Top hotels lead the big

Foreign investors aretaking advantage of sharply reduced prices, with the sale of the Burlington, Fota Island Hotel and others attracting American and Chinese investors. Realistic prices are helping to attract these overseas buyers and breathing some life into a moribund market. Tommy Barker says major property sales were also a good sign and it’s likely that receivership sales will feature more strongly in 2013.

THE country is wide open to visitors, à la the Gathering, in 2013, and it’s also open for property cherry-picking.

International eyes are eyeing up — and snapping up — some of the country’s best built assets, being sold at a fraction of boom time prices, yet assets that Irish buyers can’t seem to afford to fund.

Overseas cash is buying property now that will prove to be both viable and profitable now and into the future, thanks to very realistic values.

The Americans are leading the charge, swarming over distressed loans and assets (see page 7 for an insight into their debt buying spree) while the Chinese and Russians are buying up hotels good-o too.

A Chinese buyer has come to the fore in the case of Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort, acquiring the 500 acre five-star hotel, spa and golf idyll in Cork harbour for just over €20m from Nama, having cost developer John Fleming €90m to deliver.

It’s a gem, and there’s still future value in the grounds and the course, says joint selling agent Maurice Cohalan, who noted that while the buyer was from the other side ofthe world, the deal was all done at local level by surveyors, engineers, lawyers and both buying and selling agents.

Making the same sort of sum in 2012 was Dublin’s Morrison Hotel, sold toa Russian woman for €22m, while American-based Blackstone Real Estate (assets of $54bn) had its European arm pick up the iconic Burlington hotel in Dublin for €67m via CBRE, promising to spend a further €16m on it to guarantee its future business hold.

An American-linked buyer is said to be behind Kerry’s €10m Parknasilla swoop, a deal due to close late next week via Savills, who also sold the quirky Cork International Airport Hotel during the year for around €5m.

An American buyer came to the fray and fore to buy Wicklow’s Humewood Castle, for around €8 million: at one stage, it was going to be the centrepiece of a major golf and hotel development.

Outside of Dublin (and excluding Humewood,) top house sale was possibly West Cork’s Seamark at €3.7m, a hotel-sized price (see p2/3.)

A good clutch of Dublin’s top homes, in Shrewsbury and Ailesbury Roads, sold in 2012, from €2.5m to €10m and more are in the pipeline for early 2013, say Colliers.

In a week in which the banks said they’d move on distressed home loans and — blackly, with family home repossessions beckoning for next year — Colliers added that receivership sales will feature more strongly in ‘13.

Returning ex-pats are among the cash buyers, it notes, and auctions are back in vogue for the best stock.

Auctions of other, often less salubrious stock continued through 2012, with the likes of Allsops continuing to dispose of hundreds of lots (making €68m in 2012), with cash buyers to the fore: Sherry FitzGerald estimate that 46% of all transactions in the year just ending were for cash.


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