Wednesday 21 March 2018

Bargain hunters eager to snap up cut-price mansions

The Humewood Castle Estate, Kiltegan, Co Wicklow
The Humewood Castle Estate, Kiltegan, Co Wicklow
Abbeville. Phote: David Conachy


It cost well over €10m to build the 85-bedroom Atlantic Coast hotel, tastefully incorporating an imposing granite facade that was once part of the old mills that overlooked the harbour in Westport.

But that was 1999. Now the hotel, which is trading profitably under the management of receivers Grant Thornton, is on the market for just €1.2m – or about €14,000 per room.

Local sources say the bargain-basement price for a four-star hotel has already attracted interest from Irish investors including some from hotel groups already operating along the western seaboard.

They may face competition from international investors who are picking up bargains in the Irish hotel sector in prime locations.

The Atlantic Coast Hotel appears to fall into that category – given its location in Westport – that has fared better during the recession than other tourist spots in the West.

It comes with bar and restaurant, conference and banqueting facilities, spa and swimming pool and on-site parking for 58 cars.

One of the key drivers of the international interest is a significant tax incentive, which will be removed at the end of the year.

If a property is bought before December 31 next and kept for seven years, the property owners will not have to pay Capital Gains Tax when they dispose of the property – whatever the profit.

There is another astonishing bargain in Co Kildare where the highly rated Knockanally Golf Course is for sale with an asking price of just €700,000.

Not only does it come with the highly rated golf course on some 120 acres with a first hole that Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor described as "the most difficult opening hole in golf", but there is also the impressive Knockanally House, built in 1843 in what is known as the Italianate style, as well as five newly constructed mews houses, four three-bedroom homes all around 1,500 square feet, and a mid-terrace two-bed at a more modest 965 square feet.

The sale comes at the same time that Charlie Haughey's old home is also on the market at what appears to be a bargain price.

When builder Joe Moran of Manor Park Homes swooped 10 years ago and paid a whopping €45m for Mr Haughey's Kinsealy estate and the imposing Gandon-designed mansion Abbeville, his competitors were green with envy.

Haughey's north county Dublin pile had a lot going for it – some 250 acres of prime development land a stone's throw from the seaside village of Malahide, just seven miles from O'Connell Street and a five-minute drive from the airport.

But Manor Park Homes went into receivership and the heady days of 2003 are long gone.

Now, the whole lot is for sale again. Ten years after it was bought for €45m, Abbeville, its stud farm, man-made lake and all the estate trimmings including a gardener's cottage and two gate lodges can be bought for €7.5m.

And some property experts are saying that even at that heavily discounted price, the receiver may have to sweeten the deal even further.

But who will buy it? The pool of Irish purchasers is small and it may well be an international buyer who will hold court in Abbeville.

Irish-American billionaire John Malone, who heads up Liberty Global, bought Humewood Castle, the picture-perfect neo-gothic pile in the heart of Wicklow with 427 acres, for a price reputed to be a touch over €7m.

It looks like a bargain.

As agricultural land, the holding is worth more than €4m.

Charles Noell, who co-founded JMI Equity in Baltimore, Maryland, has bought Ardbraccan – a huge palladian mansion in the heart of Co Meath near Navan.

The house has 15 bedrooms, six of them suites, and is more than 23,000 square feet.

The tastefully refurbished mansion sits in the middle of 120 acres but the asking price was just €4.9m.

Mr Noell, who sold the San Diego Padres baseball team for €800m, is understood to be interested in developing a horse-breeding facility.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News