Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Most Read Investment Property Rumours

Well folks, as 2009 draws to a close we thought we would dig about in our statistics and see exactly what was popular this year as far as rumours in the real estate world were concerned.

A couple of the articles were removed so instead we have linked back to the page we published explaining the reasons, it goes to show though that the articles in question were correct and accurate at the time, and still are now.

We have linked the titles into the pages for easy ready reading. feel free to comment if you wish (no swearing please!).

2009 was a tough year for the industry, many companies have simply closed, many however opting to just disappear altogether or failing that just hide and not answer the phone!

We hope here at the Investment Property Rumour Mill that we have provided an informative insight into what happens in this industry, and it would seem a few of our predictions have been correct. As for 2010, we should start to see some recovery for the most part by the summer providing the bankers of the world don't make another mess, and the media decide not to shoot everyone in the foot with their doom and gloom!

Top tip for 2010? If you are going to buy abroad, it would still seem Brazil is the place to go. The 2016 Olympics will ensure the influx of international trade and investment for some time to come, with any luck Brazil will make the most of it. If you do buy though, don't just buy for the sporting factor. Nice as it is at the time, most resorts will not stay sustained after the event. The main cities though will. Bear in mind the oil and gas fields in the country that have yet to be developed which will provide income for many years to come.

Top Investment Property Rumours!

Fortuna Land and Oanna Group – How It All Started
MRI Overseas Property Wound Up
DCC Property - The New Macanthony Realty International? (*)
Riding The MRI Construction Farcical - Bait and Switch Part 3
Ocean Estates - The Poseidon Adventure?
VAT is going on in the Bulgarian furniture world?
Vila Verde - The Great Bait and Switch - Part 1
Red Hot Homes - Some Scams Dont Know When To Stop
Instant Access - The Scam Continues
Fractional Ownership - Pros or Cons?
MRI - Strange New Marketing Tactics
Investment Property Bargains in the USA?
What Happened To Viva Estates?
Sad Day For The Rumour Mill
MRI - DCC - Solutions Overseas - What Next? (*)
We Get Heat - Not The Sunshine Variety
The Great Bait and Switch - Part 2 - Investment Property Spin
Exclusive Interview - Chris McCarthy - VIVA Estates
DAMAC Downsizes - Rumour Confirmed
Another Mysterious Inside Track

The above are just the top 20 posts this year, there are plenty more in the archives. Those marked above with a (*) relate to removed posts that involve MRI and their many guises.

We look forward to bring you more from the investment property world, hopefully alot more positive than that of late.

To keep yourself informed, feel free to sign up using the feedburner widget on the main blog, or simply click the following link, confirm the mail and you will receive updates as we publish!

Subscribe to Investment Property Rumours by Email

Have a happy New Year!

Friday, October 30, 2009

MRI Overseas Property Wound Up

Hi Folks!

Apologies for our lack of posting of late, however albeit a little slow, we bring the news that our old chums MRI Overseas Property Limited in the UK would have appeared to call it a day!

Yup, closed the doors. (Oh no, hold on a minute, the offices they were using are now mysteriously being used by DCC International Property, another property company that happens to have some former MRI directors involved)

Announced it would seem by the infamous Dominic Pickering on the 12/10/2009, a copy of the announcement can be seen on this link here from the London Gazette quoting Pickering as the Chairman of the voluntary wind up of MRI Overseas Property Limited.

Other related company statuses are rumoured to be as followed,

MRI TV Limited – in liquidation
MRI Media Limited – in liquidation - wind up date 19/03/2009
MRI TV Limited – in liquidation - wind up date 19/03/2009
Overseas Property Channel Limited -Dissolved
Overseas Property Media Limited 05892062 - Dissolved
Overseas Property Radio Limited 05892065 – Dissolved 19/05/2009
Overseas Property TV Limited 05891996 – Dissolved 19/05/09
Overseas Property TV Magazine Limited 05892016 - Dissolved

To many this news will likely come as no real surprise however, where does this leave all those clients? As in those that got pulled in by the Great Bait and Switch? Those that bought furniture in Bulgaria amongst other places? Who actually did the switching? MRI Construction, or MRI Overseas? Who sold the furniture? There was a time when there still was an MRI website when it stated they didn't actually sell furniture any more and kindly suggested that you contact an "independant company" Solutions Overseas

It would seem it is a little early to tell yet. To even find the notice declaring the winding up statement took a little while, no-one else appears to be publishing the fact clearly on the web. Our tip off came from one of the many help forums for clients of MRI, all of which have their content hidden from the search engines with secure forums these days, most likely for fear of threats of legal action.

No doubt more information will arise very soon, as we have it and can verify it, rest assured, we will bring it to you. If you would like any Investment Property Rumours as they are published, just sign up free using the e-mail subscription tool on the right hand side of the page. (Don't forget to confirm your subscrition!)

If you feel you have affected by any the business antics performed by MRI Overseas Property, feel free to comment in the comments section, although please keep it clean, and don't leave any personal details, we cannot publish posts that contain either.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

MRI - Strange New Marketing Tactics

Well folks, after a long break we are back!

The summer tends to be a fairly quite period in the investment property game with many companies either taking time off, or spending some time finding new products or, dreaming up some elaborate new marketing ideas.

Whilst browsing around the search engines, we came across a very strange marketing tactic indeed, especially as far as the web is concerned. As a rule, if you have a web site, all of your content and articles really should be relevant to what you do. For instance, if you have a site that sells cars, linking to or having articles and blogs about funeral services is a waste of time, and will likely have a negative effect on your site.

It would seem though (and you can see for yourself) that MRI Overseas Property seem to be doing just that.

After only about 20 minutes of browsing, we found sites from MRI Overseas that would teach us about minimizing stress, stop the extinction of life, teach us about self improvement, recycling and even educate us about public speaking!

Now one has to wonder what exactly the relevance of those subjects has to do with overseas property? The reality is, nothing at all.

So, why do it? Has MRI begun to diversify into "stress free eco friendly self improved shouting on stage?" We doubt that.

A educated guess here is to battle the constant heat surrounding them in the search engines. Almost any term or phrase surrounding MRI pulls up complaints and heat of some description in the search engines which of course is not good for them. By publishing so much irrelevant drivel is purely a ploy to clog up the search engines with their brand name using blogs.

In fairness, had they done it with slightly different blog platforms, they might have succeded, but the way it is at present, it really is doing them no favours.

Having said that, we could of course be completely wrong! Perhaps we are all soon to be invited to fancy exhibitions about how we can reduce the stres induced by buying an overseas investment property that is now apparently worthless and won't be completed, so we really should forget about it and buy another one on the other side of the continent! Wouldn't that be nice!

You can see the the blogs in question by copying and pasting the links below. (Our legal begal suggested we shouldn't link directly for copyright reasons)

http://mrioverseas.org/
http://mri-overseasproperty.net/
http://mri-overseasproperty.com/
http://mri-overseasproperty.info/
http://mrioverseas.us/
http://mrioverseasproperty.us/

If follow this link though, you can see who all the sites are registered to for yourself http://www.who.is/whois/mrioverseasproperty.us/

Surely the time, effort and money would be slightly better spent on dealing with the client issues and complaints themselves rather than publishing entirely unrelated waffle? Just our 2 cents.

COMING SOON

We will be delving into the last years worth of data to see which articles have been the most read, and how people have found us. A first glance there are some fairly obvious ones, but there are one or two pleasent surprises!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Damac at a Loss Over UN Site

According to Arabian Business.com, preparations are underway by a UK based lawyer against developers and culinary experts DAMAC after the revelation that two projects being sold off plan (La Residence and La Residence 2 at the Lotus) are actually on land that is, or at least part occupied by the United Nations.

In nutshell, DAMAC have been selling the projects since 2006/7 off plan, taking installments as they go. Fair enough one would think, however the sticking point seems to be as to whether clients were actually told that DAMAC did not have vacant possession of the land.

Apparently when DAMAC were pressured they were "at a loss to explain when the plot would be handed over by the master developer Dubai Properties and when construction would start at Lotus."

It would seem the deal was that the project would be completed 3 years after the handover of the land.

That's all well and good, but what about a timeframe for the handover of the land? News sources at the time of writing don't appear to have an answer for that one. In theory, DAMAC who own the land according to the article, could continue to allow occupation by the UN until the end of time leaving "investors" having to pay out installments for something that would never even be built!

Unsurprisingly the "regulatory" body for the region, RERA doesn't appear to have commented on the matter, having said that, it is a little difficult to tell after trying unsuccessfully to wade through all the pop up ads on their website.

To be honest, much of this is no surprise. Developers and agents were incredibly greedy in the beginning, many of them coming from entirely unrelated businesses (The original DAMAC is a catering firm) with no or little experiance. Things were fine for a while in the boom time, but now things are sinking fast, the money has been spent.

As Q2 rental figures show waning performance for Dubai, the worst is yet to come we fear.

(The original article from Arabian Business can he seen here)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Warzones Are Apparently The Next Big Thing!

After having taken a break for a wee while, we though we would see what we could find that might make us giggle. The industry being as it is, it wasn't long before something popped up, courtesy of property news agency Property4Media.

Property4Media is a very useful agency for reaching large numbers of journalists who want high resolution pictures and enormous interviews and stories in a rush to meet their deadlines. Great for new companies to gain exposure, and more established ones to keep themselves at the front.

Thing is though, there can be some very amusing press releases through it from time to time which can often lead the to the company issuing it shooting themseles in the foot. Of course, we have an excerpt here of one such article here from Simplyzigzag.com titled

Iraq Is The Next Property Hotspot.

After that, the article opens with this,

"Simplyzigzag.com, the online property group, reveals in its recent poll that Iraq is the number one destination for property investment. The latest figures from Simplyzigzag’s recent poll reveal strong feelings for volatile regions. Iraq was firmly in first place with 44.6%, over double its nearest rival, Croatia 17.9%. Costa Rica followed with 16.1%, Bulgaria, 12.5% and Romania, in the top 5, with 8.9%."

Ok, so these are results from a public poll (via the company's website over a 12 week period from the 1st of March 2009 to the 31st of May 2009,) but Iraq? How on earth does someone come up with that as a result? Surely from a publicity point of view one has to consider the viability of releasing such a claim under their business name, public poll or not?

Well, the rest of the release goes on to say,

Raya Mamarbachi, Director at Simplyzigzag said: “Once upon a time if you wanted to buy property abroad, there were only a few options, with France, Spain and Portugal being the most popular. For the incredibly wealthy came Florida, the Caribbean and skiing chalets in Aspen. Iraq, once a crazy idea, has been become an ideal place for investment. Its economy though plagued by war is dominated by oil, agriculture and tourism. Despite the volatility in the market, huge returns can still be made. Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil, has seen huge rises in foreign direct investment. Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have all flourished in recent years….investors are swopping allegiances with more traditional places for high risk areas. With the American market in constant turmoil, the Spanish and French market in a slowdown where else should Brits go? Iraq and Costa Rica remain un-spoilt, untouched and a easier place for keen first time buyers to get on the property ladder.”

Hello! Iraq is still in major turmoil! People get kidnapped there! The foreign investment is from governments and industry, not Mr and Mrs Average Nextdoor!

That rant out of the way, lets go take a look on Simplyzigzag.com to see if we can fritter away some cash on a bombed out semi..... Oh no, despite Iraq being an option on the site, not a listing to be seen.

However, after a little more roaming on the site, we find possibly the bargain of the century! 67000 square meters of land in Syria for the bargain price of €40!

It goes to show, polls and surveys are all well and good, it doesn't make them right though!

On a final note, it has been announced that John Howell's International Law Partnership is to be wound down as of the 10th of July 2009. A copy of the press release can be seen here.

This is something we would be interested to hear opinion on. ILP was well known for providing advice in many overseas regions, and predominantly in "emerging markets" What we would like to know is what happens to the clients of ILP now and in the future? It is without doubt there will be many developers and agents go out of business in the coming months, what happens to clients who have bought off plan and yet to complete?

Subscribe to our e-mail updates in the box on the right hand side, if you are reading this on a news feed or through another source, visit us at

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Riding The MRI Construction Farcical - Bait and Switch Part 3

Hi Folks,

Hopefully (although unlikely) this will be the final episode in the Bait and Switch series. We say unlikely on the account that there appears to be no limit as to what gets said or done by the "Leading Overseas Property Company"

We have our Legal Beagle at the ready as you can see to carefully look at what we write and make sure we are being good.

Last week CaboVerde24 had a letter issued to its hosts by MRI's lawyers, demanding that they take down/remove content about them, not unusal one might think, being as almost everyone on the planet has been warned or threatened at some point for even mentioning their name.

It would appear the forum owner has had no choice but to move the content to a secure section of his site, and does express concern at free speech and the like.

One might presume that "that's the end of that" but no, just 3 days later, a new thread has come about regarding an "Urgent MRI Meeting" to save you racking your brains as to what the devil that could be all about, it is an invitiation to an "Absolutely must attend Director level meeting"

Hmm Director level eh? Could that be that all the other staff now work for Solutions Overseas, or DCC International Property, those companies that aren't related, in any way, shape or form, other than by address, offices, staff, directors and managers. Not to mention the pay per click campaign? (For those that aren't aware, when running a PPC campaign, you are not allowed to pay for trademark keywords that you do not own. For example, If we were to go and purchase the word "Microsoft" for a campaign, Mr Gates would be well within his rights to sue us to the grave. Type in certain MRI phrases and see what comes up on the sponsored ads, chances are though it will be disabled after a couple of days)

The basic premise seems to be, "Threaten everyone you can, and then start the switch program all over again" The same story seems to be the case over on the Tierra Del Sol Owners Forum who kindly posted some links to their plights, the main ones being,

Meeting with MRI thread, and,

MRI are threatening legal action against TDSO

MRI also amusingly threatened the owner of the domain investmentpropertyrumours.com who submitted the correspondance to us through the comments section which can be seen in the We Get Heat article in which we suggested that Mr Bulow and/or the MRI lawyers contact us. So far, not a peep out of them.

The latest correspondance we have had submitted from domain owner Mr Stevenson we can't directly publish, but our legal beagle says we can say that it wasn't very nice, but nevertheless amusing on the account of barking up the wrong tree, and that the letter repeatedly stated that the they (the lawyers) had been instructed that everything on the blog was untrue.

The letter itself reads as though it has personally been shouted at a secretary whilst her only copy of "Hello Magazine" is dangled over the shredder.

Mr Bulow cannot claim that he cannot contact us, he in fact runs a rather interesting blogspot blog himself, rather offensively titled "Letters From The Septic Land"

The first post on it back in march 2008 also has a very odd twist to it, the url for it is http://cjbulow.blogspot.com/2008/03/land-of-merkins-and-septics.html

On the post itself he suggests we use google to look up the title if one is not English. To save you the bother, a "Septic" is cockney rhyming slang for Yank, or American. (Septic tank = Yank)

Very nice Mr Bulow! Rather you than me writing things like that whilst living and working in the US.

As for the rarely used word "Merkin" in the url, here is a definition according to Answers.com

Noun. A pubic wig for women. [Alteration of obsolete malkin, lower-class woman, mop, from Middle English, from Malkin, diminutive of the personal name Matilda.]

Would you buy an investment from a man who talks about things like this?

The thing is though, as this new round of "Top Secret" meetings goes on, one has to question the validity of many of the "investment properties" that were offerred in the first place.

A certain Malcolm J Wright is/was on the books for American Leisure. Now that Tierra del Sol has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, a few things need to be asked.

Mr Wright had rather a lot of fingers in a very large number of pies, a full list of which can be seen here. Nothing really untoward about that one could say, (Apart from the Allen Stanford $8 Billion fraud case!) however.

A little more googling later and we come accross an excerpt of an SEC filing. (Securities and Exchange Commission) which is basically discovery litigation regarding securities fraud, violation of Florida Securities and Investor Protection Act, breach of their employment contracts, and claims for fraudulent inducement, against Malcolm J Wright.

Now bearing in mind that the excerpt is from 2007, and it really wasn't the hardest article in the world to find, one has to ask why anyone would do business with someone under that kind of investigation? Granted MRI were not the only people to be promoting TDS, a now defunct Platinum Properties was also involved.

Given this track record though, it does beg the question of how much due diligence was actually done in the first place? The Stanford Group of companies seems to be turning into an ever expanding nightmare which will run for years, but at least the main crux of that has been frozen and closed down to prevent more cons and scams.

Was the "Due Diligence" in the form of large commissions? We don't know. What we do know though is that commissions received will have to be paid back under the chapter 11 proceedings. That should be an interesting one!

As for libel and more threats? There is a fantastic article written by Diarmaid Condon published on OverseasCafe.com which highlights exactly what goes on in this very corrupt industry.

We have invited MRI Construction (Or whatever they are called this week) to contact us, and we invite them again. Tell us exactly which bits you perceive as libel and why, and we and our legal beagle will go through each and every one.

We have not broken any laws in the way we write or report. Google quite clearly states its position on the use of its blog platform in the following quote from its help section,

"Please note that Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don't make any claims about the content of these pages. We strongly believe in freedom of expression, even if a blog contains unappealing or distasteful content or presents unpopular viewpoints. We realize this may be frustrating, and we regret any inconvenience this may cause you. In cases where contact information for the author is listed on the page, we recommend that you work directly with this person to have the content in question removed or changed."

COMING SOON!

We take a look at more mysterious goings on in the Investment Property World after a tip-off from an anonymous poster, this time eminating from the investment advisory hotbed that is the Isle of Wight!


Technorati Profile

Friday, May 15, 2009

Exclusive Interview - Chris McCarthy - VIVA Estates

Being a fairly popular blog, we have a reasonable number of subscribers now, amongst which a sizable number are unsurprisingly people from within the industry. One such reader is Chris McCarthy, man behind Viva Estates.

We had heard a few stories of a return, and having written about Viva Estates and Chris in the past and him having commented on our musings, we thought we would fire over an e-mail and get some input from the man himself in a bid to get some direct comment from one of the old school movers and shakers in the business.

Investment Property Rumours: I see that "YourViva.com" is up and running, using the old vivaestates.com domain.

Chris McCarthy: “Your VIVA” is indeed an operation that is up and running, and seems to be shaking a few things up on the Costa del Sol by its presence and activity yes. I understand that it has its own web domain www.yourVIVA.com but that under agreement with VIVA Homes Under the Sun Ltd a UK company who has ownership and control of the old and now defunct Viva Estates domain, this allows searches under the name Viva Estates to be either forwarded or linked to directly to yourVIVA.com. That’s my best understanding of that, I was never too hot on the intricacies of this kind of thing. But I think I have described it simply enough to be true and accurate.

Investment Property Rumours: Could you clarify if this is yourself, or someone entirely different, or, someone else on your behalf?

Chris McCarthy: VIVA Homes Under the Sun UK is owned by Mike Knivett who owns several Internet Marketing companies and various other businesses and a few hundred websites (you know what Internet guys are like I presume) anyway it was Mike and his team who developed and controlled the VIVA Estates website over the last number of years. They took ownership of the site about 2 years ago to save it from complete collapse and disappearing into the ether, and have maintained it ever since.

Now, a couple of years on Mike and his guys also produce, maintain and develop the yourVIVA.com site for Simply Spain Consulting which uses the brand yourVIVA to promote elements of its service and operations. Complicated I know, and I don’t know why it can’t be a lot more simpler to follow, but then that is probably why my own/old company Viva Estates got into a few problematic areas towards the end of its life, we operated our business entirely in the open and with a very basic and transparent structure, which made our demise easy to follow but perhaps was na├»ve in a business sense related to protection of assets or interests lets say.

Having said that, I wouldn't change a thing about how we set up the company or operated it we kept it simple going up and the same going down. But I digress. The old Viva Estates website is as I understand it dead and buried.

Then there is your VIVA, which is a whole different kettle of fish, but then is it different?
Well, the yourVIVA that is operating in Marbella is run and operated by people who worked in the old VIVA in some cases for 10 / 8 / 6 / 4 or 2 years, in other words an eclectic group from admin, sales, IT, customer service, valuations, design etc who worked for either a long or short time with the old Viva. This group plus some significant others who never worked for old Viva at all, initially set up a company called Simply Spain Consulting and also operated as VIVA Simply Spain when Viva Estates itself closed down, and they worked from a development in Benahavis from when in the early part of this year, they obtained the lease on a building that used to be closely associated to Viva, and launched themselves as yourVIVA.

So, it is/was a significant number of the old Viva Team, who now present themselves under the name yourVIVA. Nothing illegal there I understand, and I am not officially involved no. But personally, emotionally and practically I am totally committed to their cause and endeavours, they know that if they want my advice, involvement help or support in any way or area so long as it is unofficial, non contracted, unpaid etc then I will give it, I think they are a fabulous group of people, who love what they do, and are proud of the name VIVA and what they want to do with it.

Investment Property Rumours: Are they alone in becoming something Viva?

Chris McCarthy: No, I just heard yesterday that the old Viva Estates office in Benalmadena which was quite a large one has been taken over, painted in the old Viva colours of blue and yellow, and has been named/branded with the logo and words in a circle as Viva Choice or some such, now these people I have never heard of and have absolutely no idea at all what that is about. So, I know nothing about the one and lots about the other.

Investment Property Rumours: If you would enlighten us, we would like to put something positive out there especially given all the sneaky closing down and "not really rebranding" that is going on at the moment.

Chris McCarthy: I suppose from your perspective, you need to know are the yourVIVA guys being sneaky, or was Viva Estates being sneaky when it closed, and or are they rebranding or falling somewhere in the middle. It’s a difficult one, but then quite simple also.

I think all of this rebranding stuff that people are doing is despicable when it is one company literally opening up as something else in disguise, and then what happened to the other / old company, did it close down? Was it ever a fully blown declared company? Where was it based? Where did it pay its taxes? What on earth is the consumer supposed to think or feel? How is that companies are allowed to just slowly somehow die and slyly disappear, that would never happen in the UK ? There are any number of companies that have now collapsed and fallen into the pit that was inevitably underneath the biggest property bubble the world has ever known.

I am no saint here, I bear my own share of guilt for what happened in the market between 2002 – 05 particularly, I would think that things would have been very different, I don’t think we ever talked investment, investment, investment, and my priority was and always has been, is to sell real peoples homes to other real people, not create a false market, but some things you just can’t stop and you have to ride the wave in. And I have a few people who are grumpy with me too, some of them have a bloody nerve to be so, but others have every right and I feel I let a handful down.

So let’s be sure I am not without fault just that I hope and pray my mistakes were at least honest ones and not fuelled or filled with greed and advantage taking. But simply put, there maybe a few Viva’s pop up over the years, there are already two.

One group yourVIVA is a group of ex employees or associates of old Viva Estates, along with new folk, who are proud of the name VIVA, who think and believe they stood for more good than bad, who are not afraid to meet their old VE clients on the streets, or in the supermarkets they don’t duck to another aisle.

They are confident in the name VIVA, they work to build that name into something once again.
When the yourVIVA team started I think they looked for New VIVA on the web domains and it was gone, which would perhaps have best described them.

Interesting though, that the old VE did its level best to fulfil its obligations, and I am still very much out front and accountable for all of that, on the web through forums, in Spain itself and the ex staff have had the gumption to continue with the name VIVA. I wonder whether we will see a reappearance of Interealty, Muller, Ocean, or twenty others I could easily sit and list?

If I sound a little bit over the top and proud that the guys decided to continue to work under the VIVA name, please forgive me because I am as pleased as punch they did.

We would like to thank Chris for his openness in commenting in a medium that is little used by agents at the moment, and especially with us being anonymous due to the nature of the subjects that we cover.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

We Get Heat - Not The Sunshine Variety

For this post, we are going to enlighten you as to what can happen in the world in which we work.

First of all, we need to make a few things clear.

The content of mails that have been submitted to us have had some data removed (contact details only) to prevent them from suffering from spam. Other than that, the body of the mails are left intact and as is.

We have sought legal advice from a number of jurisdictions to understand exactly where we stand, and how we can most objectively deal with the situation that has arisen as you will see in this post.

For the non IT savvy out there, we need to make a couple of technical points clear too.

A private web domain is a web domain that is owned by a person or company, and that person or company is responsible for the content that they publish. They are not however responsible technically for what others may externally publish to their domain except in certain circumstances.

An open source blog platform that is provided by a company, in most cases provides that service through sub domains. The difference between the two would appear thus;

www.mywebsite.com would be a private web domain and,

mywebsite.blogspot.com is a blog platform domain, entirely different from the former, and in effect "leased" with or without charge to the user.

Ok. Back to the reason for this post. Upon checking for comments earlier today, we found the following sent by a Mr Stevenson.

Dear Mr Stevenson.

It is with extreme annoyance that I find it necessary to contact you once again regarding the investment property rumours blogspot.The last time we contacted you, despite your disavowals of any link, you modified the content accordingly. However, you have now posted recent attacks on our company which are untrue, and serve no purpose other than to deliberately target our company and personnel in an attempt to damage our reputation.We now demand that the article referring to bait and switch is removed. It is libelous, and copies of the article have been made by us, and forwarded to our lawyers.If the article is not removed within 12 hours, we will be instructing our lawyers to pursue you personally, as well as any company or blog that you hide behind.Your immediate action is required.

Regards
Chris Bulow
Business and IT Manager


Followed by;

Dear Mr Bulow.

I will once again reiterate that whilst we do own the domain for
www.investmentpropertyrumours.com, we do not publish anything on the domain itself, and no content is present at all at that domain, from us, or anyone else.

The blog I presume that you are once again refferring to is hosted by Google, (hence "blogsopt") in the address.

We did submit a copy of the last mail you sent to us to the blog publisher through their comments section, along with our response. Their subsequent actions of which we have no control or influence over. We will also submit this and your e-mail to their comments section in the same fashion. You could do this yourself as well I would imagine, which would give you a direct contact to them.

I personally have posted no personal comment on you, your staff, your company, or anyone or thing you might be involved in, and neither Me, my Company nor our webhosts take no responsibilty for content that is not ours, and is not even published on a domain that we own or control.

I can understand the situation that you would appear to be in, but I am afraid I am not in a position to comply with your request.

Regards

Phil Stevenson.


To clarify who these people are, Mr Stevenson is the owner of the private domain

www.investmentpropertyrumours.com

Chris Bulow is the is the Business and IT manager at MRI Overseas Property.

We would like to thank Mr Stevenson for bringing this correspondence to our attention, and we would also like to state that Mr Stevenson has sent us a similar mail before, from the Mr Bulow after some postings that were made some time ago.

We would also like to state that we are not Mr Stevenson, and that Mr Stevenson has not had any involvement at all with this blog, nor any of its postings. We would also like to point out that whilst the private domain has been offered to us for sale, we have declined.

So far, this is the only form of correspondence from MRI that we are aware of. We have made clear on our blog that if anyone at all feels we are being unjust, unfair or mean to anyone, they really are encouraged to contact us direct, through the comments system. We read and respond to all comments, and will publish them were applicable, and likewise delete or remove if not appropriate. We will also modify, edit, or even remove posts if it proves that they are vastly inaccurate.

To date, we have not had any direct requests from any company we have written about to edit, remove or modify any posts. The removal of previous posts was purely down to undue threats and pressure being made on parties not involved.

After spending some time with our legal people, we have the following statement to make.

"Whilst we accept that some of our postings might be a little close to the wire, we do take into consideration ALL of the people and entities that it can/could affect. We have always stated that we will edit/remove/modify any postings if found to be inaccurate.

If MRI Overseas Property, Mr Bulow, Or their company lawyers would like to state exactly which statements in which articles are libellous, and why, we will happily address the requests with our lawyers.

We can be reached initially by posting through the comments section of this blog, and we can begin correspondence, via e-mail from there."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Great Bait and Switch - Part 2 - Investment Property Spin

Well, this is the second part of our "Great Bait and Switch" article, and for this instalment, we thought we would take a piece freely available press released by a certain party, and take a look with our "fact goggles".

To avoid confusion, the press release parts are in italics, and our interjection is in bold type.

MRI Overseas Property Has Been Able To Help Clients In These Troubled Times In A Noteworthy Way.

We are intrigued, first time for everything!

MRI Overseas Property has met with many of their clients and has been able to assist a number of them overcome the problems they've been experiencing with property purchases made before this current crisis started.

Sounds promising!

(1888Press Release) April 27, 2009 - The changes in the world economic market-place have had many varied effects, and many different consequences. One of the most notable is for people who bought property in the emerging real estate markets of the world just prior to the global downturn. Some countries, such as Spain, Portugal, France, Bulgaria and the United States, are in a position to just ride out the storm knowing that demand will return to these areas as soon the market starts to recover. But where does that leave clients who bought in the emerging markets where the infrastructure was planned for the coming few years, but is not actually in place? Places like Romania, Cape Verde, Morocco and a host of other such destinations. MRI assists clients in distress.

OK, sounds like a substantial claim. As to stating that Spain and Bulgaria are financially sound enough to "ride it out" could be called into question, but hey, let's read on!

“We knew it was a high risk strategy buying in an emerging market” conceded Matthew Edwards from London who invested in a 2 bedroom apartment in a complex in Cape Verde, “but we did not expect the downturn to come so quick, or to be so severe. At the time we bought in mid 2007, the market was buoyant and even though Cape Verde was fairly basic in terms of facilities, we expected it would take around 3 to 5 years to bring the infrastructure up to a standard to make it a world-class holiday destination. With what’s happened to the global economy, we know it will now take much longer, and may never happen”.

Hmm, the old testimonial trick. Often used in marketing, rarely believed in most cases, but here we see the onus of blame being left largely at the foot of the client. Now correct us if we are wrong, but was it not MRI selling the investment in the first place? recommending it as a high growth area, and no doubt suggesting the "Buy 3, flip 2 and pay for 1" trick used constantly in the rising market. What sadly was not used was the "Don't forget the exposure you are opening yourself to"

Having said that, perhaps we are not giving "client" Mr Edwards enough credit, could it be that he wandered into one of MRI's infamous exhibitions with all of his decisions made and research done and simply hand over a bunch of cash saying "want that one", without asking any questions or getting any sales pitch at all? Make your own judgement.

Many others like them are in the same position, and as more and more clients decide to pull out of their investments in these countries, the worse it becomes for those who are left in.

Well one would think so, I mean, 10,000 clients can't be wrong can they Mr Macanthony? (Note the "it gets worse for those who are left in")

Dominic Pickering, Chief Executive of MRI Overseas Property, confirms that he has personally been contacted by a large number of clients who are attempting to get out of these investments in emerging nations, many of them asking if they can be switched elsewhere.

We run a small blog. We have a few subscribers. Even WE get contacted by your clients about getting out of your recommended investments and how to go about it. If the forums are anything to go by, responding to them would be a new idea!

“The world market is a very different place to what it was 2 years ago. It’s bad enough if one or two developers are struggling to complete the projects they promised, but when it comes to whole areas, and even countries suffering a huge economic setback, clients are running a real risk of being left with properties that are worth only a fraction of what they paid, and furthermore have very little prospect of rentals due to the lack of facilities, or regular flights, or decent roads.”

Well spotted, with the economic market having changed, I suspect the office cat has noticed too, but more importantly, with MRI selling "investment property", and Mr Edwards having "invested" into a property sold by you, we have a couple of questions;

  • Does this not mean you are investment advisors?

  • As investment advisors, does this not make you responsible for doing some maths, due diligence and general checking before flogging people property?

Only a couple of years ago, Romania was quoted by Channel Four in the UK as being the best place on earth to invest in, with potential returns in excess of 400% over 10 years. Clearly this is now highly unlikely to be achieved. In fact, some real estate investments in Romania may be lucky to reach parity with their 2007 values in ten years time.

Ahhhh! So it's Channel 4's fault! That's ok then. Good old Channel 4, the pillars of salt in the investment property advice area.

Furthermore, many developers around the world are going bust. Many are hanging on by their finger-tips and are down-grading the development so that it does not now contain the facilities that clients originally expected. Legal cases in these countries are fraught with difficulties and rarely end up successful from the purchasers perspective. More often than not, clients throw good money after bad retaining lawyers to pursue developers in far off nations, and the result is no funds ever get paid back.

Developers are going bust? Bust like you claim Tecnicil are? The same Tecnicil that have publicly stated that no such thing is happening, and that certain promoters are spreading rumours in a bid to have people pull out of the development purely for yet more financial gain after they have been paid?

In a strange situation in Calabria, in Southern Italy, a developer has had their building license revoked. Rob Davies from Cardiff who invested in the development with his sister, said he could not believe the news when he heard it. “The developer is blaming the Town Hall. The Town Hall is blaming someone else, and the insurance company that was supposed to cover our deposit has not paid out.” In what is rapidly becoming a finger-pointing exercise, Rob says “it’s the purchasers who lose out at the end of the day, whilst the lawyers get rich”.

Now where do we think that "client" Mr Davies might have heard that? A developer that mysteriously has no name, in an area that was notorious for having no licences in the first place! One would think that it would be an idea to make that kind of corruption public, state it as a fact and link to it would it not? So much for all that due diligence and checking out the developer in the first place.

It would also seem that MRI like to play "pointy finger" doesn't it? Now it's the lawyers that are the bad guys. Naughty lawyers! Are these not the same as the lawyers who had expenses and offices funded by MRI in Bulgaria? Did the mafia not like the style?

That means clients are having to face the possibility of losing large sums of money, or otherwise, they must look for alternative ways to recoup the loss that they have incurred.

You think Mr Pickering? Well, no doubt you are going to tell us how!

“We are in a fortunate position at MRI in that we are a developer as well as being a Real Estate Agent” stated Pickering, the CEO.

Now isn't that convenient! But hold on a moment, MRI Overseas website is now MRI construction, and of course DCC International Property is a completely different company, which was stated in a press release to quash rumours that it wasn't. We seem to remember removing a post to that effect after most of the industry was harassed by you accusing all and sundry of writing it.

DCC International Property is apparently owned by MJ Liggan, or hold on a moment, Michael Liggan, or is it the new re branded Mike Liggan? We don't know, but google about and decide for yourself with the various press releases out there.

“That means, that in a few cases, we have been able to give our clients the opportunity to switch their investment into one of our own developments, particularly if the original developer in the emerging market has failed to live up to the terms of the contract such as not completing the full on-site facilities, or being late with the development.”

Well isn't that nice? Such a kind thing to do offering to help those clients out like that. No catch there I'm sure.

Pickering went on to say “It has been very well received, as we have helped clients to avoid losing 30, 40 or 50,000 euros.

Hold on a moment, you seem to have omitted the part where you are telling your clients that will switch that they have to pay the difference against the new property. Based on a property advertised as "price on application". You present a very shiny timeshare style pencil pitch designed to calculate how much liquidity the client has, adjust the price of your new "bargain property" offering that you conveniently build and control, take into account the amount the client has laid out already, and remove all their cash. Neat trick!

The real problem has been that we do not have enough properties to satisfy all the clients that would like to switch away from an emerging nation, and into one of our blue-chip regions. It’s a simple case of supply and demand, and sadly, far more people would like to move than we have properties available.”

Please do define "blue chip region" we really could do with a laugh. Especially given your investment advice so far. As for not having enough property, well I guess that means every single one will complete on or ahead of schedule, without delay, and every single one will be on or above specification won't it?

Matthew Edwards from London was one of the lucky ones. “We managed to get out of Cape Verde and into Portugal with MRI recognizing most of the deposit we had lost in the bad investment in Cape Verde. You never know what the future holds, but I feel much more confident that Portugal will recover much faster than Cape Verde. That means that I stand a much better chance of making money out of my investment, and getting many more rentals. I feel a bit sorry for those who are left in Cape Verde, but at a time like this, I have to think for myself, and protect my own families position.”

Well lucky Mr Edwards. Mr Edwards, were you told about the responsibilities regarding your Cape Verde contract? Are you aware there is a possibility that you could be pursued for the balance on completion, whether delayed or not?

It’s a sentiment that we can all relate to.

We'll let you the reader be the judge of that.

The original press release can be seen here

Part 1 of "The Great Bait and Switch" can be seen here.

We have posted links already to Cabo Verde 24 and the Tecnicil affair, but simple Google searches will highlight the distaste that "10,000 clients who aren't wrong" are expressing. Don't just take our word for it.

COMING SOON! We are on the verge of bringing a company revival/re brand of a positive nature to the table! Who will it be? Sign up to see first!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Instant Access - The Scam Continues

Well there was us thinking we might be able to continue with the mammoth task of continuing the "Great Bait and Switch" article, when all of a sudden a couple of e-mails pop up about a new "saving" to be made from our chums who also like to change names, directors and companies at a moments notice, Instant Access. (or Inside Track, or IAP UK, or IAPG, or IAPI, or IAP Global, or indeed iaprops.com)

"Dear Client,

We have recently been contacted by a number of International purchasers requesting updates and assistance with the sales progression of their Spanish investments.

As you are aware, Instant Access Properties (IAP UK) were placed into administration in September 2008. IAP UK’s Spanish Subsidiary (also known as IAPI) continued to trade with their sole director being Maria Gifford. This separated the Spanish team from IAP Global (IAPG). We were saddened to learn that IAPI have ceased trading, closed their Spanish offices and let all their staff go. This has had obvious repercussions on the Sales Progression of your Spanish purchase. Accordingly, we approached the developers on your behalf to discuss their involvement in this process; unfortunately we fear they do not have the resources to offer such a substantial progression service.

As a result of this news IAPG will look to offer the Sales Progression Service for any purchaser on this development, in line with the existing Sales Progression Service offered to purchasers within the UK and other International markets.

You may or may not be aware, IAP Global Ltd was launched solely to continue being able to offer you access to outstanding property deals within the UK and abroad, and to ensure that we can carry on assisting you with the Sales Progression and completion of your existing property transactions.

Historically, under Instant Access Properties, the subscription fee charged covered services such as ongoing educational events, access to the IAP and Inside Track websites, customer service assistance, Sales Progression services and access to Aftercare Solutions vetted suppliers. In order to help you understand the value of your subscription payment, below are the benefits for your Golden Sun and Beach Resort development that the Sales Progression is currently making.

The team at IAP Global Ltd are constantly chasing developers, lawyers, mortgage brokers and lenders on your behalf every day. They are the "vital link" between yourself and all other parties relating to your property purchases.


The following benefits will only be available to the clients who subscribe to our Sales Progression Services.

· IAP Global will be visiting your development at the end of the May to review its progress and meet with the agents involved. A comprehensive report and associated images will be available.
· A dedicated Sales Progression Development Co-ordinator has now been assigned and is on hand to assist with any queries right through to completion.
· We anticipate build completion in September 2009 – this will be confirmed and assistance will be offered regarding the process of the ‘Habitacion Licence’.
· Preferential rates for furniture packs, snagging services and Management Agents and other associated third parties.
· Regular liaison with your selected management agency for the rental organisation of your apartment.
· MOST IMPORTANTLY – we are currently negotiating with commercial lenders direct for the mortgage finance. Direct contact with lenders often gives the best mortgage rates, and also negates the need of a broker fee!


Many of you receiving this email will have already benefited from this Sales Progression assistance. We understand that this is a challenging time for both individuals and businesses and we want to be able to continue to help you through it, with the best team possible.

The New ‘Subscription’ or ‘Sales Progression’ Fee:

We have spent a lot of time speaking with our clients at events held across the UK and we have spoken with many people about how much they would be prepared to pay for the ongoing assistance and service of IAP Global Ltd. As a result of these discussions we have now set our new fee schedule.

The cost of the IAP Global Ltd subscription is £1,500.00 + VAT. This is a one-off fee for the sales progression of your property(ies), replacing the old annum subscription charging system and entitles you to benefit from all "sales progression savings", irrespective of the number of properties in your current portfolio.

HOWEVER, as cash flow is so critical to businesses including our own, we are prepared to reduce this to £900.00 + VAT - if paid by 29th May 2009 (to coincide with the site visit). You can pay this sum by bank transfer, and cheque. You can also make a Credit Card Payment through our Sales Progression team on 020 8481 3561. You will also find our bank details below.

Please note that if you choose not to pay the subscription we will not be in a position to help you through the sales process to completion and we will not be offering site updates or mortgage assistance. You will be alerted of your completion date via your legal representatives, typically once legal notice has been served for your purchase - 10 days before completion.

For those clients that have paid this Sales Progression fee after contact regarding the rest of your portfolio, you do not need to do anything – YOUR PROGRESSION SUPPORT HAS BEEN COVERED.

Please be sure to put your name as the "transfer reference" from your bank.

{BANK DETAILS REMOVED}

Thank you all for your continued support of IAP Global Ltd. We look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Yours sincerely

A.B. McKay
GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR"


OK. Let us see if we have got this clear.

Instant Access flogged overpriced property through expensive seminars. They also charged a fee for the pleasure of doing so.

Instant Access then goes bust after it's not so elaborate Ponzi scheme collapses. At this point Jim Moore makes some vain attempts in the press to quell the heat, starts up a new company using other directors, and is then rumoured to have siphoned off a bunch of cash to Panama that can't be accounted for. (We covered the joke of a proposal of rescue plans last year in "The Instant Access-Inside Track Saga Goes On and On")

Now we see this letter, and apparently more wheels are falling off the cart, they have no money, and to help their investors out they want more money!

One would think that Jim Moore and his cronies would have the sense to keep a low profile, but oh no. Nip along to their "Special Edition" blurb on their site and what do we see after endless waffle of theoretical equity, profit, discounts? Jim Moore has his name there, bold as day, just above the convenient disclaimer,

"Comments made are based on current tax law and may, (in fact almost certainly will), change in the months/years ahead. Material supplied has been carefully checked for accuracy but no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies or errors or from subsequent use of this material. Specific professional advice must always be sought based on your own individual circumstances. As always, the buck stops with you. We recommend you take independent advice before making any such decision.

The writer, IAP Global Newsletter and associated companies, do not accept any responsibility for any loss suffered by readers as a result of any such decision."

At least Dick Turpin wore a mask Mr Moore.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vila Verde - The Great Bait and Switch - Part 1

Well folks, at last we are able to deliver the first in probably what will be a multi part installment of the "Great Bait and Switch" being carried out by one of the most infamous overseas property promoters in recent times. You guessed it, MRI.

Now to be honest, we are a little tired of writing about them, a serious change of record is required, but whilst they will insist upon arguably questionable marketing to the public, strong-arming the industry and generally stirring up all kinds of stink, we hope this will be the last articles we need to write about them. Unfortunately, given the size of info out there on this particular subject, it will be broken down into a few parts, so please be patient with us.

The topic for this post is the Cape Verdean development Vila Verde, built by Tecnicil. Under the old guise of MRI Overseas and/or Macanthony Realty International, a substantial number units were sold to the general public via exhibitions and the telephone.

All seemed well to begin with, especially with the likes of Amanda Lamb waffling on about it at every opportunity, and the alleged promise of direct flights from every conceivable airport according to MRI, and the "tying up of rental agreements", (which of course could only be fulfilled if you took their furniture packages, and their lifetime after sales package) most of which clients were reasonably OK with spending the money on.

All of a sudden though, things seem to have got a little sour. It all started around the beginning of this year, we began to receive the odd e-mail and comment about meetings being arranged by MRI to discuss the future of their off plan properties.

Of course, these meetings were not publicized to the general public, unlike the overseas property expos of old, one has to wonder what's going on there?

Well, judging by the barrage of activity on the few forums that haven't banned the use of MRI, Macanthony Realty, or any of the other variations on names the company seems to have (that aren't connected in any way at all of course!) it would seem the following is happening from what we can gather.

Basically, MRI have been suggesting that Vila Verde will not be completed, even at best, complete with substantial delays, and that developer Tecnicil is in financial trouble and about to go bankrupt, as a result they have been suggesting to clients that they should forget the Vila Verde investment, and conveniently switch to a project on the Silver Coast in Portugal, or perhaps consider something in Bansko, Bulgaria, of course, offering a "substantial discount" in the process, as an apparent "goodwill gesture" BUT (and here is the real sting) it just happens that you need to add more money to the deal!

Hmmm, so lets get this right, My deposit of 30%, (or whatever I might have paid in installments) is gone? Well according to MRI, yes.

And this new investment, it's a better deal? Well of course, flip now and we'll do you a huge discount, and no-one needs to say anymore about it!

Now it is unclear as to whether it has actually been stated beyond doubt by MRI that Tecnicil are filing for bankruptcy in a bid to get clients to conveniently forget about their investment with them, but according to the forums, it would suggest it is being heavily implied.

What is clear when you actually look around, is that Tecnicil are alive and well, keeping the public informed as best they can with a blog, http://vilaverde-resort.blogspot.com/ and have publicly stated a couple of interesting things;

"Mark Twain once had to write: "Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated" or even "This report of my death was an exaggeration" depending on who we believe had the original quoted properly.Whichever is true it must have been quite a shock for Mark Twain to have heard that he had been reported dead! Here at Tecnicil we were equally surprised to hear last weekend that we were going into liquidation, or was it that we had gone into liquidation...?Whichever of the rumours you have heard, we can assure you that Tecnicil is financially sound and Vila Verde Santa Maria will be finished."

followed by;

"With the disappearance of the larger real estate agents in the overseas property industry, we at Tecnicil have had to pick up the task of client communication. No small feat when you think that MRI alone had had dozens of customer service people to deal with the workload. Sadly these are no longer interfacing for us so we have to do it."

Good for Tecnicil, considering they are a fairly hefty developer to say the least, and are involved in infrastructure construction, hospital building and the like, as well as having various connections to the government through board members, on top of having connections with the national bank, are they really that likely to be going under? Slow, maybe, the next Bradford and Bingly they are not.

So where does all this leave everyone with deposits on Vila Verde?

Well, the suggestion that you should write off your deposit as a loss and wander into another development at a "discount" might sound attractive to start with. However, a few things to consider.

  1. How real is that actual discount?
  2. Is there any reason why the next development might not run into problems? After all, Vila Verde was the best thing since sliced bread!
  3. Is there any chance of the Vila Verde contract coming back to bite me in the proverbial?

Well according to the forums, the properties in Portugal are being displayed as P.O.A. (we would link directly to them on the various MRI/DCC sites, but that isn't allowed!) to see what we mean, the thread in question can be seen on Caboverde24 (see the first post on the link)

The question has to be, how should a discount on something that has no price be perceived?

As for the new development being on offer running into problems, well there is absolutely no reason at all that they won't, or, that this same farce will re-emerge again in a few years time.

Lastly, the knock on effect of walking away from a contract? Well, lets take a logical approach to this one.

Lets say I am a developer that is well connected to the government, and you have entered into a a contract with me. I have sold something to you at a reduced price because you have shown faith in the project at a very early stage, and the contract you have signed states that I will pay you penalties if I am late finishing, and also, in that small print somewhere in return, you the buyer are obliged to complete the final payments to me when I deliver the finished project.

Granted, we have not seen one of these contracts from the developer, but we are going to hazard a guess that there is not a clause stating that the buyer can walk away and forget it all mid way through the build. It's a contract. There are sections that have to be appeased by both parties.

There are already a few cases of people walking away from off plan deals, thinking "that's the end of it", only to find they end up being chased by developers, and potentially having embargoes issued against their home residences for property they don't even own yet!

It goes without saying that MRI have been known to blackmail clients into paying fees for things they thought they had already paid for as we covered in our furniture scam article a while back. Macanthony are well known in the industry for demanding their commissions at the point of deposit by the client, so they lose nothing by spreading rumours of developer bankruptcies, only to gain on the other side by flogging some heavily overpriced "bargain".

Oh, and guess who builds these overpriced bargains? MRI Construction.

Now who would have thought that?

For the regular readers you will notice we haven't bothered with the usual disclaimer, readers should make of this as they will, and base their judgement on actual facts, and the risk they are prepared to endure. (as opposed to go to a dog and pony show seminar and be pressured into spending more money)

As for rumours and libel? Well, We are not suggesting that any developer is in financial trouble, nor are we trying to manipulate the forums we can't control, or threatening people that say nasty things with huge lawsuits.

If you have an opinion about this situation, or any other that we write about, please feel free to comment on the relevant post. We do read them all, but please do not post personal details or insults, we cannot publish them.

COMING SOON!

More of the same, Bulgaria this time, apparently again, another string of clients has been told their constructor has gone under, and that investing in a shiner yet strangely more expensive property on the other side of the country is a far better bargain.

If you are reading this though a feed reader or on another site and would like regular updates as they happen, click here to get to our Investment Property Rumour home page, look for the feedburner box on the right hand side of the page, enter your e-mail and confirm and then with the appliance of science you will receive updates by e-mail as we publish!

To see a very active forum about Vila Verde and other developments in the region, go to CaboVerde24.com

To see info about Tecnicil, pop along to their blog, Vilaverde-Resort

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When A Turkey Is A Turkey, Yet Not A Turkey

After waiting for some of the kerfuffle to die down, and some of the more outrageous comments to come out from the public, this is a long debated subject in the overseas property investment business that we feel we have to comment on.

There have been (and still are) many "property investments" that have questionable viability, but the subject of Northern Cyprus has always been a hotly contested one.

For those unaware of the situation, in the mid 70's, North Cyprus was invaded by the Turks and became occupied territory. Many Greek Cypriots fled their homes and have never returned. Since then, Greek Cypriots have been constantly battling to gain access again to their properties and land without much success, and as the property investment boom has continued, the promotion of property in the region to foreigners as an investment has escalated.

As one would imagine, the Cypriots are none too pleased about their home land being flogged as a bargain investment, but it would seem they are about to have their day according to the mainstream press.

The case in question has been going on for years, with small successes in it's progress as time has gone by. In a nutshell, Linda and David Orams built a holiday home on property that Meletis Apostolides was forced to flee when Turkish troops invaded Cyprus in 1974.

They bought it from a Turkish Cypriot at the time, with paperwork issued under the jurisdiction from The Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)

Now I suppose one might think, I have paperwork, it's stamped, it's issued from the government, all is good! Oh no.

The fact is that TRNC is under occupation, and whilst ok the Turks technically inhabit it as a region, under European law, this is an illegal occupation. What this means in very simple layman terms is that no document issued in the region has any significance at all in the outside civilised world. This includes the likes of marriage certificates, driving licenses, and guess what? Property ownership and title deeds.

This fact is no secret. It has often been conveniently forgotten of course, both by "agents" and buyers of property, both being blinded by the "huge profits" they stand to make.

What is astonishing though is that wife of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie Blair has acted as QC for the Orams family! Even more eye opening is that neither Cherie Blair nor the Orams family showed up for the ruling in Luxembourg!

We have commented before the lack of legislation in Turkey itself about property dealings, and the level of corruption that can occur if one is not careful, the fact that it has taken this long to be recognised as a problem in a region under dispute is astounding, but then international court hearings do take quite some time.

The lesson though to be learned from all of this is pretty simple. If a country is under occupation, you are buying stolen goods. It might have paperwork, it might have a government stamp, but even the highest profile lawyer in the land isn't going to be able to make it stick in court.

According to ThisIsMoney, "The Oramses, represented by Cherie Blair QC, insisted they had bought the house in good faith and had Turkish title deeds proving-they owned the land and property."

Hmm, so wife of former Prime Minister is using the defence that "the guy said it was good, honest!" is a basis to allow you to keep the house you built on stolen land?

We try not to delve to far into the political arena here at the rumour mill, but to be honest, there is no sympathy here for "investors" in North Cyprus property. The fact remains that the region is not recognised by anyone other than Turkey, and the fact that they struggle to run their own property systems surely should have thrown up some warning signs to those buying in the TRNC.

As always folks, safe investing is the key. If it sounds to good to be true, it is. Just because someone tells you the price will go up 3 fold, and the rentals will be through the roof, it is no guarantee. If you don't understand what you are investing into, Don't!

As has been promised, we are finally compiling the article about the great bait and switch scam involving several 1000's of property buyers in many countries. We apologise for the delay, but we anticipate publishing later this week, possibly in 2 parts due to the size of what's involved. (We also need the lawyers to approve it!)

To see it first and how it effects you, and what you can do about it if it does, sign up to our feedburner subscription on the home page. Just click onto our Investment Property Rumours link, scroll down the page a little, and you will see a Feedburner box on the right, enter your e-mail address, confirm the e-mail you get from feedburner, and you will then get updates sent direct to your e-mail!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Andalucian or Abandoned Dream Homes?

Having just returned from a recent jolly to the Costa del Sol to catch up with some old friends, we were very surprised to see one of Spain's property behemoths with empty offices. The very hefty presence of Andalucian Dream Homes on the Fuengirola Paseo is no more!




Obviously some googling was required and it would seem that this news seems to have got lost in the obsession for recession and other gloommongery type news at the moment, but that have been a couple of interesting points made out there.

Craig at Marbella guide seems to have been the first to notice what was going on after some contact from the public, and according to his posting on MarbellaGuide.com it would appear that he has not been able to reach them either at the ADH numbers, or the international arm, Dream Homes Worldwide.

After some further looking around, it would seem OPP did release an article about one of the former members of Andalucian Dream Homes, David Honeyman. Honeyman is apparently still a "non active partner" in ADH but now involved as a consultant to newly formed Property Revolution.

The article itself can be seen reproduced on Kyero (OPP unfortunately needs membership to read) and as an outsider, the article itself does read rather tongue in cheek, featuring some interesting excerpts of a conversation with Mike Liggan of DCC International Property.

Both Honeyman and Liggan appear very adamant and quick to point out that the new ventures "are not an offshoot" of their former companies and are "something new and fresh"

Honeyman with Property Revolution to a degree can be forgiven to an extent, Property Revolution is selling fractional ownership in Spain. One has to wonder a little at some of the claims they make in places on their site such as "zero risk property abroad" (We're sorry, but there is no such thing as "zero risk") and more importantly the claim that mortgages are available, yet when you go to the Fractional Ownership Consultancy finance page that they recommend, you come up against the following quote,

"An exclusive FOC finance package for shared freehold/fractional buyers. The Fractional Ownership Consultancy and an English bank are currently collaborating to provide regulated mortgages for fractional buyers. This means that when buying a second home, mortgages could be available using, as security, the buyers fractional certificate only.
The Fractional Ownership Consultancy anticipates that this scheme will be rolled out into the US and other markets in due course."

Hmm, So, maybe, one day, possibly, I could get a mortgage on a fractional? If it is in the USA? Or possibly in the UK? Come on guys, tie it up a bit more than that! We have commented on fractional ownership before, and once again, nice idea, makes sense on paper if you read it all quick enough, but when it comes down to it not quite enough homework as been done.

To be honest, in our personal opinion whilst it is possible that fractional ownership may well be regulated at some point in Europe and the UK, at the moment it isn't, and until it is, it's basically an extended and even more expensive timeshare. Make no mistake, when something needs to be sold from the angle that it saves you money so therefore it must be an investment, (which is a ploy that most fractional agents will use) alarm bells should be clanging. Saving is what banks are for. Investment is where risk takes place. So when someone gets a chance, I am sure the world would love to know about "zero risk property abroad".

As for DCC International Property, Liggan harps on about "completely separate company" etc etc in the article, but also states they "occasionally sell MRI property in Portugal, DCC is mainly focusing on Spain."

Hmm, so what is Aspen Valley doing on the site then? Is that not an MRI Construction development anymore? We would link to it to show you, but for some reason the completely unrelated entities that are MRI and DCC really don't like that apparently.

Anyhoo, whilst the property industry news specialists OPP continue to announce that all is well in the overseas property world, and that there is no smoke or mirrors or anything like that, and act as a very efficient announcement platform to say your old companies are not related to any "new and fresh ones", and whilst the British media still can't decide if house prices are rising or dropping, we are off to see what else lurks in the dingy realms of the investment property world.

We will return soon, with so much gossip out there at the moment, there is a lot to investigate. Tales from the public about offers to switch from one development to another are rife at the moment, some feasible, many not. We are trying to get to the bottom of it all, and rest assured, the moment we do, good or bad, it will be here!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Axe The Agents or Agent With Axes?

Sadly folks we have yet to confirm the goings on within the Bulgarian "bait and switch" that we have been investigating as yet, rest assured though, as soon as we do, we'll be publishing a very elaborate throw more good money after bad scenario! Meanwhile, we pose some food for thought from one of the fastest growing portals - Propertyindex.

Propertyindex.com is relatively new to the portal industry, having only been set up a couple of years ago by DatingDirect.com guru, Darren Richards. Using the methodology of having a simple, well laid out, easy to use site they have achieved some great results as far as traffic is concerned, taking on the likes of Globrix and Rightmove.

One has to wonder though about a recent industry press release from CEO Lee Bramzell, pasted in below.

Propertyindex.Com Ceo Complains To The BBC On Behalf Of UK Estate Agents
27 Mar 09

Lee Bramzell, CEO of PropertyIndex.com has written the following letter to Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, to express his anger at the BBC1 programme ‘Axe the Agent’, and to represent the thousands of estate agents in the UK.

For the attention of: Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC. I am writing in regards to the BBC1 programme ‘Axe the Agent’. As the CEO of PropertyIndex.com I am writing on behalf of the 125,000 estate agents in the UK whose livelihoods could be directly affected by a television programme on BBC1 that directly advocates British people to eradicate estate agents when looking for property.

Estate agents are expected to pay their TV License fee yet the BBC use this money to create a show which could result in the loss of their jobs and ability to pay the license fee. I unequivocally believe that estate agents are absolutely essential for both the buyer and seller. From establishing accurate property valuations to working to secure the best possible price during the negotiation phase, estate agents really are the only experts. The safety net that estate agents provide extends beyond accompanying all the viewings for the peace of mind of the seller, but they also drive the different members of the chain to ensure completion.

I doubt the BBC will be encouraging their viewers to axe their GPs, fire department or police. This is the kind of irresponsible programming one might expect to see on the likes of Channel 5, but not the state broadcaster, which should be inclusive of all professions.

Even if the programme is only shown during the daytime and may aim to be reasonably balanced, the premise and the title ‘Axe the Agent’ is deliberately antagonistic. On behalf of estate agents in this country, I urge the BBC to reconsider de-commissioning this programme. I will be calling on Peter Bolton King, the head of the National Association of Estate Agents, established in 1962, to take a stronger stance on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Bramzell

(Released via Property4Media)

Hmm. We will admit, we have not seen this show, having said that, the press release has bought our attention to it, and so we may well dig around in the basement and wheel out the video recorder to tape it!

Having said that... there is nothing worse than people complaining about paying for a service, something the media has been good at hyping the public about in recent years. Valid complaints are all well and good, but there really is no need to harp on and make an entire TV series that runs for 20 years.

Bramzell has a point to a degree, agents (qualified) are a much needed part of the process, however, suggesting that the programme is irresponsible and something that the likes of channel 5 would broadcast is a bit strong.

One has to ask here, how has this programme rattled the ever expanding PropertyIndex? Could it be the BBC has a point? Which nerve have they hit?

In Bramzell's defence, we too have come across people over the years who enquire about property, suck every agent dry in the vicinity for information, only to buy a property themselves with no-one to guide them through it, thinking smugly afterwards that they saved themselves a few thousand. Only then to come back later to the very same agents asking for advice for a good lawyer because their house is built illegally, without planning permission, 30 relatives are claiming ownership, and the local council want to demolish it. No prizes for what they get told buy agents in those cases!

The top and bottom of it all has to that if an agent or portal do what they say they are going to do, supply what they say they are going to supply, the press can't hype up the public into a hysterical frenzy and make TV programmes that affect less than 1% of buyers. (Mind you, if all agents did what they should, there would be little for us to write about!)

PropertyIndex. You have a great site, you have a huge agent base supplying one of the widest selections of properties out there, both in the UK and internationally. Don't get into the mud wrestling ring with the BBC, there is usually only one party that leaves with mud on their face! Keep up the good work, and let the complainers keep complaining in the corner and making the mistakes that complainers make.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

VAT is going on in the Bulgarian furniture world?

Well folks, pending the consolidation and final draft of our story on "Strange Bulgaria Seminars" we thought we would wrestle with the very confusing situation regarding VAT on furniture in Bulgaria.

So far (that we know of) we can only find a couple of companies that appears to be the cause, and you guessed it, it's MRI, and loosely mentioned are Bulgarian Dreams.

Now, as per usual, we need to insert a disclaimer here. Apologies for any boredom it might cause, but it has to be.

Investment Property Rumours is purely relaying and consolidating information that is freely available on the internet, which is linked to and/or displayed within the blog. We are not responsible for your opinion on what you read or think, nor any conclusion that you might come to as a result (be that positive or negative). This blog is here to inform. It is not an instruction or a religion and should not be treated as such.

Investment Property Rumours is not linked to any company, nor does it solicit or sell advertising (other than automatic web generated search engine ads for which we are not responsible).

Ok, down to the nitty gritty!

As members of various forums and subscribers to a large number of blogs about the overseas property business, we obviously see a lot of conversations amongst owners and prospective owners of property overseas. A large number of them can't be taken seriously, but every so often we see the odd thread that warrants looking into.

There seems to be substantial concern about furniture prices, where it is, how much it costs, and whether that cost is what it says it is, or subject to change later on.

The overseas furniture business has been very competitive from day one, with everyone jostling in the search engines for position due to the substantial profits to be made out of it, not only as the sale of the products themselves, but also the fitting and so on. Some companies have manipulated the situation further by insisting that certain packages and specifications be installed to comply with rental agreements (which may or may not exist of course!) basically holding buyers over a barrel, having been sold more than they could afford in the first place by offering rental programs which many seem to be failing to profit from despite assurances and promises from salesmen.

The subject of VAT in any country is a complex one to say the least. We are not accountants, and make no claims to be either. However, VAT has long been used for scams in the past and no doubt will continue to be in the future.

It would seem in the forums that people who have paid in full for a furniture package in Bulgaria (In some cases as long ago as 2006) are now being sent a bill for an additional 20% VAT!

Now the 20% part is correct. The current rate of VAT in Bulgaria is 20%. No qualms there.

Charging the VAT after the fact? Well that's a different story.

Due to the rather heated affair with MRI "restructuring" which we uncovered at the end of last year, many of the original web pages about LIFEtime aftersales and furniture have disappeared from the usual search engines and general public view. On a mission as ever though, we found a very handy tool that appears to archive all sorts of things that were thought to be neatly hidden under the carpet, doused with "Shake 'n' Vac" and never to be seen again.

With the tool in question, we stumbled across this, (Click the image to enlarge, or, if you would like to see the archived Furniture Packages page click here.)




Now providing my eyes aren't deceiving me, it says on there that "The emphasis is on creating packs that include absolutely everything from cleaning to VAT to give you an apartment you can walk straight into - with NO hidden charges. We strongly recommend organising a furniture package well in advance of completion."

Hmmm. Now this page was last archived according to waybackmachine on February 14th 2008 (you can see other pages from the same site there too)

Now as we have said, accountants we are not. Let alone Bulgarian accountants. But, if someone tells me the price is fully inclusive "from cleaning to VAT", and tells me there are "NO hidden charges" how the hell can they present a VAT invoice years later?

After asking a few book keepers and accountants on the subject and subsequently being baffled into a corner with a pencil and a calculator, the general gist of what we could make of it in layman's terms is as follows.

There are occasions and situations for VAT disbursement to occur. These would normally be in the case of accountants providing services via a third party. Certainly as a rule only within the service industry and not in the case of products.

It has also been known if a company has made errors in it VAT charging or reclamation, they are advised (usually after inspection) that they politely ask their clients to pay VAT on previous bills. Having said that though, said clients are within their right to tell the company in error where to put their VAT bill. If it isn't settled, the company in error is responsible, not the end user.

On the face of it, this all seems to be a case of moved goal posts, possibly a misinterpretation somewhere, maybe even a mistake, but after looking deeper, it all seems to get a little more sinister....

It would seem as some clients have found, that if you try to take the latter path of suggesting that MRI put their VAT bill where the sun doesn't shine, clients are being told that not only will they not get their furniture (which they have paid for "in full, with no hidden charges") but they will lose what they have already paid! No refund offered, partial or otherwise.

Again, we are not accountants, forensic or otherwise, neither are we high court judges, but this is tantamount to extortion is it not??

To see specific details on this area of the discussion, simply take a look at the VAT on Furniture thread here from EyeonWorldwide.com. Someone has amusingly posted in an excerpt of a letter from MRI staff stating that all their furniture packages are inclusive of VAT.

The apparently now defunct Bulgarian Dreams is also implied on some threads as well, but after the high profile heat on the TV, one would suspect they have had the sense to go to ground!

One would hope that MRI Property (Which now seems to only consist of MRI Construction on their website) will sort this out in a civilised manner. I mean, it wouldn't be the first time they issued press releases cover things up, or taking stabs in the dark at innocent companies. We wouldn't be surprised that all hands are washed, and the buck gets passed to the "non-related company" Solutions Overseas who appear to be recommended by MRI on their FAQ page, being as MRI apparently don't supply furniture?!

What can you do about it?

Well there is a small thing called "Distance Selling Regulations" that have to be complied with that catagorically state a few simple things according to The Office of Fair Trading;

Cancellation periods
"The regulations give consumers an unconditional right to cancel an order. This is to allow the consumer the opportunity to examine the goods or consider the nature of a service.


If a consumer cancels an order, written notice must be given to you by:

goods – seven working days from the day after that on which the goods are received by the consumer;
services – seven working days from the day after that on which the consumer agrees to go ahead with the contract.


If you fail to provide consumers with written confirmation of all the required information, then the cancellation periods can be extended up to a maximum of three months and seven working days. If the missing information is provided during this time, then the cancellation period ends seven working days beginning with the day after the full written confirmation is received by the consumer.


Where a contract is cancelled, the consumer must ensure that reasonable care is taken of any goods received and 'restore' them to you. This does not mean that they have to return them - unless you stipulate this in the contract - only that they make them available for you to collect.


You must refund the consumer's money as soon as possible and, at the latest, within 30 days of receiving the written notice of cancellation. The consumer may, at your discretion, be charged the direct cost of returning the goods, but you must tell them about this in the written information you give them.


If payment for the goods or services is under a related credit agreement, the consumer's cancellation notice also has the effect of cancelling the credit agreement."


If you feel we are being unfair in anything we cover, feel free to comment. We do read all comments, and have published 99% of those posted. If you wish to post, be sensible and do not put personal information in. We cannot edit it out.

We will leave you here with this article, make of it as you wish. We are now going to have a chat with yet more lawyers about some seminars to see how we can publish the next article, covering the very complex issue that appears to run along the lines of "I sold you something in good faith, have taken your money and spent it on fast cars, now because I have no cash, I'm going to blag you into another development and claim the original developer that I haven't paid has gone bankrupt, and charge you several arms and legs for the pleasure"

Until next time, invest wisely. If you have already invested, keep an eye out!

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