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!