Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Happened To Viva Estates?

An incredibly busy week this week in the world of real estate and high finance! Lehman Brothers running around to re finance their failing business, several developers off to the liquidators, MRI's Darragh MacAnthony being hauled through the courts, and the demise of XL airways!

Still, all these stories hit the news and fade away shortly afterwards, often subject to the "Fish and Chip Wrapper" effect. (Today's news, tomorrows chip paper.)

We did promise we would bring people up to speed though with some of the former major players in the international real estate business, the likes of Viva Estates, Ocean Estates, Red Hot Homes and so on, this particular blog seems to be coming up for searches on these companies, so we went to find out.

This week we are going to cover Viva. Set up over a decade ago by Chris Mc Carthy, and having sold according to a press release from last year 8000 properties, one has to ask, where did it go wrong?
Well the truth has been difficult to find and define even when we thought we had it. There are hundreds of people who have worked for Viva over the years, understandable given the time they have been in business and the expansion that went on, but many have jaded opinions, some still have vested interests, and others with the Costa del Sol being the way it is, simply believe if you haven't heard a rumour by 10 am it's time to start one.
Viva had numerous offices on the Spanish Costas, the one pictured is the Los Boliches office, now desolate with a for rent sign in the window. Only 2 years ago you couldn't move for Viva propaganda, front page banner on the Sur in English, Viva plastered all over the buses, and huge road side signs everywhere you looked. Then, Viva Expo took over as the offices began to close. Viva Expo was created to occupy the former Viva head office after that (I would guess) became non cost effective to run. Basically the idea being to fill the huge space with developers, (which of course were charged a rental on the space), then spend some of the rental fees on advertising bringing in new punters from around the globe.
What happened was it produced some astonishing footfall figures for the first month or so, the reason being though was it was all members of the trade looking to see what was going on. The industry had already seen the "Sell your house for 2%" fiasco launched by Viva earlier that year which seemed to disappear never to be spoken of again, and the trade wanted to know what was going on now. Viva Expo now? well the flags are still out, but doesn't look like anyone is home, the Viva website is still up, and Chris is rumoured to have moved back to Liverpool with his tail between his legs.
A great shame to see such an enormous business collapse so rapidly, primarily due to far too rapid expansion with no real thought as to the need to change with the market. McCarthy is on record having said that the height of the market was in 2003, yet in the same breath stating that tourism was on the increase and it was better than ever in 2007.
Viva is not the first, and certainly won't be the last to disappear, the cull of agents in Spain is long overdue having filled up with many rogues who gave up their careers as checkout girls and hod carriers to become estate agents. Fortunately for the public, Viva only really dealt with the re-sale market, meaning most purchasers got what they paid for. Sadly, with the enormous interest in off plan, many companies have exploited the greed factor of those expecting to make a fortune from the off plan market world wide. The reality to come sadly is that many will be caught short with no where to turn, no developer to chase, and no recourse through the non regulated estate agent industry.
We will continue next week to bring you up to speed with Ocean Estate, Red Hot Homes, Parador, possibly Polaris World, and anything else that comes up!

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