Monday, March 14, 2011

Mystery Lettings, be careful who you deal with!

Strange case of the mystery lets

Mark Keenan

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 He says the advertisement was placed without his

knowledge, however.

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

and owner.

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, 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.

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