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Home truths: The belated sale of big debt piles


Estate agents say that some people who moved out, actually took the light bulbs with them

Estate agents say that some people who moved out, actually took the light bulbs with them

Estate agents say that some people who moved out, actually took the light bulbs with them

IF you look online today - at homes for sale above a certain price - you'll see a great many very large properties which are empty and devoid of furniture.

Many are the sort of abode that come with acres of hotel-standard wool carpets upstairs, walls thrice licked by Farrow and Ball and kitchens that cost three college educations to install.

Great big light-carved rooms wide and void and empty. Not a stick of sit-down to be seen in any of the clutch of receptions, and home gyms are devoid of equipment.

There are big empty period piles acquired at auction in Tiger times for 100 times an average annual salary and which have subsequently had another 40 salaries pumped into their innards - spent on travertine marble and the planet's most expensive everything.

Some come with garage hangars that once housed his and hers SUVs and a fleet of sporty runabouts for the teen juniors.

There are spider guarded free-standing bathtubs ­­­­- great big soakers from the age of Victoria and fit for Cleopatra - once rescued from salvage yards and re-enamelled for the price of two years' worth of Venezuelan au pairing.

In more sophisticated rural parts, there are architect-built extravaganzas on minor grounds in glass and steel - some genuinely inspired - some grotesque because the owners knew better than their architects (remember when Homer Simpson got to design a car?).

Constructed and kitted for the price of a primary healthcare clinic, their empty interiors are today considerably more minimal inside than their Le Corbusiphile creators intended. Today the electric gates slide only to admit estate agents' vehicles.

Empty homes devoid of furniture don't usually appear for sale in such big numbers. Usually homes on offer are furnished because the residents themselves are selling them and it's a big bother to empty an abode completely until you move. Landlord vendors always want to show off their furnishings for a "contents" payment.

Typically, there are a number of reasons why a few empty homes might appear for sale at any given time. Often the owners have moved abroad or sometimes it's an executor sale and the contents have already been sold in a house clearance. But many of the empty mansions we see for sale today are coming to market as a result of forced or nudged departures.

Most, but not all, are the result of bank repossessions or persuasions.

Their sheer numbers suggest a big push by the bank against the top end mortgage debt whales.

After a five-year phony war between the banks and the palatial defaulters, the big shove has finally happened. Apart from the occasional high profile Alamo stand-off, these homes appear to have at last been emptied and brought to market in numbers.

What is quite startling to behold is just how long it took for the lending institutions (some Irish taxpayer owned or propped up) to get their big bad debt houses in order - how many years it has taken them to start taking these palatial piles back from spectacularly broke owners - some of whom have had the benefit of their palaces for five years while failing to service mortgages that run up to six figures.

Because it is many years past since the same banks began their two-call-a-week autodial campaigns against Joe Semi-D Soap for the sake of his two missed mortgage payments.

We can only surmise that, despite being in the red for those palatial sums and being unable to pay the mortgage, many of the one-house debt whales have managed to remain living in their high brow homes because they continue to have access to the best lawyers, the best golf contacts and still powerful business networks. Is this why they have been able to fend off years of weak kneed suggestions from Irish banks that itjust might be time to pay the piper?

And amidst occasional high profile stand-offs and emotional flaps about eviction from palace homes, what seems to be lost here is that the Irish tax payer has skin in this game.

The mind-boggling amounts of debt tied up in these piles must now be recouped on behalf of the Irish taxpayer - who bailed out the banks that loaned for all the travertine.

But the cash recoupment prospects that remain today in those free-standing bath tubs and SUV hangars have not been enhanced at all by virtue of sticking all these spangly pads to market together in one go. Is it a car boot sale?

Meantime estate agents say that when they finally moved out, some actually took the light bulbs with them.

Indo Property