Wexford farmer sues auctioneers over land valuations
Frank Brownrigg, Ferns, Co Wexford, leaving court yesterday after the opening day of a High Court action taken by him against Wexford auctioneers. Photographs: Collins/Courts
Wexford auctioneer Aidan Leacy leaving court yesterday after the opening day of a High Court action taken by Frank Brownrigg against himself and Ben Kavanagh.
A farmer has alleged that two auctioneers were negligent in the advice and valuations they gave concerning land he wanted to sell in 2007 just before the property crash, the High Court heard.
Frank Brownrigg, Crory, Ferns, Co Wexford, claims he lost his €590,000 deposit for 150 acres which he had hoped to buy using the proceeds of the planned sale of 47 acres he owned near Enniscorthy town.
He is suing auctioneers Aidan Leacy, trading as Phoenix Estates, Enniscorthy, and Ben Kavanagh Auctioneers, Kilmurray, Gorey, Wexford, over allegedly giving him valuations of between €6.9 million and €11 million for his 47 acres.
When the land was put up for sale, the most he was offered was about €1 million. He was thus unable to proceed with the purchase of the 150 acres resulting in him having to forfeit the €590,000 deposit, he claims.
The auctioneers deny that the valuations he was given were inaccurate or misleading.
Mr Leacy says his valuation amounted to an expression of opinion made in good faith at the time given and Mr Brownrigg was not entitled to rely on those as a guarantee as to what price the property would achieve. While Mr Kavanagh had entered a written defence, the court heard he had discharged his legal team and he was not in court yesterday.
Opening the case, Mark Sanfey SC, for Mr Brownrigg, said his client owned three parcels of farmland: the main one of 120 acres where he lives in Ferns, and two others of 47 acres and 28 acres on the outskirts of Enniscorthy.
When a neighbour in Ferns died in 2006 and his farm came on the market, Mr Brownrigg saw this as an opportunity to consolidate his main holding and overcome the inconvenience of having to travel a 14-mile round trip to his other two holdings.
He decided he would sell the 47-acre parcel at Clonhaston in Enniscorthy. He contacted Mr Leacy who told him the land would fetch €220,000 to €240,000 an acre, with its existing agricultural zoning, and up to €350,000 an acre if it happened to be rezoned when the local Enniscorthy development plan came up, Mr Sanfey said. That was at least about €11 million in total. He also contacted Mr Kavanagh who valued it at about €7 million.
Mr Brownrigg then contacted AIB about getting finance to buy the neighbour’s land in Ferns. AIB had said he could have the money for the deposit but would only give the other €7 million to buy the land if he had a signed contract to sell the 47 acres at Clonhaston.
Armed with valuations from the two auctioneers, Mr Brownrigg bid €5.9 million at a public auction and bought the Ferns land, Mr Sanfey said. He put down a 10 per cent deposit.
He asked those auctioneers to act for him in selling the 47 acres. He received just one serious offer – of €1 million for 65 per cent of the land – which was “completely out of kilter with the valuations”.
When he was unable to complete the purchase of the Ferns lands, he had to forfeit the €590,000 deposit. The Ferns land was sold later for €4.7 million but he still lost his deposit.
The case continues.