Friday, February 29, 2008

AIPP Awaits Policy on Northern Cyprus

As a bit of an addendum to the previous piece on Northern Cyprus, it is interesting to see that the AIPP are formulating a strategy on how they should handle queries relating to the region. The association has sought opinion from a senior barrister in London regarding how it should position its stance on this very sensitive issue. The associations says: "The AIPP is aiming to formulate a policy on the region, which best serves the interests of all potential purchasers and the industry and is in line with the organisation’s remit to ensure its members work honestly, legally and professionally."

Now one question has to rear its head. If the AIPP, a professional body which is involved daily in the legal aspects of property sale across the globe, is unable to formulate a policy on the situation in Northern Cyprus, how can anyone in their right mind justify purchasing a property there under any circumstances. Yet they are. UK citizens are particularly attracted to the area (as they are to the neighbouring south of the island in fairness), but just because property is cheap does not make it a bargain.

If you don't know much about this issue and are considering purchasing property in Northern Cyprus then you should brush up your knowledge of the very famous Oram's case, in which a British couple were ordered by an EU court to return the property on which their villa was built to its owner prior to the Turkish invasion of 1974.

For a brief overview of the Oram's case take a look at this piece from the Telegraph. The piece is from 2006 and the Oram's are still fighting to have the ruling overturned.

The aim of this snippet is not to argue the pros and cons of what is going on in Northern Cyprus, these are matters for a court of law, it is merely to tell people considering investing in Northern Cyprus how much unwanted hassle they could well be bringing on themselves by considering the TRNC as a property destination until the issue of land title has been fully resolved there.

The AIPP decision on its stance on the TRNC is available at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ryanair Website

As I tend to use online flight reservation websites quite a bit all the hoopla about Ryanair's new website was of some interest. I did try it out on Monday and it was pathetically slow, so much so that I left it in frustration a half an hour after I'd tried to book a flight to Fuerteventura without a single page loading.

I tried it out again today (Thursday) and it seems to have ironed out a lot of its bugs (as its bombastic leader Mr. O'Leary claimed it would with some ferocity on the radio), but I still have a gripe (sure I wouldn't be Irish if I didn't). The cost to fly two adults and a child return from Shannon to Fuerteventura, admittedly in July/August, comes out at the princely sum of €1,378.41. From the home of the 'low cost flight' I'd have expected a little better. The equivalent Dublin to Lanzarote flight for the same period with Aer Lingus came out over a hundred Euro cheaper, and I considered that to be extravagantly expensive. Let's be honest, you can get an entire package holiday for less than that.

Don't get me wrong, I have significant admiration for Mr. O'Leary and his airline and what they have done for travel in our island nation, as well as the rest of Europe. But they can be full of it sometimes and charges of this magnitude give lie to the fact that they are a low fares airline at all.

If you want to be flown to 100 km outside some Godforsaken destination that no-one else would touch with a bargepole on a Tuesday morning in November at 7am then you will most certainly get a low fare but if you wish to fly to a popular destination during a peak period just forget about it. In this instance Ryanair will be, if anything, more expensive than any other option you can find.

It is good to see that the consumer watchdog is hauling them over the coals over their alleged '1 cent' flights offer which are, apparently, nearly impossible to obtain. Although Ryanair have opened up many destinations to both Irish and UK travellers, it can act like a spoiled child on occasion and most institutions are afraid to stand up to O'Leary. It is a shame because the company could easily execute its exceptional business model without stepping over the line and aggravating everyone in the process. It would make life so much easier for everyone involved.

If you want a bit of a laugh you might get your hands on a copy of Paul Kilduff's new book, "How To Be Treated Like Shite In 15 Different Countries... And Still Quite Like It". It is based on his experiences with the airline he refers to as "Ruinair" (book pictured above). You can get it on his site, Apparently it costs just 1 cent, not bad value.

Of course you need to add costs and taxes of €12.98 which bring your total outlay to €12.99 - boom, boom.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bulgarian Dreams Expelled from AIPP

It will come as a bit of a shock to those who have had dealings with Bulgarian Dreams that they have been officially expelled from AIPP (the UK based Association of International Property Professionals).

There is no specific reason given for the expulsion except that the "Tribunal finds that the conduct of Bulgarian Dreams in this regard fell way short of the ambits that should be expected."

This decision by the AIPP would have to call into question the value of the company's two Bentley awards, awarded in 2005 and 2006. These awards are renowned within the industry for being given to International Homes Magazine's largest advertisers to thank them for their custom over the year, but that's a rant for another blog thread.

News on the grapevine suggest that the company's owner, Robert Jenkin, has gone to ground and is completely uncontactable. Someone within the industry in
Bulgaria cited the company as a perfect example of "an agent who became a developer without sufficient knowledge and is now suffering the consequences."

All reference to AIPP seems to have been removed from the company's site but it still claims to be a member of the EEAU (European Estate Agent's
Union). The link to this entity's site ( currently only leads to an error page.

If you have had dealings with Bulgarian Dreams we strongly recommend that you get in contact with the company to query your current status or contact AIPP to examine your options at this stage.

Further info on the company's expulsion from AIPP can be found at

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cleveland - Subprime Ghost Town

For those who can get their hands on it there is a very good piece on the fallout of the subprime crisis in the US on page 8 of the business section of the Sunday Times (Feb 24th). It goes into some detail on the human cost this major financial scandal is having on the average ex-homeowner in Cleveland, Ohio, the centre of the greatest fallout from the subprime crisis. I can't find it online but I'm sure it is there somewhere.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has filed a lawsuit against 21 major investment banks that he said have enabled the subprime lending and foreclosure crisis in his town. The lawsuit uses Ohio's public nuisance law as a vehicle for seeking damages. The law allows recovery for circumstances created by a defendant that interfere with the public's rights and interests.

The firms are accused of creating a public nuisance by making mortgages available to people who had "no realistic means of keeping up with their loan payments." A dozen of the banks also collectively filed thousands of foreclosures in Cuyahoga County over the last four years.

Jackson has said; "Subprime mortgages have proved as bad as drugs in the destruction they have wrought on the community."

The one-of-a-kind suit includes institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, HSBC Holdings, Lehman Brothers and Wells Fargo.

Of course the chances that such an action will make the banks mend their ways is highly unlikely, but it is good to see someone prepared to make a stand to show that there is a human cost to the 'creative financial packages' that are invented to constantly increase voracious banks' desire for ever growing profits.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Northern Cyprus Mortgages

I'm not sure how many of you will have spotted that Global Mortgages Direct (GMD) in Kilkenny announced a few weeks ago that they would be launching mortgages for those looking to buy property in Northern Cyprus.

Now quite apart from the obvious problem with title deeds here (if you don't know much about this you should probably research it a bit, there is some stuff on which will put you in the frame). Basically the Turkish still have a hold on the northern part of Cyprus since an invasion in 1974, in order to stop the Greeks from taking over the island. In 1984, however, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declared independence, but is only recognised by Turkey. Hence if you wish to fly to the capital, Kyrenia, you have to go through Turkey, flights from any other country in the world don't exist. I had a slightly odd experience last year when flying from London to Ismir.

The plane landed and virtually nobody got off, so I wasn't sure if we were in Ismir or not, as no other destination appeared on the boards in London. I had to enquire from the stewardess who informed me that the flight was continuing to Kyrenia but, as TRNC isn't recognised outside of Turkey they couldn't advertise the fact in London.

In any case, this didn't strike me as the safest place in the world in which to be looking to acquire a mortgage. There are huge problems with the many forms of title deed in TRNC bar one, that issued prior to 1973 by the Cypriot government. Of course most developers will claim that they have this type of title deed just to get you to buy, but most of them are not the real thing. There will eventually be a huge fallout in property ownership in this region, particularly if Turkey is ever to join the EU, as it will be a stipulation that they give the north back to the Republic of Cyprus. It is, as they say, an accident waiting to happen.

Therefore the launch of GMD's mortgages was somewhat of a surprise, but then so was the announcement in the Sunday Tribune yesterday that they'd withdrawn them, less than three weeks after they'd been launched. Apparently the Irish government, obviously under some pressure from the Cypriot ambassador (who is renowned for being very vocal on this topic and most likely outlined the danger Irish buyers could be drawing on themselves) complained to the company and asked them to withdraw the product, so they did.

Who says the government doesn't work (at least sometimes).

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How Impatient Have We Become?

There was a time, not that long ago, when the Irish were prepared to travel abroad using whatever means necessary to get to their desired destination. Flying via anywhere was no problem. This appears to no longer be the case.

During the recent SBPost Property Expo I was enquiring from a number of exhibitors why they had ceased to sell property in particular areas. I was surprised by the uniformity of the answers - because there are no direct flights.

It would appear that we have now become accustomed to being able to fly directly to the destinations we seek, and are not prepared to settle for those that we cannot reach directly.

Gone are the days when we would settle for a brief layover in Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead or numerous 'hub' airports around Europe. Now it is direct or nothing.

This may not seem so preposterous but ten short years ago, when the Irish were bursting on to the overseas property scene with some aplomb, it was not unusual for those flying to Alicante or Malaga to have to fly through the UK, Madrid or Barcelona. Perish the thought today. Ryanair have ensured that, not alone do we now wish to fly directly to the area we want to visit (ok, Ryanair's interpretation of 'direct' and 'destination' can be somewhat laughable on occasion but that's a story for another thread) but they have also ensured that we wish to arrive in that destination without having had to take out a new mortgage to do so.

These are, no doubt, some of the quirks of the new 'Celtic Cubs'.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Global Credit Crisis Over? I Think Not

So the global credit crisis was a bit of a blip then and everything is starting to come back to normality again? This would certainly be the feeling you would get if you were to speak to the world in general about this somewhat 'unhelpful' and 'awkward' period in our economic history. The worst that happened was that Nortnern Rock was nationalised and everything is hunky dory now. Those of us who watched Channel 4's Dispatches programme 'How the Banks Bet Your Money' might be left with a somewhat different opinion.

This was a real eye opener into how deeply the credit crunch is being felt in the US. To see in stark reality how many houses are being repossessed right across this vast country puts into perspective the absolute human devestation being created by the short term greed of our financial institutions.

The problem is, this is not going away anytime soon. The losses which have been clocked up by the financial institutions will be calamitous and unsustainable for some of them, so you'd better be wary if you're snapping up bank shares because they look very cheap right now. The worst is, apparently, yet to come and some of those banks may well not be in existence in a few years time.

The dispatches programme is highly recommended viewing if you want to get something of a handle on this global problem that will be with us for some time yet. You can find a summary of its contents at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How Informed are Overseas Property Agents?

You would sometimes have to seriously question how much knowledge certain overseas property agents actually bring to the equation when they are selling you 'their product'.

On a recent trip to Portugal I was staying in Lisbon the evening before a trip to the Blue Coast which stretches south of the capital. An agent looking to get some editorial into the paper emailed me to tell me that he was launching a new project on this very same Blue Coast. Intrigued, seeing as I was in the area, I emailed back to find out where the project was located on the off-chance that I might be passing it and could drop in to take a look. I didn't recognise the location in the replying email so I asked my Portuguese colleagues where it was. They informed me that it was on the Silver Coast, north of Lisbon and actually closer to Porto than it was to Lisbon.

When I queried the agent he agreed that it was indeed a good deal north of Lisbon and asked me if I was passing 'to take a photo for him'.

It sounds pretty ridiculous, but the consequences of such actions are potentially financially crippling for those being suckered by 'agents' who are selling property in every corner of the planet without any knowledge of the areas in question.

It begs the question about how many agents have actually even seen the products they are selling into the Irish market, let alone done proper due diligence on them.

When you are looking for information from an overseas property agent make sure you give them a good grilling to find out if they actually know their product and have, at the very least, actually seen that it exists.

Caveat Emptor

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

100m for a London Apartment

So the UK market is somewhat depressed then, eh?

It hasn't stopped the world's most expensive flat selling for £100 million. Sheikh Hamad, the foreign minister of Qatar, is rumoured to have purchased a penthouse home in One Hyde Park, promoted as the most exclusive apartment block in the world.

This is one of 86 luxury units on the edge of Hyde Park opposite Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. According to The Times the flats have 24-hour room service to the level of the Ritz, bullet-proof windows, eye scanners in lifts and spectacular views over Hyde Park and The Serpentine.

Just be aware that not everyone is agreed on the price of the apartment, estimates vary from £20m to the staggering £100m reported in The Times.

Castro steps down as Cuban leader

There will be US developers jumping for joy at the news that Fidel Castro has stepped down as leader of Cuba after nearly 50 years of rule.

US developers have long eyed Cuba as the ultimate Caribbean hotspot to build for the US lifestyle market, but have obviously been largely unable to do so up to this time. You can expect somewhat of a splurge in the Caribbean island if Castro's brother shows some weakness and allows US developers, and the many billions they will offer, into the country. From his last spell in charge he doesn't seem to have the strength or charisma of his brother. More tellingly, he is not that much younger than Fidel so the chances of him lasting too long are quite slim. As they say, watch this space.;_ylt=AoBDjmIrj.5ovZwhoJBVZ0mGOrgF

Kosovan Independence

The past 24 hours has seen some interesting stories that are having or will have an affect on the world of overseas property in years to come.

The declaration of independence by Kosovo has long been expected in the Balkans. It was none too surprising that Serbia wasn't all that impressed with the declaration, but they are short on supporters. Many of those who have pledged support have been accused of having vested interests. Spain have similar problems with the Basques, Cyprus have their own problems with Turkish occupation of the north, China is in a similar position with Taiwan and the Russians are obviously historically linked to Serbia and Yugoslavia before it. Greece, Slovakia and Romania have also intimated that they will not recognise the new entity.

Considering how important this topic is to those living in Kosovo it may seem somewhat trite, but you have to ask the question, how long before the Irish consider that property in Kosovo is worth a look? Not as long as you might think I reckon, depending on the legal status of the state. There are plenty of Irish active in Serbia already with Belgrade being considered somewhat of a hotspot over the past few years.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Airport Report - Delhi

I suppose you could write a book complaining about airports, and those of us who fly from Dublin regularly would rate it very high in the complaints department. In its defence, I have to say I've been through far worse airports, but it could certainly be a lot better.

If you want to experience a truly awful airport my suggestion is to take a flight to Delhi. We in Ireland have absolutely no concept of dealing with 'huge crowds', but the Indians can do these like no-one else (apart from the Chinese). Delhi airport is a truly heaving mass of humans all struggling to get through the chaos to which poor planning and the Indian army subject its users. Even at 1am in the morning we were subjected to an hour and a half queuing to get through passport control, only to discover that there is just one duty free shop in the airport, and it is before you get to passport control. There is absolutely nothing on the other side, you're lucky to have access to a toilet (and a pretty stomach churning one at that).

It's enough to make you feel that Dublin airport isn't so bad after all, and that takes some doing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hotel Watch - The Ballsbridge Inn

As I travel quite a bit I thought it might be nice to rate some of the hotels I stay in for the future reference of anyone who may need to go use them in the future. Most of these hotels are abroad but we're starting with an Irish one, simply because we used it while visiting the Sunday Business Post's Property Expo over the weekend.

The D4 Hotels have sprung up from Sean Dunne's audacious bid to put a walloping great skyscraper where Jury's and the Berkeley Court formerly stood in Ballsbridge. Having found that the road to planning wasn't as smooth as he thought it might be he re-opened the hotels as the D4 Group, along with a couple of other hotels he's got.

Seeing as we were booking on the Tuesday before the show our choice close to the RDS was pretty limited. Bewleys is normally a good option but it was booked out, as were other neighbouring hotels. This weekend was also the one on which the Meteors were being held at the RDS and Leinster were playing a high profile rugby match just down the road. No problems getting a booking at the Ballsbridge Inn (formerly Jurys) though. €109 for the room if you ring them and a very reasonable €80 if you book it online. Can't be bad for the middle of Ballsbridge.

So what do you get for your €80? Well you get a room, full stop. Nothing complimentary, not even a glass of water, a cup of tea or a coffee in the room. The old tea and coffee service units are still in the rooms but they're completely empty. But then you probably couldn't expect much in this regard for the price in this part of Dublin. Let's be clear here, this is not Jurys remodelled. This is Jurys exactly the same as it was before it was shut down last year. The doors of the rooms still even have the price rates from 2007 with the Jurys logo on them. This same room, which was comfortable but a bit dated, would have cost us a whopping €399 a year ago according to the standard rates on the back of the door. That's a heck of a saving.

In terms of decor this is essentially a three star hotel, despite its alleged four star rating. It does all look rather dated at this stage, seating is somewhat threadbare, etc. and everything is worked on franchise so you don't get any of the old Jurys warmth here. You'll find franchised juice bars, snack counters, hairdressers, etc. which does give a disjointed air to the whole thing.

The franchise you're most likely to utilise is the Dubliner Bar (again unchanged from its Jurys days) which is now run by Charlie Chawke. We had dinner here which, again if the old Jurys rates are anything to go by, cost us about 2/3 of what it would have a year ago. The food is not haute cuisine, but it is a very good hearty menu. It is fresh, hot, served promptly and good value for money. You can't ask for a lot more really. Same thing went for breakfast, a fine full Irish appeared but it is not included in the price of the hotel, it will set you back a further €12. The problem with all the franchises is that you have to pay everything separately, but it is a minor problem all things considered.

Parking was a bit of a shock. If you go to the machine inside the door it will charge you €15 per day if you're prepared to pay it. If you are a resident you're entitled to get it for €7.50 for an overnight stay. It doesn't say this on the machine though so unless you're 'in the know' you could get fleeced. Go pay the bill at the counter instead.

Overall you can't beat the location or the price. The food, value and atmosphere in The Dubliner Bar were also hard to quibble with so you'd have to give it a bit of a thumbs up really. If you're looking for the opulence and pampering of a four or five star hotel then it would be best to give it a miss. You also have to be aware that this could be a very fleeting entity, if Sean Dunne gets his planning permission you could find a bulldozer makes it to the front door before you do so it's probably best only to book it at short notice.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Michael Lynn/Kendar update

As per the post below, unfortunately it hasn't taken very long for more media coverage of the Michael Lynn/KenDar case.

There is a full two page feature by Simon Carswell in today's (Saturday Feb 16th) Irish Times in the Weekender section.

There isn't really much new in the piece except for a brief interview with Nuno Paulino, the accountant who's running Vantea. This is the company which took over KenDar's development in Cabanas on the Portuguese Algarve by purchasing most of Lynn's holding last December.

The article does give a good up-to-date summary of the entire case though so if it affects you in any way it may be worth getting your hands on it. The link to the pretty substantial piece is at but you'll need to subscribe to get it online. - Ireland's Overseas Property Portal

Friday, February 15, 2008

Exhibition Seminars

Having just visited the Property Expo in the RDS a constant bugbear reared its ugly head. What is the point of seminars at an exhibition that are all given by exhibitors who are already present at the show? Are you not simply going to get the same spiel that you would on their stand, except without the chance to ask questions as you go? Or am I wrong and is there an inherent value to such seminars? If there is I have to say I fail to see it.

On the subject of the show, while most agents felt the Friday was slow, they were at least kept relatively busy on the stands and there appears to be more confidence than there was at the end of last year. Everyone did feel it was a bit fragile though, and could be killed off pretty easily by Mick Lynn's affairs appearing in the newspapers again or something similar happening elsewhere.

All in all, though, there appears to be a bit more hope than there was last year.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lisbon Coast

On a recent trip to Lisbon it was interesting to see what is planned for this region and all it has to offer the tourist, golfer and property enthusiast alike. In Ireland we are inclined to link Portugal with just the Algarve but the Lisbon area has an awful lot to offer, even for those just travelling for the golf.

There are a number of high quality courses in the region, some with property on them already such as Praia D'El Rey and CampoReal to the north of the city along the Silver Coast or Costa de Prata. Bom Sucesso is a very interesting project as well, a huge array of very talented designers have been brought together to develop one of the most courageous and innovative golf developments I've personally ever seen. The golf course isn't playable yet, it should be by June 2008, but from an in depth trip around the course it does look like it is going to be a very good one. The way in which the property is being hidden on the course is also very innovative. This isn't going to be one for the Portuguese purist however, none of your standard Portuguese property design to be found here.

To the south of the city, along the Blue Coast or Costa Azul, is if anything, possibly even more interesting. The news that the new airport is to be located in Alcochete, to the south of estuary to the river Tagus, has come as somewhat of a boon to those in the south, although the addition of a new bridge should ease matters somewhat for those heading north.

The TroiaResort is, apparently, very worthy of a look (it was closed for renovations while I was there) but the plum development here may well be the new project currently underway at Pinheirinho Golf and Leisure Resort. It is a truly marvellous site and the beach, although 500 metres from the golf course, will be a real attraction. It is being done in a natural and ecofriendly manner, which is in itself quite unusual. The golf course won't be ready for a few years yet, they're currently only clearing the site, but if properly done this could well be one of the best courses in Portugal in years to come.

Another notable to the south of Lisbon is the more mature Quinta do Peru golf and country club which has a range of villas around the course. This is a lovely course to play, unless you have a fear of bunkers, and the climate in this part of Portugal makes it a joy to play, even in the end of January. It is also a lot easier to play in the summer than the Algarve, which can become unbearably hot in July and August.

You'll find our columnist, Diarmaid Condon, writing about the Lisbon Coast in the Sunday Business Post this weekend (it's at this link). Ginetta Vedrickas has also done a piece for the website based on this wonderful stretch of Atlantic coastline, click here to see it.

Welcome to Blog

Hi all,

welcome to the Blog. Here we hope to update you with particulars of what is going on in the Overseas Property market, particularly with reference to the Irish and Northern Irish markets.

We will also be dropping in some bits and pieces from contributors to the site as they return from their travels overseas searching out the best property markets and deals for all our viewers.

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Many thanks from the staff