiose  language in their brochures to reflect the general mood, one wonders?  It’s supposed to be a new era of transparency following the introduction of the  Property Services Regulation Act 2011 so shouldn’t that involve a rethink on the adjective  count  in the average brochure?

    Take for example the use, or misuse,  of the word “residence”  which seems to apply to  the  pokiest townhouse and  modest three-bed semi. While referring to a small house as a residence  isn’t wrong exactly, it is a tad misleading, or it would be if you couldn’t see the photos. Maybe the hope is if they use the word often enough it will subliminally trick the buyer into thinking  they are buying Downton Abbey .

    There seems to be a brochure  template that some agents sleepwalk through whereby all cul-de-sacs are quiet , all patios are perfect for al fresco dining and all south and west  facing gardens are sunny even in the depths of winter.

    Properties are  attributed  feelings, they enjoy all sorts of things including the benefit of being in a  good location, they can boast and, most alarmingly,  they can even exude.

    If they’ve got any age at all , they are invariably referred to as “charming”  and “characterful”,  the locations of properties  are often  “second to none”. Although that kinda depends on who you ask, doesn’t it? Communal grounds are often manicured which  roughly translated  usually  means “not meadowland” . The spiel is often finished off with “viewing is highly recommended”…well they would say that wouldn’t they?

    And on the subject of  adjective counts, an estate agent in Carlow describes a house “in the beautiful picturesque village of Ballymurphy Co Carlow”, “a superb residence  that affords views in every direction and offers the opportunity for country living in a vibrant and welcoming community. The property itself is situated on approximately half an acre and is bounded by a beautiful stream. Surrounding the property are the foothills of Mount Leinster, and the spectacular scenery that accompanies them.”

    Phew…I’m exhausted thinking about all that beauty and splendour. Wouldn’t it be easier all around to let the photos speak for themselves with some supporting detail from the estate agent. The savvy potential buyers of today won’t be buying a place on the strength of fancy descriptions so why bother?

  • Bank sends letter over €5 mortgage arrears

    August 30, 2012 @ 3:11 pm | by Edel Morgan
    How many of us are busting a gut to keep up with mortgage repayments? And how many are just a missed pay packet away from joining the 169,000 or so  people who are in currently in arrears or  in difficulty with their mortgage?

    So when you are actually managing to pay the mortgage every month, it can be disconcerting to receive a letter  from the bank that refers to arrears, credit rating and repossession. I received a MARP (Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process)  booklet in the post from Ulster Bank last week   along with a letter informing me that I’m in arrears to the tune of €5.28.  It goes on to say, “Under the regulation covering MARP, we must tell you that: If you miss your mortgage repayments it will affect your credit rating, which may affect your ability to get a loan in the future. If your home is ever repossessed, that would also affect your credit rating.”

    So for the sake of just over €5, they are reminding me that missing a repayment will affect my credit rating and and that losing my home would affect my credit rating. I’m guessing if my  home is repossessed, my credit rating won’t be uppermost on my mind.

    It also said the bank had written  previously about the matter .

    I didn’t receive the previous letter but it struck me that rather than sending me two letters and a booklet to inform me about this massive debt, they might cast their mind back to their technical meltdown during the summer and deduce that the shortfall might somehow arise from this period.

    If  their systems hadn’t been down  for some weeks  and the payment was taken by direct debit as normal, then this mistake would never have happened . Now stick that in your bad credit rating.

    When I phoned the bank to find out why I got a letter about such a small amount, the guy I spoke said under  the law that  banks have to send out a letter to customers “even if  they are only 3 cent in debt.”

    Is it just me or is that a complete departure from common sense?  Shouldn’t there be at least one  missed mortgage payment or at least an inquiry into why there’s a shortfall  before a bank goes into overdrive, spouting out  letters and booklets? No, according to Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers  who says that much of the banking system is automated and for a payment to be €5 short it would normally mean that it was done manually (at a branch) rather than by direct debit, because a direct debit will either clear in full or not .

    “An arrear is typically formed when payment due is not cleared in full at the end of the ‘grace period’ which in Ireland is 30 days. This means that if you were short €10 on a €100 loan that after 30 days you would be €10 in arrears, if this happened 10 times in a row you would then be a month behind. This happens in mortgages that you see a loan classed as being 90 days in arrears, but in fact the problem has been ongoing for 2 years not 90 days (it has to do with the way it accrues rather than being a specific zero payment for three months).”

    He sees no  problem with the banks sending out letters to people who are behind by tiny amounts. “Prevention is better than cure. It’s better to get in there early if someone needs help than when it’s too late. If they don’t need the help then they can throw the booklet in the bin.”

    He has no sympathy for people  who that don’t appreciate being pulled up over a small amount and thinks the bank  take the view they are being pro-active and showing some civic responsibility.  But wouldn’t it be a more sensible approach if they first inquired into the cause of the shortfall before bandying the  “c” word (ie credit rating)  about while  informing you about what will happen if your home is repossessed?







  • Trying to offload your island?

    July 26, 2012 @ 1:07 pm | by Edel Morgan

    I'm on an island, you're on a bigger island

    Today’s story about “The Secret Millionaire’s” island  in Clew Bay, Co Mayo being on the market for €2.85 million is The Irish Times  number one most read story today Click here. What intrigued me about the story wasn’t so much the fact that Nadim Sadek only appeared on RTE’s The Secret Millionaire a year ago and his island, Inis Turk Beg, is now in receivership, or the fact he spent €9 million building a sanctuary  on  the 65-acre island with five houses, craft centres , an all-weather football/basketball complex, an indoor heated swimming pool etc etc ….

    What I found surprising is the sheer number of islands that are on the market in this country at the moment. Although thinking about it logically, there are an awful lot of little islands around our coast  so given the current economic climate there are bound to be  people wanting to offload them tout suite . What seemed like a Utopian dream  back in the Celtic Tiger days might seem like a moment of madness  in more stringent times.

    But what I would like to know is how many of them are privately owned and why? A very interesting Wikipedia list Click here shows the population of Ireland’s islands in 1841 and in 2006. Clear island had a population of 1,052 which dwindled to 125. The Great Blasket Island went from 152 to 2 and Whiddy island went from 729 to 22 . Lots of them have no inhabitants whatsoever and these are the ones that tend to be  privately owned.

    Maybe someone should suggest  a mass auction of distressed islands  to Allsop Space?

    In the article today there’s a selection of four islands on the market at the moment (Inisliroo in Co Fermanagh for €770,000, Spanish Island in west Cork for €600,000, Shore Island in Co Clare for €900,00 and half of Mermaid Isle off the Ring of Kerry for €2.95 million.  There’s also one that’s for rent (Rabbit Island  in Galway asking €1,500 for the week). The cheapest  I came across was €150,000 for Mannions Island in  Cork (about the price  of a one-bed apartment in Dublin) up to €2.95 million for half of Mermaid Isle in Co Kerry  .

    An Island that wasnt included was  the 185-acre  Mutton Island, south of Galway Bay, being sold  through privateislandsonline.com  which targets “island investors” (price on application). In 548 AD, St. Senan constructed a church there and in  the 1700s, the island was home to wine and tobacco smugglers. Inhabited until 1948, Mutton Island contains the ruins of two cottages and an oratory, as well as a graveyard and several walled fields.The island has been inhabited since pre-history and there are  traces of potato plots.It also has an important breeding population of Grey Seal . Another one on the same website is Mannions Island in Dunmanus Bay, west Cork , a four-acre landholding asking €150,000.Then there’s Carbery and Cold Islands, also in Dunmanus Bay,  for sale through Dominic J Daly for €1.25 million.

    Believed to be owned by a middle eastern investor the principal island Carbery has 34 acres and  has a new single storey dormer house that was recently built.  Cold Island just to the east of Carbery is little more than a scattered rock outcrops of  about 4 acres with some grass and is also home to a Seal and Otter Colony. Another one is Quay Island in Bunratty, Co Clare,  a 24-acre island with a lighthouse  asking €400,000.

    Are there any other islands for sale that we haven’t mentioned?






  • The developer in the bubble

    June 8, 2012 @ 3:27 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Is Mick Wallace still in the bubble?

    Mick Wallace always seemed to me to be one of those people that’s in “the bubble”.  We all know someone in the bubble, different rules seem to apply to them than the rest of us and people are very  willing to overlook certain less than glorious  aspects of their past and/or  present,  focusing instead on  the more positive aspects of their being .

    Back when Mick Wallace first became a TD,  I was  at a gathering where Mick Wallace was  being discussed and much admiration was expressed for his devil-may-care sartorial attitude  in the Dail, his socialist leanings  and the fact he has done great work for his community in Wexford. The same people would have formed a lynch mob if certain other developers owing millions had walked into the room, but for some reason Mick Wallace wasn’t included in that group.

    But the bubble only lasts for so long . It could take years or even decades but  it almost always eventually bursts. It looks like Mick Wallace’s bubble could be close to bursting now that he is facing censure by Dail colleagues and possible criminal prosecution for under-declaration of VAT payments. Fellow members of the Dail technical group joined in the condemnation of his €2.1 settlement with the Revenue Commissioners, while Fine Gael and Labour TD’s called on him to consider his position.

    Wallace for his part has rejected calls for his resignation saying it is up to the people of Wexford and that he has been showered with messages of goodwill from his constituents. He points out that Revenue had categorised his behaviour as careless rather than deliberate and they believed his story. “I have nothing but that doesn’t bother me as long as I have my health.” Maybe there’s life in that bubble yet.


  • Merlin Property Auction has dramatic finale

    May 22, 2012 @ 5:06 pm | by Edel Morgan

    The house at the centre of dramatic events at the Merlin Auction

    Merlin’s second property auction was a slow enough affair today with only five  of the 20 properties  selling under the hammer but things took a dramatic  turn before the final lot when Orla Mulvey stood up and explained to the crowd that she was trying to buy back the five-bed detached house in Templanstown , Castlepollard, Co Meath for her brother .  The house, which was being  sold by a financial institution ,  had  an  AMV of €70,000 and was built  on her father’s land. Obviously emotional, she said the house, which is not fully finished,  has no entrance and no water.

    The house was one of Merlin’s star properties – although that wouldn’t be difficult  given the line-up – and Orla, who attended the auction  with her husband  Mark had competition from a bidder at the back of the hall who helped push the price up to €76,000. Merlin say that this was the only sale by a bank  and that all the other properties are being sold by private individuals.Properties ranged in  price from €20,000 to €250,000 and were based in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Carlow, Cavan, Kildare, Mayo, Laois, Wexford, Westmeath and Longford – however instead of setting reserves, as is usual in the Allsop Space auctions, they set AMV’s which weren’t necessarily reflective of the price a vendor was willing to accept.

    Given the lack of sales under the hammer, it was probably just as well someone was trying to buy back one of the properties.  The very first lot , a one bed apartment in Ballyconnell , Co Cavan, failed to reach it’s €20,000 AMV – and the highest bid  it attracted was €13,500.However Merlin MD David Byrne had a more  upbeat spin on events, saying it was “a good improvement” on their first property auction last November where only two properties sold under the hammer .That auction was featured on RTE’s The Auction House, as part of  the Reality Bites  documentary series . While  entertaining, the programme made the Merlin team look  a tad inexperienced.”It was good profile, but the problem was we’d no control over the editing, “  said Byrne after today’s auction.

    This time around there were no cameras and the  auction was held in association with Murphy Mullan auctioneers because they  felt they needed the backing of an experienced auction house. Byrne  dismisses any talk about their property auctions being flops as  “rubbish. If you go to any auctions around the country, you will find many of the properties are sold after auction.”  Merlin says around 13 properties under negotiation following today’s auction.

    Merlin  might have been a little bit of of a rose tinted view of things after the auction because  the press release issued to the media after the event   says there was “standing room only”. While the turnout was good compared to their last auction,  and some people chose to stand around the room,  there were more than a few of empty seats. As for their overspill auction room next door, that might have been a bit optimistic.

    The next Merlin auction is on July 25th .

  • What property says it all for you?

    May 17, 2012 @ 7:49 am | by Edel Morgan


    Walford - sums up the state of the market

    If you were to nominate a property that sums up where we are now, what would it be? In today’s paper (click here to read) I’ve written about the ten properties that say it all about the state of the market but do you agree with them? Or would you add a few of your own to the mix?

    My top ten are 1. Walford on Shrewsbury Road – sold in 2005 for €58 million, has now been withdrawn from the market, presumably because it can’t get the €15 million asking price.

    2.Humewood Estate  in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow – The “Walford” of the country house market, bought by developer John Lally in the boom for €25 million with a view to turning it into a golf and leisure resort. Now  in the hands of Nama and on the market for €8 million.

    3. The Veterinary College site in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 – Property developer Ray Grehan paid a humongous €171.5 million for the two acre site in 2005 – it’s now worth about €20 million -  an 88 per cent plummet.

    4. Treasury Building, Lower Grand Canal street, Dublin 2 – one of the first big projects by Treasury Holdings in the early 1990s – little did they know its future tenant would be Nama with whom they are now involved in a legal battle .

    5. Woodlands Estate in Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan – an unfinished  part of an estate sold to a builder from Northern Ireland at the last Allsop Space auction for over three times its reserve of €40,000. Will we see more unfinished estates being sold to third parties?

    6. Sandhouse Hotel in Donegal – The hotel sold for €650,000 to its manager at an Allsop Space auction in March. It had been on the market for two years and at one point was asking €4.5 million.

    7. Priory Hall in Donaghmede, Dublin 13 – The residents were evacuated in October  from the development  built by Thomas McFeely back  due to fire safety concerns. They have still not reached a resolution with the banks – but could this be the tip of the iceberg due to the  inadequate enforcement of the building regulations?

    8. Loughmore Square, Killeen Castle, Co Meath – One of the developments in the Nama deferred payment initiative, which protects buyers from negative equity for a five year period.  This luxury scheme  on a golf course was launched in 2008 by Joe Reilly of Castlethorn construction (the company behind Dundrum town centre)when three-beds were priced from €1.2 million. They are prcied at now around €270,000.

    9. The Elysian Tower in Cork City. One of the tallest residential buildings in the country, the Elysian tower was launched by developer Michael O’Flynn  in 2008 just as the market was going into free fall. Now dubbed “The Idle Tower” by locals, less than a quarter of the 211 apartments are occupied.

    10. St Mathias Wood, Killiney, Co Dublin.  Last month Brendan and Asta Kelly were shown being evicted from their luxury house in Killiney in a video ttaken by their  neighbour. Could this be the start of the publicised eviction?



  • Would a younger investor garner as much sympathy as Killiney couple?

    April 20, 2012 @ 8:48 am | by Edel Morgan

    I’m not sure if  the  most uncomfortable thing about the eviction of the Killiney couple from their home this week was the fact that they were two older people being kicked out of their home in the twilight of their years  or the fact that  while we hear about family homes being repossessed  we don’t usually get to see it up close and personal on video. It was an unseemly debacle with the bailiffs and Gardai at the couple’s front door  while the owners  were frantic and upset. And  then there was the pitiful sight of  Brendan Kelly shouting “leave me alone” “leave me alone” and the pictures of the couple peering through the opening in their tent .

    I can’t help wondering though  if there would be as much sympathy for  a younger couple with a bulging property portfolio who were being  evicted from a  multimillion euro house in an exclusive enclave.  And as for someone perceived as a former fat cat banker/developer/investor, I’m guessing very few would be  calling Joe Duffy in outrage.

    A few months ago I wrote a blog about the plight of  people who could no longer service a mortgage on an investment property and how very little sympathy there is out there for them. I pointed out that an investment property that isn’t performing is a dreadful drain on resources and leads to some falling into difficulty with the mortgage on their family homes.  I received no less than 52  comments, the majority of which poured scorn on the notion that anyone should have sympathy for a person that gambled on the property market and lost.

    It’s been reported that in  the late 1990s Brendan Kelly and his wife Asta decided to sell their  business  in Germany and return to Ireland, investing their money in the Irish property market.They built a sizeable portfolio of properties in the greater Dublin area.The couple purchased their Killiney home shortly after it was built in 2004 for €3.2 million with the aid of a €2 million mortgage from Irish Nationwide. Isn’t it curious that a couple, that would then have been in their 40s and 50s, would have been given a mortgage to the tune of €2 million in the first place? I didn’t see the mortgage application the couple submitted to the bank and I don’t know the assets they had to convince the bank to give them such a humongous mortgage but it strikes me that  this a case of reckless lending at its most ludicrous.

    The property is on the market with an asking price of €2.2 million.

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