“I understand the sensitivity of sales under NAMA but I am concerned that in giving misleading addresses or limited information on properties for sale NAMA is constraining ordinary people from knowing what is for sale and bidding on these properties” Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor speaking in the Dail on 15th November, 2011
Dail-plinth joyrider and Miss Piggy-dubbed TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor posed an important question on the probity and transparency of NAMA’s operations last week in the Dail when she asked about the sale of a property which is understood to have been foreclosed by NAMA. The property is correctly known as “Ashcastle” or “Ash Castle” and is located in Booterstown in south county Dublin. However on the NAMA foreclosure list, it is referred to as Booterstown Marsh which is a nature reserve and certainly not foreclosed. So NAMA gets its property descriptions wrong but apparently it also gets the status of the property’s availability for sale wrong. NAMA says in its latest foreclosure list – the one produced on 29th October, 2011 – that the property is “Not for Sale at Present”.
Which is a pity because there appear to be potential purchasers interested in acquiring “Ashcastle”, the correct name for the property and their expressions of interest were not being entertained by the receiver, apparently. So what is happening?
According to Sarah McInerney writing in the Irish Sunday Times on Sunday last 20th November, 2011 (not available online without a subscription), NAMA is saying that the property is in fact now available for sale. NAMA told the newspaper that the “likely reason for the inaccurate listing was that a sale had been agreed but had fallen through at the last minute”; NAMA goes on to say that the list is updated only once per month and it might be that a sale status changes during the month. Strangely the NAMA spokesman wasn’t able to be more specific than that. The property at Ashcastle is probably worth around the €0.5m mark.
So we have NAMA putting inaccurate descriptions on property which are for sale and, apparently, expressions of interest being rejected because a sale might be agreed but falls through at the last minute. We should perhaps be impressed that NAMA produces the list at all, remember it was only 28th July 2011 that NAMA produced the first version of the list and NAMA has previously been accused of not selling property under its control below value, though those accusations were never shown to be founded.
We are still waiting for NAMA to produce its monthly Foreclosure List in a manipulable format like Excel, making it very difficult to see what property has been removed from the list each month. NAMA says that property may be removed from the list if it is sold or in a few incidences, for legal reasons or the description was amended by the receiver (e.g. a single retail unit and a single residential unit in the same development which are amended to multiple unit – mixed use). It seems that the Agency which has annual internal operating costs of €40m is having some difficulty ensuring property under management is presented accurately and attractively so as to maximise buyer interest. And if these problems persist, what hope has NAMA of maximising its profit, which the Agency reminds us, is its primary objective.