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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Nama Perks For Developers...

Nama 'perks' for builders add to sense of injustice

Developers enjoying allowances on top of huge salaries -- and all at taxpayers' expense...


DEVELOPERS who work for Nama will be entitled to claim expenses and may even stay in their palatial homes as they draw salaries ranging from €70,000 to €200,000, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Confirmation of the generous allowances being given by the State's so-called 'bad bank' is sure to provoke fresh anger from a public reeling from the revelation by Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh last Wednesday that his agency has approved salaries of €200,000 for two of its biggest developers.

Appearing before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Mr McDonagh also confirmed Nama's intention to approve salaries ranging from €70,000 to €100,000 a year for between 110 and 120 developers on its books before the end of this year.

Confirmation of the multimillion euro pay bill has unsurprisingly been met with a furious reaction from a public already carrying the massive cost of bailing out the banks that were broken through reckless speculation in the property market.

Asked if it was right that Nama should allow developers to be paid up to €200,000 a year, 89 per cent of those surveyed in the latest Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll said that they did not. "I think it's totally unfair. Ordinary people are paying for their [developers] mistakes and they are now making huge wages to work in Nama," one female respondent to the poll said.

The news that the developers on Nama's books will also be entitled to claim expenses, and possibly even to stay in the palatial homes they acquired during the boom, is sure to add to this sense of injustice.

Referring to the entitlement of developers to claim expenses, a spokesman for Nama said: "The business plan for their [developers'] business will include resources from the income generated by the business to support the running costs of that business and this will include resources for payments for the key personnel that Nama judges to be necessary for the successful implementation of that plan and other costs including properly vouched for business-related expenses."

Asked if those developers working with Nama would be obliged to trade down from their present homes to more modest properties, the spokesman pointedly declined to say that this would be required in all cases.

"Typically their present homes will be brought into play as part of the business plan and the loan recovery process and trading down and sales of such homes has already begun," the spokesman said.

While such an assurance might go some way towards tempering the anger of hard-pressed taxpayers, Nama's decision to incentivise developers through the payment of a 10 per cent commission on future sales of the assets underpinning their loans will be a harder sell.

Outlining how the commissions will be paid, Mr McDonagh told the PAC that if developers recovered the acquisition price paid by Nama for the loan plus an additional 10 per cent, they would be allowed to keep 10 cent for every euro repaid above that "financial milestone".

The Nama chief again insisted there was no debt forgiveness for developers on the agency's books, saying they were obliged to repay the full €74.2bn owed. But Mr McDonagh readily conceded that achieving full repayment of this amount would not be possible in the current market where property values had fallen by 60 per cent.

He said there was "no pot of gold" beyond the properties securing the loans. "Gratuitous" court actions would be a waste of taxpayers' money if developers had no other money, Mr McDonagh added.

Report by Ronald Quinlan - Sunday Independent

Friday, 14 October 2011

Slowdown Stalls Completion Of Ghost Estates...

Building slowdown stalls attempt to complete 2,000 'ghost' estates...

WORK TO complete the State’s 2,000 unfinished housing developments has stalled due to a 40 per cent drop in on-site construction activity this year, according to the latest figures from the Department of the Environment.

However, the vacancy rate of completed houses on “ghost” estates has fallen by one-fifth since the department published its survey on the extent of the problem last year.

In addition, demolition has begun on estates were there is no prospect of completion, the department said.

Last October the department published its first national survey of the extent of the ghost estate problem, where developments are left unfinished and only a fraction of homes are occupied. It identified more than 2,800 unfinished or vacant housing estates.

A year on, some 700 estates have been completed and a further 100 on which no substantial work had started have been taken out of development, leaving a total of 2,066 “ghost” estates.

The 12-month period has seen a reduction in the vacancy rate of completed houses in these estates. Last year 23,250 houses were recorded as complete but vacant. This has now fallen to 18,638, a drop of about 20 per cent.

Carlow has the highest proportion of ghost estates, at 59 vacant units per 1,000 houses in the county, followed by 44 in Leitrim, 42 in Longford and 35 in Cavan. This compares with just three vacant houses for every 1,000 in Limerick city.

The highest number of vacant houses is in Cork with 2,363, or 19 for every 1,000 houses. Although there has been progress regarding selling or renting out properties, Minister of State for Housing Willie Penrose yesterday said he was concerned about the slowdown in construction. As a result, “many estates have been left in an incomplete and unsatisfactory state”, he said.

Of the 2,066 ghost estates, completion work was taking place on just 1,822.

Ensuring public safety on unfinished developments was a priority, Mr Penrose said. Some 247 estates were categorised as unsafe because of issues such as dangerous structures, uncovered manholes or unguarded building materials.

Of these, 20 are under the control of the National Asset Management Agency and a further 36 are being fixed by the developer or site owner.

Local authorities have applied to the department for funding to ensure the safety of 164 of these estates. A €5 million fund has been established for this work. To date, €2.10 million has been allocated to local authorities.

In a small number of cases, local authorities have decided to demolish estates where there is no hope of the developments being completed or where half-built structures have been exposed to the elements for so long that they would no longer be sound.

The department has granted Wexford County Council funding to demolish houses at the Coill na Giuise estate in Gorey, and has also approved funding to Laois County Council to demolish a three-storey apartment block at Corrig Glen, Portarlington.

Demolition work not funded by the department has also taken place in Westmeath, where three almost complete houses at Ballinagore were razed, and in Ballina, where six apartments at Quignalecka on the Sligo Road were torn down.

North Tipperary County Council is also planning to demolish the Terrace estate at Ardan, Nenagh Road, Borrisokane. Demolition would always be a “last resort”, Mr Penrose said, but it was likely that further estates would have to be razed on the guidance of local authorities.

Report by OLIVIA KELLY - Irish Times

Monday, 10 October 2011

Nama's Social Housing...

Nama may be forced to deliver on social housing...

THE GOVERNMENT is considering plans to amend legislation that would oblige the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) to deliver more social housing and public amenities.

Nama, created to purge banks of toxic property loans, has purchased some €31 billion of loans connected to thousands of residential properties – loans valued at over €72 billion at the height the property bubble.

There is frustration in some circles of Government that the agency is not under any formal obligation to provide a “social dividend”.

Minister for Housing Willie Penrose is understood to have written to the Attorney General in recent weeks seeking clarity on how Nama’s terms of reference could be changed to give it a broader remit that goes beyond securing the best achievable financial return for the State.

Officials fear the agency is too focused on its commercial remit to generate profits and feel the State is at risk of losing out on opportunities to maximise the social benefit of large landbanks and thousands of residential properties. However, a spokesman for Nama yesterday insisted the agency was mindful of meeting social needs where it made commercial sense.

He pointed out Nama had facilitated the purchase of almost 60 apartments in Sandyford recently by a voluntary housing association which are being made available for social and affordable housing.

In addition, Nama’s spokesman said the agency was reviewing its portfolio of residential units to identify others that may be suitable for social housing purposes.

Nama is linked to an estimated 10,000 residential units, the majority of which are apartments or duplex units.

Latest figures show the scale of the need for social housing has reached a record high of 98,000 households, as the Government says it does not have funds to buy or build local authority housing.

In addition, pressure is growing on homeless services, while demand for social housing is set to increase as the State moves to close outdated institutions which house thousands with disabilities or mental health problems.

The Act which established Nama requires the agency to obtain the “best achievable financial return for the State” having regard to the cost to the exchequer of acquiring and dealing with bank assets. While it is a listed functionto “contribute to the economic and social recovery of the State”, there is no reference in the legislation to a social dividend or supporting the planning and sustainable development of the State.

Any attempt to make Nama’s remit broader is likely to require legislative change. While the Minister for Finance is able to confer additional functions on the agency, he does not have the power to impose additional objectives, such as the delivery of social housing, education, public transport or public health dividends.

Government sources say that if its remit was changed, Nama could transfer land or housing developments to local authorities or other bodies who would be in better position to get the best long-term outcome for the State as a whole.

They say how Nama disposes of its properties will be crucial to the State’s long-term development.

Report by CARL O'BRIEN - Irish Times

Saturday, 8 October 2011

House Prices To Fall Until 2013...

HOUSE prices will keep falling for another two years and not bottom out until at least 2013, when the average price will have fallen by 60pc to €150,000.

The latest prediction comes as National Irish Bank said it would raise its variable rates by up to 0.95pc next month.

However, there are renewed hopes that the European Central Bank will signal a cut in eurozone interest rates when it meets tomorrow.

A cut in ECB rates may help the collapsing housing market.

Ireland is currently experiencing the most violent property crash in the western world.

Over the last four years, prices have fallen by 45pc to leave the average asking price at €194,000, according to the latest Daft.ie house-price index. The Central Statistics Office puts the fall from peak at 43pc.

Now it has been predicted that prices are set to fall for another two years with the average asking price to hit €150,000 before the market bottoms out, according to research by housing economist Ronan Lyons of Daft.

Mr Lyons bases his calculations on the assumption that banks will start lending again for mortgages.

If they do not, prices will go on falling by 4pc a quarter and continue to plummet until the end of 2014, when prices will have dropped by 70pc.

This would leave the average asking price at €115,000, down from €366,000 at the peak of the market in early 2007.

A survey last week indicated that up to eight out of 10 mortgage applications were being turned down by banks.

However, AIB is to run a pilot scheme, whereby it will ease off on its lending criteria for first-time buyers.

It has reduced the monthly amount of money it had said a single person and a couple should have left after paying bills for the purposes of calculating how much can be borrow.

Previously, couples had been required to have €2,500 a month left over after paying their bills. Now, the bank will accept €2,000.

Rates

Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers said: "This is finally some good news for people who are looking to borrow. AIB's move is fairly pragmatic.

"The minimum left-over amounts were quite high and reducing them a little will free up a lot of lending because more people will qualify."

Meanwhile, National Irish Bank will increase its variable rates by between 0.2pc and 0.95pc from November 11. Its home-loan variable rate will be 4.25pc. The bank said this was the first rise in variable rates since June 2008.

Some 75pc of NIB's customers are on tracker rates and so are unaffected by yesterday's rises.

Savings rates are also set to decrease at the bank, with the popular eSaver rate to fall from 3pc to 2pc. Analysts are disagreeing over whether the European Central Bank will cut its key interest rates this week. The ECB may hold off cutting interest rates tomorrow as recent figures showed that inflation in the eurozone was rising.

However, they expect that the ECB will lower its key interest rate in the fourth quarter of 2011 and in the first quarter of next year, each time by 0.25pc to 1pc.

But the economic situation has deteriorated so dramatically since then that a poll of leading economists by the German business daily 'Handelsblatt' showed the majority of experts in favour of an immediate cut in rates in order to avert outright recession.

Report by Charlie Weston - Irish Independent

Friday, 7 October 2011

Home Selling Tip...

Here's a tip: if you want to make a sale - try harder...

Despite the sluggish market, some savvy sellers are finding buyers for their homes...

IT MAY BE a buyer’s market but some properties are shifting, with a few even garnering competitive bids. What are sellers doing to earn that coveted “sold” sign? Homeowners who have been liberated from the “for sale” trenches have some tips.

According to the CSO’s Residential Property Price Index, property prices are down 43 per cent nationally from Septembner 2007, but property manager Deirdre Walshe says there are buyers out there,.

The market is now is a bit like speed dating,” says Walshe, who once worked in advertising sales. “Your property is competing against thousands of other properties out there so you need to try harder.”

She manages her family’s portfolio of 34 properties. This year shesold a two-bedroom apartment and she has put her own family home up for sale.

“You need an agent with experience in your area and in your property type,” Walshe says. Research what properties have sold in the past, for what price, and who sold them. You can also look at the properties that are on the market at present and what their guide price is and again who is the sales agent. If an agent is getting results in your area then they have their ear the ground as to what buyers think of the area, what type of properties buyers are looking for and, more importantly, what kind of price you can expect.”

She employed Owen Reilly to sell her two-bedroom apartment in Temple Bar. It had an asking price of €195,000 and recently sold for €189,000. Her family home in Sandymount, which has just come onto the market, is with agents Sherry Fitzgerald.

Pricing the property to sell is crucial to clinching a deal, she says. “Sellers have to be realistic. The market will tell you what your property is worth. You have to listen to the market. And in this market you should be willing to accept an offer of between five and 10 per cent less than the asking price.”

She also recommends that you are flexible about viewings. “You don’t know when your buyer might appear and in this market you need to be as amenable as possible.”

Prionsais O’Neirigh has sold two properties in the past 18 months. A three-bedroom investment property in Rathfarnham went to the market last August at €395,000 and sold 14 weeks later for €230,000.

The family home in Carrickmines went to market in August of last year at €495,000. A three-bedroom semi starter home, it was purchased in 2002 for €360,000.

The house took eight months to sell. For five of those months he increased the number of viewings from Saturdays only to viewings every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

“It’s a falling market,” says O’Neirigh, “so reduce your price to sell”. He lowered his Carrickmines house price four times to catch the market. He also changed agents.

Even with all this effort he thinks that the buyer actually first saw the house at a family party. The house sold for €340,000, 31 per cent below the original asking price, yet O’Neirigh is delighted with the result “because property prices in the area are still falling in value”.

He didn’t get back the €70,000 he had spent installing a new kitchen, new bathroom and new windows, but he was able to pay off the mortgage.

Retired quantity surveyor George Walsh, who sold his house in Tudor Lawns in Leopardstown in July, agrees with the recommendation to reduce the asking price.

“Purchasers need to feel theyre getting something off the price,” he explains. He discounted his home by €50,000 – that’s 10per cent – and it sold within two months.

He also recommends sellers get a surveyor’s report done on their property before they put it on the market because “some buyers are using the findings of their surveyors report to try and further reduce the property price. If you already have a survey of your own you can allay their concerns”.

Reports of horse trading are rife. One Dublin barrister who sold his three-bedroom house in Sandymount last July had three bidders within its asking price of €525,000.

He went with the highest bidder who then delayed closing contracts. The buyer’s solicitor came back weeks later saying that there was an issue with the title. The barrister didn’t believe the issue raised was genuine and felt that this was confirmed when the purchaser sought a reduction in the price. The house was eventually to one of the under-bidders.

Under-bidders who are cash buyers are not beholden to the bank and are able to move quickly – something to bear in mind in this market, says Tom McLoughlin who sold a large period county house outside Kilcock in Co Kildare.

The house, 511sq mts (5,500sq ft) in size was put up for sale in June 2009 with an asking price of €1.4 million. The price was reduced to €1.1 million and after almost two years on the market sold to a cash buyer for €845,000. “We had several offers but most couldn’t come up with the money.”

If you are lucky enough to find yourself with a number of buyers bidding close to your asking price, one recommendation is to issue contracts to each bidder and tell them that whoever comes back first with signed contracts gets the house.

Emer and Julian Pollard built a three-bedroom bungalow to the rear of their property in Greystones seven years ago. The house was originally built for their daughter. It was rented out but the non principal residence tax and looming property taxes prompted them to put it up for sale. It went to market in March this year with an asking price of €450,000. They instructed their solicitor to start working on the documentation as soon as the house had been valued by their agent. Several parties were interested in the property and competitive bidding saw her get in excess of the asking price. The sale closed within two months.

Communication is crucial if you want to keep all parties happy, says Anne Marie Lynam, who only put her house up for sale because she fell in love with another, a country property in Co Westmeath that she saw advertised in this paper. “I will buy this house if you can sell mine,” she recalls telling the estate agent after viewing it.

One valuation later, her four-bedroom detached town house in Athlone went to market with an asking price of €295,000. That was in September 2010. By November 3rd the sale was agreed for 25 per cent less than the asking price.

The house she bought had tenants that needed to be given notice to quit. She had to wait until March of this year to move in. This slowed down the sale proceedings on her own house as she didn’t want to move out and rent in the interim. This wasn’t a problem because she kept in constant communication with her agent to update her and the vendor.

“Don’t think you’ll close in six weeks,” says Deirdre. “Set your sights on the process taking six months. And get your paperwork in order before you go to sale. That will speed up the process from your side.”

When you go to market you have five or six weeks and then you will lose momentum, she says. “If it doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board. Ask yourself the following questions: Is it the price? Is it clean enough? Most buyers can’t see past a mess.”

Buyers these days are more discerning, agrees O’Neirigh. “They’re even taking the house- hunting search beyond the property pages and websites and driving around areas, noting boards as they go up. A lot of houses are selling very quietly this way.”

Keep your tenants

Do not leave an investment property sitting vacant while it is up for sale, cautions Deirdre Walshe. “The sale may take up to a year to go through so explain the situation to the tenants and reduce their rent to keep them in situ. A property with tenants is not going to be kept in spotless show house condition but an investor will see past this.”

Four properties that have recently sold

Number 16 St Kevin’s Park, Dartry, Dublin 6, sold recently for a figure substantially over the quoting price, according to Keith Lowe of agent DNG. It had been seeking €1.35 million for the bay-windowed Edwardian house on this popular road. It is a 265sq m (2,850sq ft) five-bedroom house with good period details and well-cared for gardens.

Cuanog, Deansgrange Road, Blackrock, Co Dublin is a detached 400sq m (4,500sq ft) property divided into three apartments. It sold in September for close to the asking price of €925,000 says agent Lisney. It has a separate mews and courtyard and one of its main attractions is the large, secluded back garden.

Savills recently sold this 222sq m (2,400sq ft) semi-detached family home at 38 Trees Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin, for under the asking price of €995,000 say the agents. Extended and refurbished, it has a large conservatory/sunroom, a 130ft long back garden, and is close to the N11 in Stillorgan.

A 78sq m (840sq ft) two-bed apartment on the seventh floor of Hanover Riverside at Grand Canal Square, Dublin 2, was sold recently for just below the asking price of €330,000 says agent Owen Reilly. The apartment has a balcony with river views, parking, and an annual service charge of €1,850.

Report by ALANNA GALLAGHER - Irish Times

Saturday, 1 October 2011

How Low Can House Prices Go?

Ireland’s property boom was the biggest, and our crash the most violent. In a week that brought news of a further drop in house prices, Economics Editor DAN O’BRIEN explains why the market won’t recover any time soon...

‘THE FUNDAMENTALS of the property market are sound, going forward.” This mantra was repeated constantly during the boom by those who believed that no risks were attached to soaring property prices.

If any reminder was needed of how badly wrong this view was, it came this week with new official figures showing yet another fall in residential property prices in August. This, according to statisticians, brought the total decline since the property-price peak, in late 2007, to more than 43 per cent, one of the biggest drops in the world.

The latest figures from the auctioneer Sherry FitzGerald, also published this week, are worse still, suggesting that average prices are down by a huge 58 per cent since the bubble burst.

The belief that property was a one-way bet became ingrained during the Tiger era. Perhaps this was understandable: the longer any phenomenon continues, the more normal it looks. Such is the psychology that generates price bubbles. And Ireland led the world in the size and duration of its bubble.

According to the Economist’s property-price index, no other European or North American country experienced price rises of the same magnitude over such a long period. In the decade from the index’s start date, in early 1997, Irish property prices quadrupled. The only two peer countries to see a rise of remotely similar proportions were Britain and Spain, where prices trebled. The US saw a much more modest rise over the same period, of about 130 per cent, which was not unusual internationally.

Ireland experienced the largest property bubble and the most violent property crash. That crash, alas, is not over yet, and prices are unlikely to stabilise until next year at the earliest. If the 2011 rate of decline in residential property prices continues for another 12 months, prices will fall by about 15 per cent from their current level. Given the headwinds facing the market, that is more likely than not.

But the highly paid consultants who arrived in Ireland to stress-test the banks after last December’s EU-IMF bailout are working on an even gloomier set of assumptions. Their baseline view is that prices will fall by a further 20 per cent before the market hits bottom. In their worst-case scenario, the decline would be almost 30 per cent. That would bring the fall from the 2007 peak to 59 per cent.

Although there are benefits to lower prices in the longer term, the weak property market feeds through to the wider economy in many ways. One of these is the wealth effect. When prices are rising, people feel better off as the value of their home – usually their biggest asset – grows in value. On average, they save less and spend more.

When prices are on the way down, all this goes into reverse to create a negative wealth effect. Now people are salting away far higher proportions of their already shrunken incomes. The result is to reduce further the level of activity in the domestic economy.

So how far will prices fall and for how much longer will the economy be afflicted by the resulting negative wealth effect?

It is not necessarily the size of a bubble that determines how low prices will go when they fall. More important in the Tiger bubble was the extent to which it was inflated by unsustainable drivers, such as risk-blind bankers hosing money at anyone taking a punt on property.

Looking at other countries helps in assessing where Irish prices are likely to end up. Consider our nearest neighbour, where prices have fallen by a relatively small 11 per cent since 2007, a fact that has provided one of the few positives for Nama, which offloaded some of its London trophy properties this week at no cost to beleaguered Irish taxpayers. Among the most important reasons for Britain’s house-price stability are its tight planning laws, which mean that few new houses are built across the water.

It was different here during the property frenzy, when building permits were extraordinarily easy to obtain. The result was that, in 2007, 90,000 homes were built here while 180,000 were built in Britain, wildly disproportionate figures given that the population of our neighbouring island is more than 13 times greater than that of the Republic.

If there is an undersupply of houses in Britain, the building mania here between 1997 and 2007 has led to a huge oversupply. While the extent of that oversupply is contested, nobody doubts the existence of a large stock of unsold homes. According to the property website daft.ie, the number of unsold properties on its books up to the second quarter of this year had remained stubbornly high, with hardly any reduction over the past three years. This glut will weigh on the market for some time to come, putting continued downward pressure on prices.

IF BUILDING TOO MANY houses can end in tears, so can bad lending by banks. Although the US did not look out of the ordinary in the property-price rises it experienced from 1997 to 2006 (130 per cent compared with Ireland’s 400 per cent), it has suffered the second-worst rich-world crash (after Ireland), and the residential property-price drops from coast to coast are now greater than those during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

One of the main reasons for the US economy’s woes was the quality of bank lending. American financiers gave the world subprime mortgages. The idea behind these was simple and seemingly good: lend to people who, traditionally, would not be entertained by a bank manager, but charge a higher rate of interest to cover higher default rates.

If the theory had its attractions, the practice was a disaster. The proportion of subprime-mortgage holders who defaulted was many multiples higher than what had been projected. The repercussions of these defaults triggered the worst global financial and economic crisis since the 1930s.

While subprime-mortgage lending made a mercifully late appearance in Ireland, sparing us an even more painful crash, Irish bankers dished out mortgages on the rosy assumption that nothing could go wrong with the property market. At worst, they believed that prices would plateau, unemployment would remain low and economic growth would continue, if at a more modest pace.

But if banks lent too much during the boom, they are not lending enough now. The latest figures, released yesterday, show that bank lending for property purchases continued its long decline in August. The lack of new mortgage financing is yet another factor weighing on the market, as is the rising cost of financing mortgages for those who have been able to secure them.

At a time when almost all of the drivers of demand are weak, the psychology of buyers in a market where prices are falling has a further negative effect. When prices rose, seemingly inexorably, it was all about getting a foot on the property ladder, at almost any cost. But now that prices are falling, also seemingly inexorably, most rational people want nothing to do with the property ladder.

This is part and parcel of any deflationary dynamic: potential buyers postpone their purchases in anticipation of even lower prices, sucking even more demand out of the market and adding momentum to the downward spiral.

Can any good come from all of this? Certainly, even if the potential benefits may not be glaringly obvious at this juncture.

Too-high property prices impact on everything from the quality of people’s lives to national competitiveness. Although the collapse in prices has left many people in dire straits and brought down the banks, more affordable housing and cheaper commercial property serve the wider interest.

Even if those looking to buy homes have not benefited much from lower prices (because of the mortgage famine), the huge falls in prices of commercial property, such as offices and factories, have already made Ireland much more attractive to companies looking to set up shop or expand existing operations.

Economists do not agree on much, but there is a consensus that new businesses, be they foreign or home-grown, will create the jobs and wealth to generate sustainable recovery, however long that takes.

Why our banking crisis was so costly

As the chart above shows, Irish residential property prices have fallen by more than in peer countries, but this does not explain why the Irish banking crash has been many times more costly than elsewhere. Last week, for example, the IMF estimated that the direct budgetary costs of Ireland’s crisis had reached almost 40 per cent of all income generated in the economy in a single year. In the US, which has suffered the second-largest house-price crash, the net cost to taxpayers was just 3 per cent.

The reason for the size of Irish banking losses lies in horrifyingly bad lending to property developers. If there was a bubble in the residential market, there was a superbubble in commercial property. Prices of offices, shops and factories rose higher and have fallen far more sharply than those of homes, and some development land is worth just 5 per cent of the amount paid for it.

Property developers have gone bust en masse, bringing down the banks that fought to lend to them. In this respect, Ireland is depressingly unique.

DAN O’BRIEN - Irish Times