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  • Could this be the world’s most unusual house?

    November 29, 2011 @ 9:04 am | by Edel Morgan

    142 Park Road, Pitsford, New York is  an innocuous enough  sounding  address – but the property looks like a cross between an alien landing and a cluster of hobbit houses on stilts and has just had a $300,000 (€226,760) price reduction down to  a mere $799,900 (€604,581) through Remax Advance.

    When I say property I should really   say “rare and premier art icon home”  designed by architect James Johnson  in 1971 who “fashioned this unique dwelling after a stem of Queen Anne’s Lace,”  according to the estate agent, or realtor as they call  them there.

    It’s divided into five connecting pods and is 4,168 sq ft (387 sq m) says the estate agent who is proficient in the use of exclamation marks and block capitals. Apparently it has updated baths! is in MINT CONDITION! and has a new great room added by the original architect which has  a gas fireplace  and outside hot tub!…what they don’t mention is that inside it looks a little bit like a cave…

    As well as two big  living areas, there are three bedrooms including a master suite with an office. The  guest pod has two bedrooms and there’s a patio. More than 10,000 tiles were used to bedazzle the  walls , floors and counters.  The property is on the market since the summer when it went on at $1.1 million (€831,185) but it seems the market for ahem..unconventional..  property is as slow in the US as it is here.

    Click here to see the photo gallery

    The most unusual house I’ve come across in this country  is Harlech House  in Goatstown, Dublin 14   which has been on the market through Sherry FitzGerald for a few months asking €2.75 million.  When I saw the photos of 142 Park Road, I couldn’t help notice similarities between the interiors of the  two properties – while Harlech House is not particularly cave-like , there’s a similar use of glittery tiles on plaster, and sculpture that looks like it’s growing up (and down)  the walls .  Click here for Alanna Gallagher’s take on the house and for photos. Below is a picture of one of the bedrooms  with iron triffid-like structures  protruding from  the ceiling. She described the house “as part-Tim Burton, part-Game of Thrones with the Brother’s Grimm, thrown in for good measure.”

    Recently, two months after Alanna’s piece on  the house was published , it  reached the  number two slot  on the Irish Times website most read list after it was picked up by  Reddit.com. Alas, the renewed interest on the website didn’t result in an increase in enquries for Sherry FitzGerald.

    One of the bedrooms at Harlech House

  • Do banks get jingle mail?

    November 24, 2011 @ 8:09 am | by Edel Morgan

    Lately I’ve been hearing about a rising incidence of  jingle mail –  people posting the keys of their property back to the bank – and wondered if  the people  who abandon property in Ireland actually go to the bother of sending their  keys back or just  run for the hills?

    According to the Central Bank 119 people either  abandoned or voluntarily surrendered property in the last quarter and  the numbers are  steadily increasing. In the same three months last year the figure was 59 and the total for the year to September  was 460.  We don’t know how many were abandoned as opposed to voluntarily surrendered because the Central Bank doesn’t  provide a breakdown.

    A few industry people I spoke to said that property owners that do a moonlight flit prefer a quiet exit. “Some people may not want to alert the bank and may drop the keys back into the letterbox. It probably all depends on the individual future plans of the person as well as their financial situation.”  says Frank Conway of Moneycoach.ie. Carol Tallon of Buyers Broker agrees, “It happens that people drop the keys back to the local branch but most tend not to notify anyone, the bank mightn’t know they are gone for months.”

    Karl Deeter of  Irish Mortgage Brokers  says he has heard reports that a  significant  number of the people who abscond are foreign nationals. “They may have been laid off from their jobs, struggling and in deep negative equity and are not planning on living in Ireland long term.”

    Jingle mail is more of  an American phenomenon where walking away  from a property and posting the keys back to the bank is made easier by the fact that many states have non-recourse mortgages. Borrowers here  are  liable for the remainder of the debt after a property is sold, and while there is anecdotal evidence that debt forgiveness  is being exercised by banks, it is not happening in any structured way.

    For those who decide to leave the debt behind , it is unlikely the bank will pursue them abroad  . “However, on this point, says Conway,  I believe that under EU law, there may be a mechanism where they can attempt some court action in another jurisdiction but I believe this is not being used for  mortgage debt.Certainly for those who relocate to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the US, lenders here will have little opportunity to pursue.”

    One mortgage broker, who didn’t want to be named, said while the banks  “spin a line” about their ability to pursue, logistically initiating proceedings in another jurisdiction is a costly and time consuming.

    The more immediate problem will be arriving in a country with  no credit record. Some of these countries may require a period of banking with the institution such as having a checking / current account as the lead-in to developing a credit record in that country. In the US, people are sometimes offered a co-signed debit card facility with a maximum limit for a set period of time before progressing to a credit card account and working from there .The time it will take them to build up credit will probably be no shorter than if they come out of bankruptcy under the new regime on its way in Ireland.

    Conway says that many people who have moved abroad continue to pay their loans because they want to maintain a clean ICB as they may return home some day.

    Foreign nationals who leave a property behind face less repercussions.

    “I don’t think banks in their home countries will ask what their credit record was like here, clients could just say that they had no borrowings in Ireland….how could the bank prove or disprove this? Also, if you think about it, some people could be motivated to not pay some bills as a means of accelerated savings before their return.

    My gut feeling, though,  is that many foreign nationals who actually purchased here could be here for the long-run and may actually work that bit harder to keep their homes as they may no alternative accommodation to readily fall back on .”

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