CIARA O'BRIEN and DAN O’BRIEN
RETAIL SALES declined in April, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office released yesterday.
The seasonally adjusted value of core retail sales, which excludes the volatile motor trade, was down 0.3 per cent compared to March.
By volume, the monthly decline in core retail sales was 1 per cent. This difference between value and volume is accounted for by the return of consumer price inflation.
The underlying trend (see chart) reflects continued acute weakness in consumer demand owing to a range of factors including a flagging labour market, tax increases, the paying down of high debt levels and the limited availability of credit.
“Today’s decline in retail sales indicates that consumer spending remains weak going into the second quarter,” said Davy Stockbroker analyst Conall Mac Coille.
“The contraction in retail sales is not necessarily surprising given the poor state of consumer confidence and the negative impact on real incomes from the fiscal adjustment,” he added.
On a yearly basis, fuel, furniture and pharmaceuticals were among the categories that saw the sharpest decline.
The volume of fuel sales was down almost 12 per cent, while furniture and lighting sales declined by 16.2 per cent. Pharmaceuticals, medical and cosmetic articles saw sales slump 7.4 per cent.
By contrast, clothing and footwear sales rose by 1.6 per cent compared to April 2010, and department store sales increased by 1.4 per cent.
In all, only three categories showed any growth, while 10 contracted.
Goodbody stockbrokers said that the data indicated car sales were beginning to weaken ahead of the end of the scrappage scheme.
“While car sales were able to pull overall sales higher over the last 18 months given the relative size of the industry in overall sales, this trend is now likely to reverse,” chief economist Dermot O’Leary said.
Business groups called for action to be taken to help support the struggling retail sector.
Chambers Ireland said that talk of changes to Sunday premium payments and Joint Labour Committees was “a step in the right direction” but more needed to happen at a local level.
“The continued drop in retail sales is of great concern. Both central Government and local authorities must work together to introduce measures to help retailers survive,” chief executive Ian Talbot said.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
NAMA is believed to own about 20,000 houses and apartments, either directly or indirectly through borrowers.
At the moment it has to manage these properties directly or through the local banks, for which it must pay a fee.
One option to get these houses and apartments off its books is to sell the assets in one big bundle, known as a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which would be listed on the stock market.
When NAMA sets up this trust it would effectively be selling off the houses and apartments to a group of investors/shareholders.
They would be invited to buy shares (or units) in the Real Estate Investment Trust and once they make this payment they would become the owners of the apartments and houses, albeit at arm's length.
Essentially they would own the properties, but without owning them directly like a traditional landlord.
These investors, many of them from the general public, would then be entitled to any benefit that flows from owning these properties, including rental income and gains made when individual apartments or houses are sold off.
They would also get generous tax breaks which are granted to REITs.
Monday, May 30, 2011
As the number of empty shops on the streets of Irish towns and cities continues to rise, enterprising retailers are finding alternative ways to use the space.
So-called pop-ups - temporary businesses, including shops, galleries and restaurants - are doing just that: popping up on streets for weeks at a time, breathing new life into areas where commercial blood had ceased to flow.
‘‘It’s not an Irish trend, it’s a global one," said David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, the representative body for the retail industry.
He said pop-up ventures were taking advantage of poor demand for retail space and negotiating short-term leases on a percentage of turnover basis. ‘‘Now that landlords can’t let units to blue-chip retail tenants, they are willing to modify their previous rents," said Fitzsimons.
Local authorities around the country were also keen to rejuvenate dead space.
‘‘There’s a strong policy in the new city development plan to encourage the use of vacant space," said Kieran Rose, a senior planner in the economic development unit at Dublin City Council.
‘‘There’s a lot of Work on an informal basis connecting landlords and developers with potential users." Rose said that pop-ups, no matter how short their stay, had to abide by all relevant rules, including health and safety rules and the need for public liability insurance. Normal planning legislation also applied.
‘‘If the building was previously used to house a shop, then it would be okay to have a shop there, but a change of use might require planning permission," Rose said.
A significant change to the facade of the building or the erection of a different sort of signage could also require planning permission.
While there is no exemption from commercial rates for pop-up shops in the Dublin City Council area, Rose suggested that temporary tenants may agree a rent with the landlord that factors in the rates due on the property.
Elaine Carroll, a project manager with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, is working on an EU-backed project to rebrand Dun Laoghaire. As part of the project, the council has launched a pop-up shop, offering temporary space to entrepreneurs and community groups for €150 per week. The unit’s first occupancy, a six-week pilot with a local jewellery designers’ network, came to an end on May 22. Now the unit is fully booked until Christmas.
‘‘The pilot unit is a council property but, if it works, we’ll take the idea to private landlords," Carroll said. ‘‘Ultimately, the end goal is to showcase the area and the business and also to get a long term let for the unit."
It’s not just local authorities that are running pop-up projects. Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) on Ely Place close to Stephen’s Green decided to trial the idea of a pop-up shop after a bookseller operating from a retail unit on the gallery’s premises vacated the space.
Ciara Timlin, the academy co-ordinator at the RHA, said that the gallery used social media to ‘‘put a call out’’ to creative start-up businesses on the hunt for somewhere to showcase their products. About 70 initial respondents made pitches and applications are still coming in. ‘‘We’re probably in the hundreds now," said Timlin.
Eleven businesses were chosen for the initial phase of the project, which started on March 4 and runs until the end of July, with businesses taking the unit for one and two week periods. At the moment, independent design shop Nofixedabode.ie is, which sells furniture, lighting, accessories and gifts, is mid-way through a two week stint.
Given the success of the initial phase of the project, Timlin said the RHA intended to do a second run later in the year. ‘‘It’s been incredibly successful, more than we anticipated," she said. ‘‘I thought that after time we might lose momentum, but if anything, it’s the opposite."
The project is a not a profit making exercise, with the RHA charging just €100 for a one week stint or €175 for two weeks. ‘‘It brings in new people to us. It’s all about a broader audience really, so it’s win-win for us and the businesses," she said.
‘‘The businesses use it to trial products and inform them where they go from here and establish what’s commercially viable," she said. ‘‘From our point of view, it’s grim to see an empty retail unit at the gallery. It’s not very appealing. So this project has brought that corner to life."
According to Ruth Crean, a Limerick-based craft producer, pop-up shops offer a very different dynamic to the markets were small producers typically sell their wares.
Crean established Nice Day Designs in 2006 and is a regular at Limerick’s Milk Market and also sells her stock via e-commerce website Etsy, dubbed the eBay for handmade and vintage goods.
Crean and a number of other craft producers selling via the site have come together under the Etsy Ireland umbrella to run a blog and are also operating a pop-up shop in Limerick to showcase their work to a wider audience. ‘‘We wanted to tap into the boutique market and sell to a different group of people," Crean said.
The group is mid-way through a one month pop-up shop in a vacant space adjacent to, and under the same ownership as, Bourke’s Bar in Limerick city centre. ‘‘We’re getting the space for free and as it’s short term, I think the owner is just happy to see it used," Crean said.
Having a central location means Crean and her colleagues feel they are more likely to attract shoppers than browsers. ‘‘At a market, people pop in for their vegetables and have a browse, but in town, they are more likely to be in spending mode," she said.
For small business owners, pop-up shops can offer a way to dip a toe in the water.
Sinéad Kelly, owner of online vintage clothing company Fluorescent Elephant, uses regular pop-up shops as a means of gauging customers’ reactions to her products.
As an online retailer, Kelly saw ‘popping up’ as a valuable opportunity to interact with her customers and market her business.
After the experience gained from the pop-up model, she is now in the process of selecting a permanent retail space for her business. ‘‘I had never really considered it as a step towards a full-time shop, but from the feedback I was getting it made me investigate the option more seriously," she said.
‘‘It’s a great way to find out if there is demand for your product without incurring major overheads and before committing to something more long term.
‘‘Rents in Dublin are still very high and leases still fairly fixed, so you need to know the business is sustainable before you go for a permanent retail space."
Pop-up businesses can have knock-on effects, both positive and negative, for other traders in an area.
‘‘It’s usually good for business on a street in general," said Kieran Rose of Dublin City Council. ‘‘You often find that other businesses on the street appreciate it, but equally you have to be careful that existing businesses are protected too. There’s no point in undermining existing businesses."
The extent of the threat to established businesses depends on how you defined a pop-up. REI’s Fitzsimons said there were typically two types of pop-ups - the smaller cottage industry businesses making an appearance in prime retail space and the discount retailers popping up next door to established retailers and competing aggressively on price.
‘‘Obviously, it’s a great platform from which to launch a brand or product, especially a design-led one," he said. ‘‘It’s great for cottage industries that wouldn’t have had access to the high street.
‘‘For cottage industry businesses, it’s brilliant for giving them chance to profile their offering," he said. ‘‘A home needs to be found for this type of business, to make it part of the footprint of the city’s retail space."
However, he said that ‘‘opportunistic sellers’’ who acquired low-cost or liquidation stock and establish discount businesses in direct competition with retailers were a ‘‘fault of the system that has created a two-tier retail market’’.
‘‘It undermines the fabric of a street and, in many cases, they are playing on a different pitch in cost terms," said Fitzsimons.
‘‘You have legacy retailers who are still contracted to pay legacy rents and labour costs.
Significant favouritism is being shown to new entrants to the market, with up to 70 per cent lower rents.
They are opening on exceptional terms."
PLANS to charge employees €200 for parking their car at their workplace have been shelved.
The Irish Independent has learned that the controversial parking levy -- which was set to be introduced on all free parking spaces supplied to employees -- has been put on hold indefinitely.
This is despite the Government paying €9.6m last year to rent car parking spaces for civil servants around the country.
It had been estimated that the €200 levy would raise around €10m per annum to help boost the national coffers.
New figures show that an average of €1,744 was paid last year for each of the 5,502 spaces that were rented across the country for civil servants. The greatest number were rented in Dublin, at 3,360.
Although the new levy on an estimated 50,000 parking spaces was announced by then Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the October 2008 budget, no commencement order has been signed.
"The Government has a lot more important things on its mind," a government source said last night, adding that it was "no longer on the agenda".
"It's definitely been put on the back burner now. In fact, I can't see it coming in at all.
"The priorities of the Government have completely changed and the focus now is on jobs initiatives."
The introduction of the levy has been postponed a number of times and, early last year, the previous government said it would be introduced on a pilot basis during the summer of 2010.
However, despite a considerable amount of pre-planning going into the scheme, it remained dogged by logistical problems.
Queries arose about whether they should charge workers who were forced to drive because they were poorly served by public transport, or those who shared a parking space.
Former TDs also questioned why they should have to pay for parking at Leinster House -- a privilege available to all TDs when they leave the Dail.
It had been confirmed that the scheme would cover both public and private sector workers who were provided with a parking space.
Employers had been told that if they failed to deduct the levy from workers' net salaries, they would be fined €3,000.
However, as the charge will not now be introduced, the Government will continue to pick up the tab for renting parking spaces for civil servants.
The €9.6m bill for 2010 is down on the €10.5m spent in 2009. The number of spaces rented in Dublin also fell from 3,684 to 3,360.
However, the number of spaces rented outside the capital rose marginally, from 2,082 to 2,142.
The average spend per space in 2009 was €1,821 -- dropping by €77 last year.
- Edel Kennedy
Thursday, May 26, 2011
A Dublin law firm is seeking information on how one of Anglo Irish Bank's largest property funds was marketed and sold to investors after its value crashed by 97pc over the last two years.
Investors in the Anglo Irish European Geared Property Fund have been asked by the firm to come forward to provide information on its workings. The law firm, LKG Solicitors, already represents some of the clients in this fund.
According to its latest investor update, the fund has fallen by 97pc since a December 2009 valuation.
A large number of the properties in the fund are co-owned with joint venture partners, many of whom are well-known Anglo developer clients.
Some €172m was raised for the fund, with Anglo customers told that the vehicle was a chance for them to avail of Anglo's "expertise" in sourcing and managing geared property investments.
LKG Solicitors is also seeking fresh information about another fund, the Select Geared Property Fund, which unsuccessfully tried to raise €255m just before the property crash.
The firm wants to know why one property that was scheduled to go into the Select fund was later put into the European fund.
"LKG Solicitors represent clients who have concerns regarding Anglo's management of the European Geared Property Fund and the properties acquired by the fund. There are also concerns relating to a property originally proposed for the Select Geared Property Fund but bought by the European Geared Property Fund some time later,'' states an advertisement placed in today's newspaper by the firm.
Anglo has strongly refuted suggestions of any impropriety. In a statement, it said: "Both the Select Geared Property Fund and the European Geared Property Fund were marketed in a fully transparent way. Anglo's roles were fully disclosed in all promotional materials which were provided to all potential investors.
"All investors have had and continue to have the right to come into the bank and review documentation related to the funds."
LKG is also investigating the provision of investment/financial advice and loans by Anglo's wealth management unit in relation to the two funds. Whether the funds complied with prospectus laws is also being examined.
The action by the firm and its clients is just the latest example of Anglo having to defend its previous lending decisions. Anglo now has one of the largest annual legal bills of any bank as it defends suits in Ireland and the US.
A group of Irish investors is already suing the bank over two hotel deals it did with private clients at the height of the boom in New York.
It was also revealed last week that David Drumm, the ex-chief executive of the bank, is being pursued by a group of investors in a separate action.
- Emmet Oliver Deputy Business Editor
GRANTS to make homes warmer and cheaper to heat have been slashed by 20pc.
Individual householders will get less for insulation and boilers -- even though an extra €30m was included in the recent 'jobs initiative' to make homes more energy efficient.
The Consumers Association of Ireland said some hard-pressed householders would now be priced out of the scheme.
"These cuts are disappointing and could be a major disincentive to people who were considering upgrades," chief executive Dermott Jewell said.
The grant for cavity wall insulation has been cut from €400 to €320. For a high-efficiency boiler with upgraded heating controls, it is down from €700 to €560, and for heating controls alone it is down from €500 to €400.
For a Building Energy Rating, the grant has been cut from €100 to €80; and for internal wall insulation, it has been reduced from €2,500 to €2,000.
The Department of Energy said the new lower grants, under the Better Energy Scheme introduced this month, were set to reflect market prices.
The grant levels for the previous Home Energy Saving scheme had been set at around 30pc of the typical cost of the work. However, the department said this price data was from 2009 and was now out of date.
The extra spending on the scheme in 2011 -- up from €30m to €60m -- would allow more households to benefit, including more than 20,000 low-income families who would receive the upgrades free of charge.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which administers the scheme, had received 3,000 phonecalls and more than 1,200 applications since the announcement of the new scheme -- a considerable increase on previous activity levels.
The SEAI said homeowners who had submitted grant applications under the old scheme before it closed on May 9 would receive payments at the old rate.
The Construction Industry Federation said that while prices for these energy efficiency upgrades had come down, they were concerned some of this could be going into the black economy.
- Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent
Friday, May 20, 2011
HOUSE PRICES fell faster in February and March this year than in any month since July 2009, the Central Statistics Office has said.
Releasing the CSO’s first monthly Residential Property Price Index, Niall O’Hanlon, statistician with the official statistics body, said the figures pointed to “an acceleration in the rate of decline in recent months”.
Prices fell by 1.7 per cent between February and March. It was the third consecutive month in which prices declined by more than 1 per cent on the month.
The new figures show the fall in property prices accelerated in the first three months of 2011.
The index measured the change in the average level of prices paid for residential property in Ireland since 2005, based on the transaction prices. Figures from Dublin made up one-third of the market.
An average property price was not produced and no differentiation was made between house types. Residential property prices fell by almost 40 per cent nationally, from a peak in mid-2007. In Dublin, the drop was 47 per cent.
Apartments in the capital were worst hit, with prices dropping 52 per cent from the peak, which was reached slightly earlier in Dublin than in the rest of the country.
National prices fell by almost 12 per cent from March 2010 to March 2011, with prices in Dublin falling by 13 per cent. Again, apartments fared worst, falling by more than 15 per cent nationally over the 12 months, compared to 11.5 per cent for houses.
The data used by the CSO was supplied by eight Irish banks which passed over information when mortgages were drawn down.
The figures did not include cash transactions and measured prices in about 75 per cent of the market over the six years.
National prices grew at a rate of 1 per cent almost every month between June 2005 and March 2007. Between April and November that year, there was little movement. Mr O’Hanlon said the figures showed the property bubble “didn’t burst overnight. There was a plateau followed by a consistent downward trend”.
Also speaking at the launch of the index, Paul Crowley, head of price statistics and international relations at the CSO, defended the decision not to produce average property prices for the index.
“Average house prices are relatively meaningless; we can produce them, but they don’t mean anything,” he said.
He said taking averages in an extremely heterogenous market made data unusable. There was also no requirement to produce average house prices in a European context: “This demand seems to be purely Irish.” He said the data was divided into Dublin and the rest of the country because this was the most appropriate model. The collection of data was not helped by the absence of national post codes, he said.
Almost 20,000 residential properties were purchased in 2009, down from a peak of over 86,000 in 2006. These figures, based on stamp duty collected by the Revenue Commissioners, were not available for 2010. They also showed that, in 2008, some 30 per cent of residential property was purchased without mortgages, compared to only 6 per cent the following year.
The new index will be published on a monthly basis, with the next publication due in early June for transactions in April. It is likely to become the definitive index for Ireland and will also be used to fulfil a new EU data requirement that will compare residential property prices across member states.
Lender Permanent TSB and the Economic and Social Research Institute, which jointly produced one of a number of property indexes in the past, announced yesterday that, in light of the new CSO index, they would no longer produce their own.
In a joint statement, they said it did not made sense to continue to produce their own index when the CSO would be producing “a similar index based on a more comprehensive set of information”.
It may have come desperately late in the day, but yesterday the CSO finally published its long-awaited house price index for the first time. The availability of timely, official house price statistics is a welcome and long overdue development in a market that has far too often been characterised by spin and hype rather than cold, hard facts.
All previous attempts at gauging the true level of house prices had experienced severe difficulties. Now the CSO, which arguably should have been compiling official house price statistics all along, has belatedly stepped into the breach.
The news that the CSO has found that house prices have fallen by over 40pc since peaking in the spring of 2007 will have come as no surprise to anyone who has been keeping even an occasional eye on the market. Neither will the CSO's calculation that apartment prices have fallen by even more than house prices, with apartment prices in the Dublin area having fallen by a massive 52pc.
These statistics are merely the numerical representation of a market collapse that has caused enormous human misery and heartbreak. It has cost tens of thousands of people their homes and plunged hundreds of thousands of other homeowners into negative equity -- where the amount they owe on their mortgage exceeds the value of their house or apartment.
While it is the problem of mortgage arrears and the threat of repossession that has inevitably generated most public controversy and attracted most media attention, negative equity has the potential to cause much more economic and social damage in the long term. An entire generation finds itself trapped in homes that are now worth only a fraction of what they originally paid for them, with no prospect of prices recovering for years, perhaps decades, to come.
However, lower house prices aren't all bad news -- far from it. One of the factors undermining Irish competitiveness in the noughties, during which Ireland slipped from fifth to twenty-first place in the world competitiveness rankings, was soaring property prices. As rents and mortgages grew ever dearer, workers were able to demand higher wages in a booming economy while employers were able to pass on these higher wages by increasing their prices.
The property price collapse means that we have been able to get off the treadmill of higher housing costs leading to higher wages, which in turn led to higher prices throughout the economy. It may be scant consolation to those grappling with mortgage arrears or negative equity, but lower house prices are an essential first step towards restoring our international competitiveness and laying the foundations for recovery.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
A UNANIMOUS Supreme Court ruling has refused the Revenue an order for sale of lands co-owned by a man and his estranged wife so as to execute judgment orders obtained against him. This has major implications for creditors seeking to sell co-owned property to satisfy a judgment mortgage obtained against just one owner.
The effect of the decision is that courts have no jurisdiction to make an order for sale of the entirety of co-owned property, in lieu of partition of such property, to enforce a judgment mortgage.
The Revenue had sought orders entitling it to sell 19 hectares in Co Cork owned by Thomas and Carmel Deasy to satisfy three judgments obtained by it against Mr Deasy.
In 2004, the Revenue secured charging orders over Mr Deasy’s interest in the lands but in 2006 the High Court ruled it was not entitled to an order for sale of the lands and the Supreme Court has upheld that order.
The Revenue is involved in at least 20 similar cases, while other cases were deferred pending yesterday’s decision by the three-judge court comprising Ms Justice Fidelma Macken, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell.
While Mr Deasy had since reached a settlement with the Revenue, it asked the Supreme Court to determine the issues due to their relevance to other cases.
The Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray, previously said the issues were of “fundamental importance” to the Revenue and remained live in the context of the continued exercise of its power to recover outstanding taxes.
The issues also had important implications for the property rights of co-owners of registered land against whom it was sought to enforce judgment orders, he noted.
The Revenue’s action was against Mr Deasy, but Ms Deasy was later joined to the case by order of the High Court as she was a co-owner of the lands.
Ms Deasy raised an issue whether the High Court had jurisdiction to give a judgment creditor a remedy for enforcement of their judgment mortgage when that remedy affected not just the judgment debtor but the co-owner of the property.
Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Mr Justice Finnegan stressed the sole issue for determination in the case was whether the court could order a sale in lieu of partition of the Deasy lands. The Revenue had not sought an order for partition of the lands or for sale of Mr Deasy’s interest in them, he noted.
He found the High Court was correct in holding it had no jurisdiction under the Partition Act 1868 to make an order, on the application of the Revenue as a judgment mortgagee of registered lands, for sale of the lands in lieu of partition.
He was also satisfied the Registration of Title Act 1964 did not give the court power to order partition of property, or sale in lieu of partition, at the suit of a judgment mortgagee of registered land.
By Kieron WoodThe average premium for professional indemnity insurance (PII) has risen by 56 per cent in the last 12 months, a survey of solicitors’ firms has found.
The survey, carried out on behalf of the Law Society by market research firm Behaviour and Attitudes, showed average total premiums for firms rising from €24,695 in 2009 to €38,416 last year.
Firms with a poor claims history were paying three times as much as those with fewer claims, with increases averaging 132 per cent.
Overall, one in five firms admitted making a PII claim over the past five years but, while 90 per cent of such firms had implemented risk-management procedures, this did not necessarily result in reduced premiums.
In total,770 firms responded to the survey, which found that two thirds of the PII market was now served by just two insurance firms, XL Insurance and the Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund (SMDF), following the departure of RSA and Quinn from the market over the past 12 months. SMDF is now insolvent and will not be writing any new business for this year’s renewal date on December 1.
Last year, 43 per cent of firms changed their insurer. More than two thirds of firms were notified of their 2011 premium less than 12 days before the renewal date.
‘‘The consequent shortage of time given to firms to consider quotes is a key factor causing them difficulty in renewing their PII," said the survey.
Law Society director general Ken Murphy said the survey was ‘‘objective evidence of the extraordinary increases in cost, stress and uncertainty in the annual professional indemnity insurance renewal’’.
‘‘The survey lays bare the lack of competition resulting from the withdrawal of so many insurers from this market.
It shows why an ever-increasing number of solicitors is questioning whether the current system is sustainable," he said. ‘‘Insurance costs are spiralling upwards, while fee income is plummeting. Solicitors feel as if they are standing with one foot in each of two boats that are steadily moving apart."
This will be unsustainable for many firms.
FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor
AN TAISCE has appealed against Louth County Council’s decision to approve plans for a ski resort next to Dundalk Racecourse, likening it to the “unsustainable” Tipperary Resort planned for Two-Mile-Borris, Co Tipperary.
The ski slope, enclosed to ensure year-round use, would be 52m (170ft) high – twice the height of the nearby racecourse stand – and forms part of a larger project “likely to include a bid to develop a Las Vegas-type casino”, according to An Taisce.
The Dubai-style Snowflex ski slope would be the largest in Europe, with a main slope 210m long and 60m wide as well as a beginners’ area. The two slopes would have combined capacity for 500 skiers.
With a total floor area of 44,246sq m (476,264sq ft), elements of the resort already approved include the ski slope as well as a bowling alley, cinema, private members gaming, an aquatic leisure centre and a 128-bed “family hostel”. The Altitude Ski Resort, planned by Innovative Leisure Systems Ltd (ILS), would also include sports-related shops, restaurants and bars, parking for 32 coaches and 791 cars and a new roundabout on the N52 Dundalk inner relief road.
“We’re over the moon to have been granted planning permission,” Sam Curran, of ILS, told the Dundalk Democrat. “Getting the go-ahead was the major thing from the point of view of investors, and leisure is one area where there is still investment.
“The appetite worldwide for leisure products is there . . . and our hope is that this resort will create spin-off opportunities for people,” he said, adding that cruise liners attracted by the resort could dock at the deep water port in Greenore, Co Louth.
In its environmental impact statement, ILS forecast that the resort would attract 1.15 million annual visits after its first phase was completed, rising to 6.2 million when the remaining phases (including the casino) were built.
But in its appeal to An Bord Pleanála, An Taisce described the scheme as “the epitome of unsustainable development”, based on a business model of “attracting millions of tourists from around the world to a modestly-sized regional Irish town . . . to go skiing”.
The trust’s heritage officer, Ian Lumley, said: “In the context of the calamitous property collapse which has occurred since 2007, it defies credulity that the local authority, the applicant and the investors could consider this proposal to have merit.”
He said the scheme was “more like a proposal from the past boom-time of Dubai than contemporary Ireland” yet it was coming concurrently with a proposal for a Las Vegas-type casino, multipurpose arena and racecourse in Co Tipperary.
“Both applications reflect the bubble stage of the Irish property boom, which has left an unprecedented debt crisis and legacy of ghost estates, excess capacity in hotel rooms and other categories of land use and the huge Nama loan portfolio,” Mr Lumley wrote.
An Taisce was basing its appeal on a recent statement by John O’Connor, outgoing chairman of An Bord Pleanála, that it was “incumbent on planning authorities” to take account of realities such as climate change, energy costs and minimising heritage loss.
It noted that the 140-acre site is located on inter-tidal grasslands and saltmarsh “immediately adjacent to and encroaching on” the Dundalk Bay Special Protection Area under the EU wildbirds directive, which was one of Ireland’s “most important wintering waterfowl sites”.
An Taisce said it would have an impact on views towards the Cooley Mountains and noted a submission from Dundalk Racecourse raising concern about its flood impact on the racecourse as well as safety, traffic and operational issues.
This is a fantastically renovated home in Oliver Plunkett Terrace.
Ideal for rental or first-timer.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Organic equestrian property close to Clonmel. From 6-36 acres, with stables and cottage. Bio-digester heating system. Fab scenery.
#organic, #equestrian, #Clonmel, #Co Tipperary
Pat Quirke MSCSI MRICS
P F Quirke & Co Ltd
44 Gladstone St
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
We are noticing a large increase in viewings and offers on property in general, but this is limited to properties that are "competitively priced" ie, seen as cheap!
Less than 3 weeks ago, we started marketing this house at Our Lady's Road, New Inn, Co Tipperary.
Since then, we have had 11 viewings and 15 offers.
It is now making more than the Guide Price and there are going to be a number of disappointed underbidders.
This has been repeated on numerous occasions this year, in locations all over South Tipperary.
We have sold more homes in the first 4 months of this year than in ALL of last year!
It shows, in this market, pricing is all-important.
When we value houses for sale, we advise the owner to offer the house at a price that will result in a sale.
Perhaps up to 50% of Vendors do not heed that advice.
Their homes remain on the market for longer than they should.
In a falling market, they end up taking less for the house than if it had been priced to current market values initially.
They waste time and cause frustration to themselves and others (and us!).
If selling, it is important to take note of prices achieved, not prices being sought.
Currently, there is a huge variance in some quoting prices and actual prices.
Some agents are "valuing" houses at 2008-2009 levels, not realising that we are in 2011.
These same agents are selling little or nothing at present.
It is important to use an agent that is achieving sales.
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
By Paul Melia, Brian McDonald and Treacy Hogan
Friday May 06 2011
DEVELOPERS have taken massive hits on the value of their land banks, as one-in-three local authorities have dezoned land earmarked for development.
The moved has wiped hundreds of millions off the value of land across the country -- with taxpayers facing a massive bill for NAMA loans linked to land returning to agricultural use.
Planning Minister Willie Penrose said yesterday that 12 of the State's 34 local authorities had made changes to their development plans which has resulted in thousands of sites now being classed as unsuitable for development.
Last year, local authorities were ordered to dezone, rezone or forbid development on massive land banks to comply with tough new planning guidelines which set out where houses and commercial units could be built.
The move came because councillors had zoned enough land during the boom years to build more than a million homes that were not needed.
Councils had previously zoned more than 44,000 hectares of land for housing over the past decade.
This was 31,633 hectares more than was actually needed.
Any development land that is dezoned instantly loses a huge portion of its value.
This equates to enough land for almost 1.5m houses and apartments -- but just 400,000 units are needed up to 2016, according to the Department of the Environment.
Speaking at the National Planning Conference in Galway, the minister said that 12 local authorities have already changed their development plans, adding that all 34 councils will have dezoned land by the end of October.
"I recognise that this is a difficult task for local authorities but I am encouraged at the progress made to date," he said.
A reliance on development levies along with pressure from developers and landowners led to a frenzy of rubber-stamping during the boom. One-third, or €20bn, of the toxic property loans going into NAMA are linked to land, meaning taxpayers could be stuck with massive loans linked to fields that may never be developed.
Mr Penrose also said that a blueprint to tackle ghost estates is to be published next week.
More than 2,800 housing estates have been identified where construction has started but has not been completed.
- Paul Melia, Brian McDonald and Treacy Hogan
By Nicola Anderson
Friday May 06 2011
A FIRESALE billed as a "bite of the D4 cherry" managed to net sales of €1m within the first two minutes of officially opening last night.
Investors snapped up a total of seven apartments, mostly one-beds, at the landmark Gasworks development in Dublin 4, which went on sale almost two years after being seized by Ulster Bank from bankrupt developer Liam Carroll.
It wasn't quite in the league of last month's property shemozzle at the Shelbourne when more than 81 properties were sold for €15m. But in a nostalgic nod to the property's go-go years, a crowd of about 20 people came along to a special "preview" of showhouses at the Gasworks last night.
Among them were families, several pregnant women, and young couples keen to dip a toe into the property market.
At a 65pc discount from the boom years, they were as confident as they could be of a canny buy.
Tim Ryan was casting an eye over the development for "professional reasons" and believes the Shelbourne auction was the turning point for investors.
The PR consultant was confident that buyers can now be "fairly sure" that prices have more or less bottomed out.
Conferring in low voices, the visitors toured the apartments, which are decorated in bland good taste. But some display signs of a hasty departure by builders, with cracked grout in some bathrooms, dusty mirrors, and skylights dribbled with plaster.
"We looked at these when they were three times the price about five years ago," confided one would-be purchaser, who preferred to remain nameless.
Sanam Khosraviani (31) and her fiance Daragh O'Shea were looking for a family home. Ms Khosraviani is already renting an apartment at the Gasworks but yesterday they were viewing houses and apartments -- ranging from €325,000 to €370,000.
"I really like living here and the location is great, but the price is still expensive," she said, expressing some surprise that so many had come to view the development.
"I think it's a good time to buy -- at least I hope so -- but there is always a worry that prices will go down again."
Anne McGillycuddy, another would-be purchaser who is also renting nearby, said she "might" be interested in buying.
But she cautiously added that she would prefer to rent there for a year in case prices fall further and also so that she can see if she likes it enough to buy.
- Nicola Anderson
The homeowners had opted to move from trackers to fixed rates, but the bank had failed to observe Central Bank rules about the need to warn the customers of the cost implications of giving up a tracker.
Those who completed their fixed-rate period were put on to a variable interest rate -- but they would have been very unlikely to change had they known the cost difference between a tracker and variable rate. Tracker mortgages are regarded as great value because they are set at very low levels and can only rise when the Europe Central Bank (ECB) raises its main rate.
Some mortgage holders have trackers set as low as 0.5pc above the ECB rate, with most set at 1.1pc above the ECB rate.
Now it has emerged that a review by the Central Bank found that 2,096 mortgage holders at Bank of Ireland and its mortgage subsidiary ICS were not given enough information by the bank about the cost of giving up their trackers when they sought to lock in to a fixed rate.
Compensation of up to €2,000 per customer will now be paid to those who switched from a tracker to a fixed rate and the customers will be able to return to their tracker rates.
One customer explained on askaboutmoney.com that he had a tracker set at 0.95pc above the ECB rate. This means he was paying an interest rate of 1.95pc.
The homeowner fixed for three years and at the end of this should have been allowed to return to the tracker. Instead the bank put him on a standard variable rate of 2.7pc.
The difference between the two rates amounts to €40 a month on each €100,000 borrowed.
A spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland confirmed the mistake had been uncovered following a review by the Central Bank.
"The review identified 2,096 customers to whom the bank has agreed to offer the tracker rate as specified in their original mortgage loan documentation," she said.
The Central Bank has strict rules requiring lenders to set out in detail and in writing to customers the exact cost of giving up a tracker.
Questioned yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Central Bank said it had been engaging with Bank of Ireland and ICS in the past months on the matter.
"As a result, Bank of Ireland/ICS is currently contacting 2,096 customers who will be offered the tracker rate set out in their original loan documentation and issuing payments, where applicable, to reflect the difference in rates.
"Customers who were on a tracker rate and who subsequently moved to a fixed rate which has not yet expired will be offered their original tracker rate at the end of this fixed- rate period."
- Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Castlelands Construction, one of the best-known building firms in Munster, has called a creditors’ meeting amid efforts by the Revenue Commissioners to have the company wound up, writes Gavin Daly.
Castlelands was founded in 1988 by John Barry and grew to employ 500 staff.
The firm has built several housing developments in Munster and also worked on commercial buildings and infrastructure projects. It is also active in Britain.
A winding-up petition by the Revenue is due to be heard in the High Court on May 16. However, the firm has called a creditors’ meeting for Friday, May 13, at the Hibernian Hotel in Mallow.
Castlelands has significant borrowings with AIB, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, which have been transferred to Nama.
Castlelands registered as an unlimited company in 2007, meaning it no longer files publicly-available accounts.
Its most recent available accounts show turnover of €28.8 million in 2005 and a profit of more than €671,000. It owed more than €30 million to banks at the end of 20
THE COMMERCIAL value of every business paying rates in Dublin city is to be recalculated for the first time in 100 years by the Valuation Office.
The process of assessing how much each of the 25,000 businesses in the capital should pay in rates to Dublin City Council will begin immediately, the office said, with the issuing of valuation forms in the coming days, and will not be completed until 2013.
The recalculation will be based on the value of properties and businesses on April 7th, 2011, and will mean some firms will pay lower rates than in previous years.
The rates paid to local authorities by businesses are based on the assessments made by the Valuation Office of the worth of each commercial property in the State. These figures are then multiplied by a rate set by each of the 88 local authorities each year in their annual budgets, and a bill is then sent to each business.
In relation to shops, offices and industrial premises, the valuation is based on an estimated rental value for the property, while for hotels the valuation is based on a receipts and expenditure calculation.
The revaluation process is “revenue neutral”, meaning that the recalculation of the value of a premises will not bring in any extra fees for the city council.
Rather it will result in a fairer distribution of the burden of rates, which inevitably means there will be winners and losers, according to a spokesman for the Valuation Office.
“Even though property values have fallen generally, not everyone will gain from the revaluation – there will be winners and losers. It depends on how the rental value of each property changes relative to other property values.”
Irish Hotels Federation president Paul Gallagher said he would expect his members to be “winners” following the Dublin city revaluation, given the deterioration in the profitability of the sector.
“Hotels and guesthouses subsidise other commercial ratepayers. It’s been proven that the hotel sector has been bearing far too great a burden of rates.”
Revaluations which had already taken place in other Dublin local authority areas had resulted in rates for hotels being revised downwards by at least 30 per cent, Mr Gallagher added.
While the Dublin revaluation was welcome, the slow pace of progress would result in many hoteliers being put out of business by exorbitant rates before their local authority area was reassessed, he said.
“It’s 10 years since the Valuation Act was introduced. There is a complete lack of urgency about this process and no timetable for reviewing local authority areas outside Dublin.”
In addition to the unfair rates burden hotels were bearing, hoteliers felt they were getting little in return from local authorities for their money.
“My members are looking outside their front doors to see roads full of holes and lanes full of rubbish and they’re thinking: ‘What am I paying rates for?’ ”
The completion of the Dublin city revaluation would mean 60 per cent of businesses in the State were revalued, the Valuation Office spokesman said. The programme would then be rolled out to other local authority areas.
We need this all over the country...now!
THE €25 million being offered by an investor as part of the rescue plan for housebuilders McInerney was well below the potential value of the company’s assets, counsel for three banks objecting to the plan has told the Supreme Court.
Senior counsel Michael Collins, for KBC, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland, who are owed €113 million by McInerney, said the banks and other parties agreed the best way to realise and manage the assets was to develop the lands that the company owned.
The banks, the company, and the examiner, who has recommended an investment by US equity fund, Oaktree Capital, as part of the rescue plan, all agreed this was a “very good business opportunity”, Mr Collins said.
In those circumstances the offer of €25 million to meet the banks’ €113 million debt amounted to unfair prejudice, counsel said.
He was opposing McInerney’s appeal against the High Court’s rejection of the rescue plan on grounds one of the creditor banks, Belgium-based KBC, would be unfairly prejudiced by it. The banks oppose examinership and want a receiver appointed to the firm.
The Supreme Court reserved its decision on the appeal yesterday.
The banks have also cross-appealed against the decision of Mr Justice Frank Clarke to allow the High Court case to be re-opened, after he had previously decided all three banks would be prejudiced by the rescue plan.
Mr Justice Clarke revisited his decision after he was told there was a likelihood the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) would take over the loans to McInerney from the two Irish banks.
In his final decision, he ruled, even where a rescue plan was unfairly prejudicial to only one party, it remained unfairly prejudicial.
In submissions yesterday, Mr Collins said the court should ignore that Nama may take over the two Irish banks’ loans because Nama had indicated it would do nothing until the examinership was completed.
The examiner could not stand over his original recommendation that €25 million from Oaktree was the best that could be secured when, once Nama came into the picture, there was a further additional offer of almost €6.6 million to compensate non-Nama bank KBC, Mr Collins said.
That would have been a big write-down. I would assume their is more intrinsic value in the portfolio than the offer. Thoughts?
Friday, May 6, 2011
The Ormonde Centre is a Town Centre development of the former Tesco unit on Gladstone St.
6th Sense are taking 230 sq m (2500sq ft) with a frontage to Gladstone St.
This comes after the successful opening of DV8 in the same location last November.
We are in talks with a number of other leading retailers and hope to announce further deals shortly.
This continues the regeneration of the Town Centre, which our firm promotes.
For further information please contact Pat Quirke 052 6121 622 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Press release from 6th Sense below:
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
THE Central Statistics Office (CSO) is to launch a House Price Index next month which will reveal the average prices paid for each type of dwelling around the country since 2005.
The data is based on information from eight financial institutions which has been handed over to the CSO as part of a European-wide harmonised consumer price index for property prices which will come into force next year.
The index, based on the drawdown of mortgages each month, will be able to calculate the average price per square metre paid for each type of property and how those prices have changed over the last six years, according to CSO statistician Niall O’Hanlon.
The index will therefore be able to track the way each segment of the market is performing, so for example, we’ll be able to see if theres been a collapse in demand for one-bed flats or an increased demand for family homes.
A report on the state of the market will be released each month after the launch of the index on Friday, May 13. A worrying date but we already know the horrors it’s likely to contain. Meanwhile, the Department of Finance has also been working on a house price plan, but its priority will probably be related to the possible introduction a property tax instead of a wider view of the market.
AUDITORS TO the property group behind one of the Republic’s biggest shopping malls, Dundrum Town Centre, warned that the company was relying on the State’s assets agency, Nama, and its bankers to continue as a going concern.
Documents recently made available by the Companies’ Registration Office show that in their report on its 2009 accounts, Castlethorn Construction’s auditors, accountancy firm, BDO, said that the company was in ongoing talks with its lenders, including Nama, regarding its debts.
Their report states that the “the group’s ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on the continued support of its lenders”.
Castlethorn, controlled by Joe O’Reilly, was the developer of Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin, which is one of the biggest shopping centres in the Republic, and one of the developers of Adamstown, the new town to the west of Dublin.
Its bank debts were amongst the first tranche to go into Nama. The agency does not normally comment on individual cases or companies.
It is likely that the group is working on the details of its business plan with the State agency. Its lenders included Anglo Irish Bank and AIB, two of the five institutions taking part in the Nama process.