No bargain basements at property auction

IT was billed as a cut-price sale to resuscitate the property market but anyone looking for bargain basement – or even a cheap attic or budget bedroom – was disappointed by the country’s first mega-auction.

More than 60 properties were on offer at the half-day super-sale organised by the Real Estate Alliance network of estate agents and eight were dispatched to new owners with the thud of the hammer.

Seven others sold prior to the auction, so the organisers were hoping to prove they had located a pulse in their moribund industry. But for most of the event, held in the optimistically titled Great Room of Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel, the quest for buyer confidence was akin to the search for life on Mars.

A third of the properties attracted no bids at all – not even an accidental expression of interest registered through an ill-timed head-scratch.

The majority were withdrawn when bids failed to reach the reserve. For despite the auctioneers’ insistence that their valuations were realistic, house-hunters and investors clearly occupy a different reality.

One couple who had their eye on a bungalow in Co Wicklow valued at €245,000 said they wouldn’t be raising their hands unless it was looking to sell at around €180,000.

“It’s still way over-valued,” said himself. “We’ve viewed it and it needs a good bit of work. We’re here really to see how things go because we’re looking at properties all over the country.”

As it happened, the house went for €227,000 after a reasonable amount of activity on the bidding floor.

Earlier, auction chairman, Philip Farrell, had warned there would be no detailed descriptions, no flowery language and no effusion about the properties, such was the need to do speedy business.

But as hands stayed firmly clasped on laps, the air was soon filled with “exquisite,” “exacting standards” and “superb opportunity” although Mr Farrell was forced to concede in the face of such under-whelming response: “You’d never know there’s a recession on.”

Two people who did get out the chequebook were farmers Denis Tierney and Mary Hyland, who won one of the day’s few bidding wars to claim 81 acres of agricultural land a few miles from their home in Co Westmeath.

Valued at €500,000, they got it for €440,000, a deal Denis said he was happy with, although he was coy about revealing how much more he would have been willing to spend.

“There’s a bit of change in the pocket,” Mary smiled. “Enough to buy a heifer maybe – and a new pair of wellingtons for me.”

Humour aside, the auction was a reminder of how far the economy has to go to even enter the joining lane to the road to recovery.

One lot comprised two retail units in Co Cavan, close to Derrylin where the bleak news about Quinn Insurance was being delivered. It was valued at €550,000 but was withdrawn without a single bid despite the reserve dipping to €400,000.

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