MICHAEL CLIFFORD: Anyone want to bid on 14 vacant houses... anyone?

Auctioneer Gary Murphy: 'This man can sell, no question about it. Hehas the perfect pitch, just enough push without appearing pushy.'

Anybody out there with a few bob interested in picking up 14 houses for half a million quid? Michael Clifford attends an auction for Celtic Tiger era properties

Go on, it’s a snip. These little gems, built during the Celtic Tiger’s gallop, are situated just 10 miles south of Wexford. And there’s nobody living there to bother you. Think of the fun you could have with 14 vacant houses.

These properties, which consisted of lot #229 in yesterday’s Allsop Property auction in the RDS, went unsold. What is wrong with you people? Don’t you know that the Tiger has been raised from the dead?

Allsop is into its stride. When the UK auctioneer first began flogging off distressed property in Dublin two years ago, a rogue element of distressed people caused a kerfuffle. Many of the lots had been repossessed by the banks. Allsop, in the minds of the distressed, had the cut of a vulture feeding off the misery inflicted by the recession. The guards had to be called and proceedings briefly suspended.

Things have moved on. These days the fun takes place in the salubrious location of the RDS. A section of the grounds outside the door is cordoned off by fencing. Three members of An Garda Síochána are on duty. Entry is strictly monitored to prevent infiltration by any groups who take issue with the sanctity of the market.

A security detail numbering at least a dozen patrols both inside and outside the building. These lads are togged out like undertakers, which may be appropriate considering the business at hand. A deposit of €100 is required for entry, and a bank draft or cheque to the value of 10% of the deposit of any property that has taken your fancy. Photographic ID is demanded. Who knows? Maybe Allsop is on the radar of Islamic State.

Inside, the going is fair to middling in a hall that is around half full with a largely middle-aged attendance. Allsop’s top man Gary Murphy is tearing through the lots. This man can sell, no question about it. He has the perfect pitch, just enough push without appearing pushy. Sufficient charm to ensure no charge of condescending would ever stick.

Here and there he commends a successful bidder with a “well fought, sir”, as if the purchaser had just survived 10 rounds in a cage with Conor McGregor.

When one of a number of lots don’t reach the reserve price, Mr Murphy goes gently into the night of that sale. “Shall I move on?” he asks of a bidder who will bid no more than twenty grand shy of the reserve. “Let me take your number, sir. I’ll see what we can do afterwards,” he says, referencing the large numbers that all bidders wear around their necks. There’s always a chance that the seller will grasp reality and drop the reserve in the deflated aftermath of an unsold lot.

And the fare on view would suggest the seller in many instances is still from that quarter that includes banks, receivers and assorted personnel called in to clean up a mess left by soured deals, dreams and plans.

For the most striking feature of the Allsops auction yesterday was the number of properties that are vacant. Whether it be nice semi-ds in desirable addresses or a block of apartments in rural heartlands, again and again, the properties on offer were marked “vacant possession”.

Notwithstanding the importance of location, the idea that there are so many properties lying idle at a time when housing people has reached a crisis point exposes a festering sore in a country allegedly getting back its economic mojo.

Soon after four o’clock the last of the 378 lots of residential and commercial properties goes under the hammer. This auction took place over two days and Allsop will be back for more towards the end of next month.

Despite its rocky start, the format is here to stay, servicing an economy in which a large cohort of distressed assets can be matched with a considerable number of people who appear to have plenty of cash to invest. You sir? Surely you could find some use for a dozen vacant apartments in the middle of nowhere?


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