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  • The Best Place to Live in Ireland

    March 30, 2012 @ 4:32 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Are you one of those jammy people who has found the best place to live in Ireland

    Are you one of those jammy people who lives in a place where  you  intend to spend the rest of your life and have no interest in looking any further? Do you find yourself  waxing lyrical (and ad nauseum) to anyone who will listen about the  merits of your area ?  If so, why not nominate it in our competition, The Best Place to Live in Ireland which starts tomorrow in the Weekend section of the paper and online at  www.irishtimes.com/bestplace.
    As one of the judges in a new Irish Times competition  I  will try to keep my envy at bay as I read through the entries because although I’ve found my ideal place, I don’t actually live there. I like where I live  but am guilty of occasionally  looking  over my shoulder at the greener grass in the next suburb.
    The best  “place” can be  a  town/village/area/suburb/townland/ housing estate and we want you to  tell us  in no more than 500 words on www.irishtimes.com/bestplace why it’s so great .  There will also be a number of questions asking you about the local environment and facilities in your area but don’t be put off if you area doesn’t fit the criteria, it’s the pitch that is  most important.
    The   judging panel is made up of myself,  my  Irish Times colleague and  environment editor Frank McDonald, psychologist  Maureen Gaffney,  architect Paul Keogh and statistician Gerard O’Neill from Amarach Research  and we all have our own ideas about what makes the best place to live.
    To mark the start of the series a number of Irish Times journalists including John Waters, Conor Pope and Carl O’Brien will write about their best place.  So do you live in the best place in Ireland?
  • Northside Versus Southside

    February 23, 2012 @ 10:33 am | by Edel Morgan

    Is the northside a better place to live?

    There’s a debate going on with one of my colleagues over which side of Dublin is the best to live on. She is a southsider and refers to the northside of Dublin somewhat sniffily as DNS. I retaliate by saying DNS stands for De Nicer Side, and I’m not biased by the fact that I live there….much.

    While I  can appreciate that parts of  the southside are lovely, with  a higher leaf count, a larger quantity of  trophy  homes ,  a borough with its own very distinctive accent (Roysh) and more celebrities per metre (although I’d like to point out that arguably the biggest celeb of them all, aka Bono,  is a defector who was reared on the northside.This is balanced, however, by the fact that Larry Mullen, the coolest member of U2,stayed northside), I would argue that the northside trumps it in many respects.

    For one thing you can buy more house for your money on the northside. Take for example Drumcondra and Glasnevin where you can get better value than in  their southside equivalents – Rathmines and Ranelagh. Lisney currently has a five-bed 2,350 sq ft house in Drumcondra asking €595,0000. The equivalent house in  Dublin 6 would cost  at least €200,000-€400,000 more, depending on condition. Yet all these areas are close to town and  Glasnevin has the bonus of the National Botanic Gardens.

    Clontarf is still relatively expensive by northside standards but when you compare it to say Sandymount, you get more for your money. A three-bed house on Mount Prospect , close to St Anne’s Park, is currently on the market for under €400,000. The equivalent in Sandymount will cost €50,000-€100,000 more. Yet both areas are beside the sea, have a good choice of restaurants, delis and shops, are on the Dart and are close to town.

    While the southside has arguably better public transport with the Luas and the Dart, the northside has more parks and a surfeit of impressive playgrounds  (St Anne’s, Malahide Demesne, Newbridge, Ardgillan Demesne, Griffith Park to name but a few) , we are better served by cinemas (I can currently choose between Santry, Coolock, Swords, Cineworld and the Savoy in the city centre  and Blanchardstown ,which I know is on the west side but very accessible via the M50). While I’m not saying that proximity to shopping centres  necessarily adds to one’s quality of life, there is a good choice northside, the Omni in Santry, Pavilions in Swords,  Blanchardstown  and Charlestown in Finglas. Only two of those shopping centres charge customers for car parking and that’s only if  they are there more than two hours. In Dundrum, you pay by the hour, regardless of the fact you are spending money in the shopping centre.

    While seaside areas like Dalkey and Sandycove and Monkstown are  quaint and lovely, on the northside we’ve got Skerries, Malahide and Howth and Sutton and we’ve got the most decorated GAA club, St Vincents.  When I asked my colleague why southside is better she said enigmatically “perception is reality”.  She says the southside is a  more visually attractive place to live, or at least parts of  the southside, and there’s a certain cachet to living in areas like Ballsbridge, Rathgar, Dartry or Sandycove that isn’t attached to many places on the northside, the Hill of Howth and one or two roads on Clontarf excepted. What do you think?

  • Negative equity mortgages – does the shoe fit?

    February 17, 2012 @ 10:59 am | by Edel Morgan

    THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week that a few of the banks will be offering negative equity mortgages to people trading up must have come as a momentary chink of light to growing families trapped in confined spaces, until, that is, they realised it doesn’t apply to them.

    This product is unlikely to spark a buying frenzy of family-sized homes because although half of mortgage holders are in negative equity, the number of people who will a) get approval from the limited number of banks offering it  and b) have the stomach to take on that extra debt, will be relatively small.

    At this stage anyone who bought their house after 2002 with a mortgage is probably in some degree of negative equity. This mortgage product is only suited to people in a relatively small degree of negative equity who can now avail of much lower house prices. But how many of these families will actually qualify for the mortgage? The banks will be looking for a blemish-free credit record and with many families now part of the so-called squeezed middle, impacted by wage cuts, job losses, increased taxes and levies,  how many will be able to show the banks prompt bill payments, a pristine credit-card statement  and decent savings?

    If they have all this, the banks will be then looking at how stable their employment is and it’s well known that they favour government employees and certain IT workers (Google,Ebay etc ) which narrows the field even further. Even if you’re lucky enough to be a couple working for Google with a pristine financial track record, are you going to want to land yourself in more debt for the sake of a bigger place? Say for example a couple buy a new house for €240,000 and owe  €60,000 after selling your previous home.  This  amount would be added to the new mortgage, which would then amount to €300,000 or 25pc more than their new house is worth –  in line with the new, 125pc loan-to-value limit which Bank of Ireland has outlined. They would also have to factor in stamp duty and legal fees.

    A couple would qualify for tax relief at €900 per year  to 2017 when the tax relief ends while a  single person trading up with a €300,000 mortgage could claim €2,700  relief over the next six years if they buy before the end of this year.

    For those stuck in a small  apartment with small children, getting out might seem a  pressing  issue but as we haven’t yet reached the bottom of the market, many will want to wait to see what happens. Some might take the option of letting out their property and renting another place – although this depends on whether you can afford to cover any shortfall, if the rent doesn’t cover the mortgage.

    Then there will be people with tracker mortgages who won’t want to lose them by taking the negative equity mortgage route and others might be put off by tax relief implications, depending on when they bough their property. All in all, it seems to me that this mortgage is for such a select group that the impact won’t so much be big bang as a damp squib.

  • Will despot decor catch on in Ireland?

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:00 am | by Edel Morgan

    Where would you be going without your gold mermaid chaise?

    Feeling a little powerless in your life? Well according to the FT, despot decor  is coming your way if you live in a western city.  You may  feel like  a minion in your everyday life and think your innate superiority and general fabulousness  has gone largely unrecognised  but inside your own four walls you can be master or mistress of all you survey (if you are despotic enough to get your family to go along with it that is).

    Inspired by the opulent palaces of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein et al the dictator chic look is  designed to make you look all-powerful and intimidating and keep your guests  in a constant state of awe . I’m not sure how I’d implement the look  in my three-bed semi but apparently a good starting point is to hang a portrait of yourself looking important and imperious  in all major rooms especially the bathroom  so visitors can contemplate your regal bearing while they sit on the throne (gold plated of course).

    Another essential is  an enormous gold eagle or a marble lionhead  and all furniture should be as uncomfortable and unwelcoming  as possible, preferably in the old style of the absolute monarchy. Then it’s a case of out with  the Laura Ashley and anything fluffy or squishy and  in with  the  gold paint which should be lashed on every available surface. And remember no amount of ormulu and marble is too much.  Scale is  also important  – everything has to be miles too big for comfort. Why settle for a lampshade when you can have a chandelier the size of a two-car garage  a la Saddam Hussein?

    The FT predicts that  dictator chic is coming  our way but  are we ready for it as a nation?  Or have we seen enough  scenes of unbridled extravagance for one lifetime already?

  • Do you have a flexi-address?

    January 27, 2012 @ 12:27 pm | by Edel Morgan

    Do you have a flexi-address? The advantage of one of these is that you can change where you live according to your mood or whoever you happen to be talking to at a particular time.
    People with flexi-addresses come in two categories: those who are in denial about their true address and those who really aren’t sure.

    I have fallen into the latter category for most of my life. I grew up in a progressive, if confused, neighbourhood, where you could literally choose where you wanted to live. Although we all lived in the same house, one member of my family lived in Ballymun, another in Finglas while others veered towards Glasnevin. To confuse matters further, a number of people formed their own breakaway area, Glasnevin north.
    The reason for the lack of one true identity was that our neighbourhood is sandwiched between three areas. While it is in the parish of St Canices church in Finglas, it is close to parts of Ballymun and a stone’s throw from Glasnevin Avenue.

    Those selling houses or applying for jobs might have gone  for the Glasnevin option. However, purists will always rumble your Glasnevin credentials by asking: “So how far is that from the Botanic Gardens?”  Subsequent addresses included Blanchardstown, but which was very close to Mulhuddart.  I now live in  Beaumont  minutes away from the hospital  but  so close to Artane you can see St David’s school from our road.

    The problem with being borderline is that even if you manage to procure ordnance survey map evidence of your real address, it doesn’t stop spoofing if the occasion demands.  When it comes to selling houses how often have you seen Irishtown masquerading as Sandymount, Fairview as Clontarf, Coolock as Santry, Ballybrack as Killiney and Donaghmede as Malahide? Then there’s the  ever-burgeoning Blackrock which now stretches from the Merrion Gates to the Dublin mountains often obliterating areas like Deansgrange, and even parts of Cabinteely on its way.

    I’m yet to come across any incontrovertible proof that changing your address has any effect on property values.
    However if an  entire neighbourhood decide they deserve a change of address and believe hard enough they want to live in a particular area then it can happen – as was the case when the Ballymun Avenue became Glasnevin Avenue.  Dublin 6W would have been part of  Dublin 12, except  people who lived there kicked up because they felt they would be disadvantaged. I’m wondering if  I and all my neighbours were to decide we live in Clontarf north (far far north), would that have a sudden upward effect on property values? Would people suddenly perceive our area to be more upmarket or would we just look a tad silly and pretentious?

    And it’s not only geographical boundaries that get crossed when occasion demands, now you’ve got Terenure residents  wanting electoral boundaries changed to reflect its ‘middle-class’ concerns. Some will even consult ancient geographical borders if it means proving a point. A friend who lives in Blanchardstown claims she  lives in Castleknock because it is in the barony of Castleknock. For those who don’t know, a barony is a county subdivision thought to be a Norman division although its precise origin is unknown . There are 331 baronies in Ireland and they are no longer used for local government.

    But ultimately  is manufacturing an address that you perceive is better than the one you’ve got  not buying into rampant snobbery?  Isn’t it better for the soul to be loud and proud about where you really live? Unless  like me, you are not really sure….

  • Well boo-hoo – landlords in trouble get very little sympathy

    January 19, 2012 @ 10:29 am | by Edel Morgan

    Not all landlords in trouble greedily accumulated property during the boom

    “Well boo-hoo!” was the response of a colleague recently to the news that landlords are having a hard time of it lately. It seems that there is every sympathy  for the person who falls into difficulty with the repayments on their family home but very little for those who can’t service a mortgage on an investment property. But  is that entirely fair?

    Not every landlord  has a bulging portfolio of property they  accumulated during the boom. Not every landlord is a mean-minded grasping Rigsby-style character that would charge tenants through the nose to live in a garden shed, if they could get away with it. In fact the figures suggest that most Irish investors  are not career landlords, they are small-time investors who  accumulated  an extra  property or three through a combination of circumstances and easy credit.

    There are quite a few landlords out there who acquired their status when they traded up and decided not to sell their first property. By renting it out, they reckoned the mortgage would be taken care of and the property could be a nest egg for them when they retire or a place they could eventually pass on to their kids. With the first property ticking over some may have taken a punt on a second investment property, thinking they were doing the right thing for their future. Nothing overly ambitious – not exactly hoovering up every available property – but boy are some of them regretting it now. Because if you fall into financial difficulty with an investment property that isn’t paying its way, it is a dreadful drain on resources.  For those who are struggling to make ends meet and pay the mortgage on their family home, the problem is magnified if you also have an investment property to subsidise.

    And if you bought it after 2002- 2003  with a  mortgage (ie you weren’t a cash buyer) it  is  likely to now be in some degree of negative equity so selling may not be an option. If you got a top-up loan to refurbish the place the chances are your rent mightn’t be covering the mortgage and if you have a social welfare tenant  you are likely to be  under pressure to reduce your rent. Add to that the household tax, NPPR charge, PRTB registration fees and  service charges.

    A friend of mine owes €900 this year between the NPPR, household tax on her own house and  on  her investment property and a  €300 service charge on her investment property.  She held on to her first house in west Dublin when she got married , a modest three-bed, and let it out to a social welfare tenant. Now eight years and several children later the rental property is in negative equity, her husband is unemployed and she is supporting the family on a much-reduced wage. She has no idea how she is going to pay the charges on the rental property and is considering finding herself a second  job at the weekend to keep  everthing afloat. Meanwhile her social welfare tenant (because that is predominantly the market in the area  where she owns the house) is asking her to reduce the rent. As it is, the rent is €200 shy of the montly mortgage repayment because she has already reduced it  several times over the past 24 months to stay in line with local rents. Then there’s income tax payable on the property,  a hefty enough sum,  even though she’s not making a profit.

    “Well boo-hoo,” you might say. Buying any property is a risk and she should never have held on to her first property  if she can’t take the heat. But couldn’t the same be said of anyone who buys a property, even as a family home? Isn’t it always a risk? How many of us really knew how things were going to turn out? And wouldn’t more of us have invested during the boom if we’d had the opportunity?

  • One house in Dublin or 100 in Leitrim?

    January 12, 2012 @ 10:25 am | by Edel Morgan

    The former chairman of AIB Dermot Gleeson sold his  house on Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge for a figure believed to be in excess of  €5 million. (click here to read more) – a third of the price it would have fetched at the height of the boom. But in today’s market €5 million is  a lot of money and with more square foot for your euro,  I couldn’t help wondering what you can get elsewhere for that amount .

    So €5 million will get you?

    One house on Shrewsbury(but it would have to be semi-detached and probably not in pristine condition). Add on  €2- €3million plus for  one that’s detached and in tip-top condition. And if there are substantial grounds add  at least €5 million. Walford (bought by Sean Dunne in 2005 for €58 million) was asking €15  million even though the house needs complete refurbishment. As no sale has been confirmed yet, we wonder if anyone bid anywhere near this figure?

    Two trophy houses on Palmerston Park, in Rathmines.  Sherry FitzGerald is asking €2.45 for Nadur on Palmerston Park,a super-swanky six bed 325 sqm . However, with no takers so far, the price might be negotiable.Click here

    Three Houses in Abington, Malahide. A five-bed mansion, once owned by Ronan Keating  (click here to read more)- which he sold  back to Parkway Properties two years ago, has just sold for around €1.5 million through  Lisney, which is a good price (relatively speaking)  considering a clutch of other vendors there  are looking for upwards of €1.8 million. Back in the day prices for some of these mock-Georgian mansions were around  €3 million.

    Four houses with sea views  in Howth.  There are now fairly substantial houses in Howth asking around  €1 million- €1.5 million (and  just because they are asking doesn’t mean they are getting) such as Ardeevin on Carrickbrack Road- a four-bed overlooking Dublin Bay with an oval sitting room click here . There’s also Shandon on Carrickbrack Road, a redbrick split level on half an acre asking €1 million with four bedrooms click here.Taobh Coille on Claremont Road in Howth is asking €1.5 million. It  is 1,600 sq ft  has been refurbished and has a 135 ft garden click here

    Five big houses  in Dalkey. Such as 24 Ulverton Terrace, a  four-bed  250 sq m refurbished house currently asking €1 million. Click here or Waterside on  Coliemore Road is a modern detached waterfront house of  2,500sqft / 232sqm with  sea views, off street parking and planning permission for a private slipway which is also asking €1 million.Click here

    10 big family houses in Cork. There are any number of impressive-looking four and five-bed family homes priced at around the €500,000 mark such as Clifton House in Grange, Douglas, Cork, a five-bed 245 sqm detached  house  on over half an acre. Click here and Mitchells Court, a new five-bed  220 sqm detached house in Kerry Pike. Click here

    20 apartments in Dublin’s  docklands. Two and three beds in sought after apartment developments in Dublin’s docklands are now asking around €230,000-€270,000.  In Forbes Quay in Grand Canal Square a two bed  third floor apartment with a terrace around the corner from the Grand Canal theatre is asking €249,000 through Owen Reilly. Nearby on Gallery Quay a two-bed fifth floor apartment with a balcony  is asking €260,000. Click here On the north docks, a two bed apartment on Spencer Dock is asking €240,000 through Hooke & MacDonald.Click here

    50 three-bed terraced houses in Finglas. There is a huge choice at the moment of three beds in the area at prices starting at €80,000-€100,000. A three bed end of terrace on Dunsink Drive is asking €80,000. Click here and a three bed terraced house on Abbotstown Drive is asking €89,950.Click here

    100 one and two-bed apartments in Leitrim. As Leitrim has  the lowest house prices in Ireland, €5m could well  get you around 100 apartments priced between €40,000-€50,000.  In Dillon Court in Manorhamilton a two bed ground floor isasking €38,000. Click here and 7 The Old Mill, a swish looking two bed in a converted mill is asking €40,000. Click here

  • Whoa…property tax sure is a contentious issue

    December 15, 2011 @ 9:50 am | by Edel Morgan

    Not such a good time for frogs then?

    When I wrote about the challenges  the Government face in terms of applying  a value-based property tax fairly before 2014  in my last blog I was expecting a reaction but not the level of vitriol towards the tax or the whiff of revolution.

    My  previous blog about a protester interrupting a mass property auction and warning people about the ” ill will”  they could be buying  along with a distressed property elicited mainly jokey responses – with quite a few  zoning  in on the fact that I’d made certain sweeping generalisations about grey-haired men at auctions.  But on the subject of property tax or should I say the “P” word – few were in the mood for jokes. The comments ranged from the concerned to the outraged to alarming amphibian analogies.

    A reader called  Kuhn posted:

    “Take a pot, boil the water.

    Take a frog, throw him into the pot of boiling water, he jumps right out.

    Take a pot of cold water, put the frog in the water and turn on the stove.

    The frog will sit and be slowly boiled to death.

    THIS IS WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING TO YOU ALL.”

    I’m guessing Taoiseach Enda Kenny might deny that the frog in cold water conspiracy theory has any basis in truth but some feel the household charge is a softly softly introduction to a more punitive property tax . He has defended the €100 household charge to be introduced in January, arguing that the money being raised was vital to fund public services. In an Irish Times report yesterday he  said it would help pay for “fire services and libraries and street cleaning”  and added, “these things are all funded by the exchequer up until now and it’s necessary that citizens understand that they can make a contribution of €2  per week.”

    From the comments I received it  seems  that many people  are afraid of what is coming down the tracks, they already feel they are making enough of a  financial contribution and  not everyone is convinced that the money will go to fund these services. David  said: “The EU/IMF dont really care where we get the money from as long as we get it. A tax on your house is an immoral tax especially when significant stamp tax has already been paid.”  Another reader J Mac who lived in the US said: “Look, when I was in states, property taxes started out about $500 a year in our neighbourhood, then increased every second year to where they are averaging $10k a year now.They said it is to keep the services good, but 90% of it goes into the black hole of politician-made debt. When people cannot pay, after 3 years the property may be legally seized by the county and sold off to settle the debt. Now if they owed 30k for 3 years with fines and late payments added in this could go to 100k.”

    Some of the people commenting were  outraged investors who feel overburdened with taxes and registration fees ( click here see  Fiona Reddan’s piece today about landlords feeling under siege)  and others were advocating mass non-payment . But if stamp duty revenue has all but dried up, what is the alternative to the value-based property tax? Four readers put forward  alternative scenarios .  Peter reckoned the only viable system is one which will have a ceiling limited to a fixed proportion of the household income “irrespective of the value or size of the house.I would posit 0.15% of the valuation but no-one having to pay more than 2% of adjusted household income. Adjusted household income being the total household income, less the rent or mortgage. For eg  a pensioner couple living in a €300K house this would be €88 rather than €450.However, I fear the enonomists would see this as inefficient.”  Edel  and Mary suggested introducing a council tax whereby the tenant pays the tax in a rental property  while Laura asked “Why are the Government ignoring the much simpler option to tax based on size in square meters. No one really knows the value of property any more.”

    Anyone else got any ideas?

  • Property tax, take two: the lessons to be learned

    December 8, 2011 @ 8:43 am | by Edel Morgan

    This time "mohair-suited, suede-booted, high-living bachelors" won't escape the net

    Back in 1983  when the  residential property tax was introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition,  Olivia O’Leary asked  in The Irish Times if  people would be penalised for home improvements that could add value to their home. “For instance will the elaborate pine fittings be assessed? Will it be a tactical necessity to ensure that built-in cupboards and permanent fittings are kept to a minimum?” she wrote.

    And we could ask the same question about  the value-based residential tax to be introduced before 2014 as a requirement in the EU/IMF programme of financial support for Ireland.

    Elaborate pine fittings  might have had a positive effect on suburban house prices back  in the 1980s  but nowadays  they would have the opposite result (which might, in fact, herald their return?).   If  the Celtic Tiger sparked a vanilla-gloss kitchen and glass box extension show-off fest among neighbouring properties,  will the introduction of a value-based property tax see people race to have the most unremarkable house on the street?

    After all, how much more can people  expect to pay in tax  if they were to renovate a property to a high  standard  or build on an extension?

    In May 1983  a 1.5 per cent tax was levied on people’s principal residence where the market value exceeded £65,000 and the household income exceeded £20,000. Home owners were required to make a tax return stating the value of their property and failure to do so  could result in Revenue making its own valuation. If they got the valuation wrong and sold the property, they had to refund the difference. This time around, the tax is expected to be much broader, with fewer people exempt, but will still be based on a percentage of the market value of a property. It will be levied on family homes and investment property and, we as yet don’t know if property owners will be required to furnish a valuation by a professional .

    By then we’ll presumably have, the national house price register to help determine property values but it will only date back to 2010 .  House sales have been sluggish to say the least  since then so what  if a house comparable to yours hasn’t been sold on your street in recent times?

    In the 1980s  people were up in arms about the tax, there were protests,  a  High Court challenge to its constitutionality (The Court ruled it was not unconstitutional) and defaulting on a grand scale, until it was  scrapped in 1997. However, with stamp duty no longer providing a stable revenue, a property tax has been on the horizon  for some time and now the challenge for the government  is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

    In a small ad in The Irish Times pages  on September 29th 1989 accountancy firm Ernst & Whinney summed it up.

    Good News

    The value of your house has increased….

    Bad News

    You have to pay residential property tax on Ist October.

    Back then the tax did not apply to people with substantial property holdings whose private residences were worth less than €65,000. John Kelly FG remarked in the Dáil in 1983 “One could be a mohair-suited, suede-booted , high-living bachelor living in a rented flat worth £64,000.Such a bachelor might own a street of houses where other people lived – he could be the beneficial owner of the entire Pembroke Estate – yet not one penny would he be taxed because he rented his main residence.”

    This time mohair-suited, suede-booted high-living bachelors won’t escape the net, because it seems that this time, investment properties will be liable for the tax.

  • Brisk bidding at distressed property auction interrupted by protester

    December 1, 2011 @ 10:14 am | by Edel Morgan

    "She told me not to tell her what it got" - a two bed apartment at The Cubes in Beacon South Quarter sold for €152,000

    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.

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