BARGAIN hunters came out in force yesterday after bad bank NAMA put nearly 1,000 properties up for sale in the largest single sell-off in the history of the State.
The prospect of picking up a farm, pub, quarry, three-bed semi, hotel, apartment -- even an airport -- sparked an unprecedented wave of interest within hours of the list being published.
NAMA chiefs even promised to finance some of the sales as the agency announced losses of €1.18bn on dealings for last year.
It also revealed the extent to which NAMA is to recover money from reluctant debtors. In one case -- and as late as this week -- it seized jewellery worth €200,000 that had been given to a developer's partner.
NAMA bosses insisted they were not running a fire sale and kept asking prices and bids received a closely guarded secret last night.
But the reality is the agency will have to accept knockdown prices to get the property market moving and to meet strict financial targets laid down by the IMF.
That knowledge, combined with curiosity and thirst for a bargain, sent thousands on to the internet last night to pore over the portfolio.
Within hours, more than a thousand people had downloaded details.
NAMA's own switchboard was inundated and its staff fielded hundreds of enquiries -- before directing callers to the receivers that are handling the sales.
The list runs to 850 properties -- some of which are entire apartment blocks.
It includes everything from London pubs to fields in Offaly. But the 850 figure represents only one-tenth of the total number of property loans in NAMA.
The so-called 'bad bank' is even considering adding fine wines, art collections and jewellery that its officials have seized from troubled developers in its efforts to recoup money for the taxpayer.
NAMA is owed e72bn by borrowers from Ireland and abroad.
So far it has generated e2.6bn from sales and rental income.
The agency has also lent a further e900m in working capital to developers to finish off projects.
The agency has so far spent e46m on legal, audit, tax and board fees during the year.
Chief executive Brendan McDonagh earns a salary of e430,000, with chairman Frank Daly receiving e159,116.
The scale of the agency's customer debt was also laid bare yesterday.
For example, three developers owe more than e2bn each, but NAMA refused to name them. Another nine owe more than e1.5bn each.
Among the biggest debtors with NAMA are Sean Mulryan, Treasury Holdings, Joe O'Reilly of Castlethorn Construction, and Derek Quinlan, a former tax inspector.
For all its new-found transparency, NAMA still cannot reveal how much even the biggest debtors owe, or even who they are.
Mr McDonagh admitted yesterday that some developers had failed to make a fill disclosure of their assets when asked.
"Some of them forgot to put some things on the list,'' he said.
However, he said the lavish lifestyles of developers were now over.
"The helicopters are grounded," Mr McDonagh added.
Information on hidden assets was also becoming available.
"Ireland is a small country. It's amazing what people might mention they know -- information that is always welcome."
The launch of the NAMA list is a marketing coup on a scale not seen since fake punters queued over night for unavailable Dublin apartments at the height of the boom.
NAMA said it went public with the lists in the interest of transparency, but bargain hunters are hoping it's a sign the toxic loan agency is under pressure to up the pace in shifting its €30.5bn property book.
The list of properties runs to more than 800 so far-- some of those listed include multiple units in apartment blocks and retail centres, so there are more than 1,000 units involved altogether.
Even that number is just a tenth of the total number of property loans in NAMA.