Second and final part.
The Irish love affair with property.
The roots of our national obsession with property run deep into the Irish psyche and never did this become more apparent than during the Celtic Tiger, when Ireland experienced unprecedented house price inflation, driven by a massive increase in the volume of private mortgage dept.
And in this overly inflated property bubble what did we Irish do when domestic prices skyrocketed? We tried to quench our insatiable appetite abroad and a veritable frenzy of buying overseas properties began.
And as financial institutions indiscriminately threw money at everyone for this second dream property that we so richly deserved, our broadcast and print media enticed and prodded everyone to get on the property ladder or be left behind.
But no sooner had we handed over money we didn’t really have, to sales agents and developers in far flung corners of the globe – then the bubble burst and the hopes and dreams of thousands of Irish people who invested in overseas properties ruptured with it…
Burnt by the Sun, a two-part series for RTÉ
In the heyday of the Celtic Tiger, lrish property was priced so far out of reach that we began to look overseas to satisfy our appetite. Financial institutes readily offered equity release and second mortgages. We were bombarded with sales pitches on tv and radio, and property newspaper supplements were bulging with opportunities. The message was clear: living the dream was well within our grasp. Before long we were investors and it became the norm for people to take the plunge and buy abroad. And then came the crash.
Burnt by the Sun tells the stories of the many Irish people whose dreams became a nightmare and who are still to this day dealing with the fallout of financial decisions made in a time of unbridled consumer confidence, when everyone believed property was a safe bet.
Irish people who bought in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic and India share their stories.
The Irish who bought in Spain have had new hope in recent years. Since 2015 an old law, enacted by Franco was uncovered, allowing people who lost deposits on properties bought off plans to reclaim their investment with interest from Spanish
banks. But for most they continue to pay a hard price for a place in the sun that so often never materialised.
In 2018, consumer spending hit a high not experienced since 2007 at a time when Irish property is again beyond the reach of many. We’re looking good from the outside and property shows are back with the allure of a dream and a good deal…but will we have learned from the lessons of the past?
“They had used pensions. They had borrowed money to put deposits on these properties and it’s caused not only personal problems for them, it’s caused complete family breakdowns. I’ve made calls where people have said that the person who actually made the investment has committed suicide…I can just see the same thing happening over again as happened in 2008. Biggest regret of my life”. Ollie Reel
Ollie Reel from Armagh, has worked with hundreds of Irish people who have lost deposits on properties bought off-plan in Spain, to reclaim their deposits with interest from Spanish banks.
“My husband John received a phone call from the Spanish police, the Guardia Civil one day to say, ‘Are you aware that your house is illegal?’ We discovered that illegal construction is actually a criminal offense in Spain”. Maura Hillen O’Donoghue
Kilkenny woman Maura Hillen O’Donoghue campaigned for ten years for legislation to be introduced to protect thousands of homeowners in Spain whose properties were (being) threatened with demolitions and to legalise homes giving owners access to water and electricity. Against all odds, her and her team succeeded and in 2016 she was awarded an MBE for her work.
“Own your own vineyard in France – what could go wrong?”
“I would say we’re full of regrets. It’s definitely the worst decision we’ve made financially. You can’t actually even comprehend, you know, the amount of time and money and effort – just the toll on your mental health”.
For investors in the popular French Leaseback Scheme like Noel and Natasha, options to resolve the situation they have found themselves in has put them between a rock and a hard place.
“You’re in a foreign country have been presented with documents in a foreign language and your being asked to sign them. So, you’re sort of in the hands of the developer. My father-in-law had just retired. I’d got them to invest a chunk of their retirement money into this property and it’s gone”
“I tried to block it out for such a long time. I was most mad at myself for making such a foolish decision. It had so many other implications other than just buying a property and having nothing to show for it 12 years later 13 years later. You’re looking at over 200 euro easily for a pipe dream”.
Burnt by the Sun will be broadcast in two parts on RTÉ 1 on Monday March 30th and Monday April 6th at 9.35pm