Strange case of the mystery lets
Published: 13 March 2011
Agent lists high-end, luxury property for rent; owner denies the house
is available; advertisement disappears. What on earth is going on?
A house in Killiney, Co Dublin, was advertised to let last week at a whopping €25,000 a month. If
achieved, it would be a record rent for any Irish home.
Except Paddock Wood isn’t actually available to rent — according to the man who owns it. It’s the
latest property to become part of a “mystery lettings” phenomenon whereby luxury homes are
advertised, but their owners subsequently deny they are on the rental market.
Paddock Wood is owned by the tech entrepreneur John Nagle, who confirmed last Thursday that the
property had been listed as to let on Adverts.ie. He says the advertisement was placed without his
Nagle says he was made aware that the property had been advertised by a report in this newspaper
last week. “It is my property but it’s not available to let and that ad appeared without my
knowledge,” he says.
All web advertisements seeking a tenant for the house were pulled last Monday morning.
The ad, which was posted by agent Alan Ferris, read: “This property is a discreetly hidden
contemporary treasure which is unique in its modern creation set into the Irish coastline in Killiney,
one of Dublin’s most affluent residential areas. The state-of-the-art home is quite possibly one of
Ireland’s best-kept secrets.”
Indeed, it seems even the house’s owner wasn’t in on the secret. We contacted Ferris last week but
he declined to comment. The advertisement he had placed said the six-bedroom house would be
available from April 30 this year.
Nagle says the house is not his family home, but an investment property. He adds that he knows
Ferris personally and that the agent has in the past successfully let homes on his behalf. But Nagle
says he has no idea how Ferris came to advertise Paddock Wood and describes the incident as “an
With Ferris reluctant to talk about the matter, it remains a riddle. But it is not the first mystery
surrounding the let of a luxury home in Ireland — and it is unlikely to be the last.
Another high-profile case was Michael Flatley’s Castlehyde in Fermoy, Co Cork. Last year, Adams &
Butler advertised the performer’s 14-bedroom residence as to let, with the price available on
An advertisement on the company’s website posted last August was removed after sources close to
Flatley denied the property was available to let. On that occasion, the agent confessed to the
mistake. A spokesman for Adams & Butler said the company was not in fact assisting Flatley in
letting out his home.
The spokesman’s explanation for the advertisement appearing was that it had predated Flatley’s
purchase of the property.
This seems curious, however, given that Flatley bought Castlehyde more than 10 years ago and the
advertisement in question had included the line: “The house is now owned by Mr Michael Flatley.”
Last year, the Adams & Butler website also featured a to-let advertisement for Kilcoe Castle in Co
Cork, the home of the actor Jeremy Irons.
A newspaper that wrote a report based on the information on the website was forced to apologise to
Irons last July. The apology read: “We wish to clarify that Mr Irons has never placed Kilcoe Castle
for rent through Adams & Butler and that the property is not available to rent at the sum of between
€50,000 and €100,000 per week.”
One month after the apology was published, a reporter from this newspaper received an email
saying Irons’s property was available to rent “for about €10k per week”. And if you Google Kilcoe
Castle, one of the results is a short-let listing on the website of the British agency Loyd & Townsend
Rose. The entry reads: “Kilcoe Castle, sleeps 10, five double bedrooms, 1 hour and 30 minutes from
Cork airport, fishing in the bay.”
There are many reasons why mystery letting adverts appear. As the Nagle, Flatley and Irons cases
illustrate, sometimes the issue is nothing more than a breakdown in communication between agent
An international property agent who wishes to remain anonymous points to a more serious problem
that can arise. “We have seen cases of ads being placed by people posing as estate agents. Some of
these people hope to hook someone to let a house at a high price by using internet advertising, but
often this ad is placed without the permission or knowledge of the owner in the hope that once they
get an offer, they can approach the owner and end up with a decent chunk of cash from the deal.
“They often lift the property photos from the sites of their rival agents who are legitimately
appointed. Sometimes the owners might not even have considered letting the property at all.”
There are other reasons why there may be mystery surrounding upmarket lets. “We have seen cases
where owners deny they have given instructions to their agents because they don’t want the greater
public knowing that they are renting their home. Sometimes they do it simply for privacy because
they don’t want people to know they own a luxury investment property or home in the first place,”
says the agent.
In America there have been numerous rows concerning homes being advertised for sale or rent
without the knowledge of the owner. One well-known property portal has been questioned about its
policies in this area.
We asked Brian Fallon, co-founder of Daft.ie, whether Ireland’s largest property website had
mechanisms in place to prevent the posting of homes against the owner’s wishes. At the time of
going to press, he had yet to reply.
So it looks as if mystery lets will continue to be a feature of the luxury home market. But one thing is
certain: if you do want to rent a house at the top end of the market, check with the owner first.