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The Reason A Property Goes To Auction- Buyers Beware

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So I was a cash buyer - looking to buy something simply and fast for student daughter. Offer accepted on an Ashley Courtyard repo, a 3 floor "townhouse". Estate agent nagging constantly I had to complete in 28 days, no problem for me but after doing everything I can to do that it becomes clear that there is a HUGE title problem with the property. Its title, incorrectly, refers to it being a ground floor apartment. After much frustration and cost solicitor tells me if I buy it as is then it will probably be unsellable in future with the title problem and he will only " allow" me to proceed if I sign a letter indemnifying him etc As its a repo the sellers lawyers have no interest in sorting out the title mess and I walk away. Agent then acknowledges its fallen through for this reason before and explains ( while attempting to sell me something else) they will now take it off their books.......which they don't. I've watched with interest all summer as its gone under offer, then been removed for a few days then popped up for sale again, so clearly the scenario has been repeated many times with agent hoping that sooner or later someone's solicitor doesn't spot the issue? Clearly not going to happen and property now showing as up for auction next week. Kind of makes think its got to be VITAL that pre auction the legal docs are read so carefully....buyer very much beware!?

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Kiwi toast - apologies for no pics, still getting to grips with posting...but its 33 Ashley Courtyard ( still showing on PP and PN I think).

2bnot2b - yes think your right. Problem was/is that title ( and the council rateable value records) shows the property as a ground floor apartment but it actually exists over 3 floors. I thought that would be simple to fix too, but apparently takes time to go back and find earlier sale where error crept into docs and also requires assistance from sellers solicitor, in this case as a repo the ( English) legal people just didn't want to know. My solicitors advice was not worth the hassle and worry better to find something with no issues.

Now given up on buying, just not as simple as I thought it would be and looking at renting further up road in South Studios instead, what would your thoughts be on that block?

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From what I'm seeing of auction guide prices and reserves lately they're no cheaper than properties on the open market and certainly not worth all the risk associated with buying at auction.

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Kiwi toast - apologies for no pics, still getting to grips with posting...but its 33 Ashley Courtyard ( still showing on PP and PN I think).

2bnot2b - yes think your right. Problem was/is that title ( and the council rateable value records) shows the property as a ground floor apartment but it actually exists over 3 floors. I thought that would be simple to fix too, but apparently takes time to go back and find earlier sale where error crept into docs and also requires assistance from sellers solicitor, in this case as a repo the ( English) legal people just didn't want to know. My solicitors advice was not worth the hassle and worry better to find something with no issues.

Now given up on buying, just not as simple as I thought it would be and looking at renting further up road in South Studios instead, what would your thoughts be on that block?

TBH I wouldn't bother with South Studios either. Not a bad spot, but I'd be more inclined to look at Whitehall. It's off sandy row but a mate stayed there and it's one of the quietist blocks I've been in. Seems to be mostly foreign students, so little or no parties. Had a friend staying in south studios (about 6 years ago), his neighbours were some of the rose sellers. I don't think apartments here as setup for families with young children. In SS the kids were out playing the courtyard until 11 during the summer. Not my idea of fun.

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I've watched with interest all summer as its gone under offer, then been removed for a few days then popped up for sale again, so clearly the scenario has been repeated many times with agent hoping that sooner or later someone's solicitor doesn't spot the issue? Clearly not going to happen and property now showing as up for auction next week. Kind of makes think its got to be VITAL that pre auction the legal docs are read so carefully....buyer very much beware!?

I once considered a auction property, but had my solicitor scruitinise the legal pack (which is available at least a month before the auction date generally). He spotted a "mistake" in the contract of sale which would pass on the mortgage charge to the new owner. In fairness when I informed the auction house they were very apologetic and updated the contract, of course that meant that every other potential buyer got the benefit of the £200 it cost me to get the legal chechover.

Not sure what would have happened had the mistake not been spotted, I'm guessing the auction house would allow the buyer to void the sale in order to preserve their reputation but I'm speculating.

Edited by goldbug9999

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I once considered a auction property, but had my solicitor scruitinise the legal pack (which is available at least a month before the auction date generally). He spotted a "mistake" in the contract of sale which would pass on the mortgage charge to the new owner. In fairness when I informed the auction house they were very apologetic and updated the contract, of course that meant that every other potential buyer got the benefit of the £200 it cost me to get the legal chechover.

Not sure what would have happened had the mistake not been spotted, I'm guessing the auction house would allow the buyer to void the sale in order to preserve their reputation but I'm speculating.

Even on HUTH they urge people again and again to READ THE LEGAL PACK. It's astonishing how many don't, or is some cases don't even look inside the property first. Or sometimes, even see it at all. It's a minefield for the clueless, e.g. buying a flat 'because it seemed so cheap!' - only to find that the lease is only 56 years and it's going to cost a bomb to renew it.

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Always very wise to get a solicitor to look at the legal pack before an auction - it is the people who neglect to do this who get seriously burned at auctions.

IMO you should not need to pay a lawyer to decipher a legal pack in order to be informed of necessary basic info, e.g. length of lease, a flying freehold, non- standard construction and therefore difficult or impossible to get a mortgage. There are many reasons why a property has failed to sell on the open market, though I know not all auction properties by any means have some flaw they are deliberately keeping quiet about, in the hope that someone will be mug enough. Often it is simply that the AP has been too high.

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IMO you should not need to pay a lawyer to decipher a legal pack in order to be informed of necessary basic info, e.g. length of lease, a flying freehold, non- standard construction and therefore difficult or impossible to get a mortgage. There are many reasons why a property has failed to sell on the open market, though I know not all auction properties by any means have some flaw they are deliberately keeping quiet about, in the hope that someone will be mug enough. Often it is simply that the AP has been too high.

It is the responsibility of the buyer not the seller to investigate any and all information that may be important when buying the property in an auction - the properties are sold 'as seen'. You may feel confident enough to decipher a legal pack without the use of a solicitor but I certainly would not advise it.

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So I was a cash buyer - looking to buy something simply and fast for student daughter. Offer accepted on an Ashley Courtyard repo, a 3 floor "townhouse". Estate agent nagging constantly I had to complete in 28 days, no problem for me but after doing everything I can to do that it becomes clear that there is a HUGE title problem with the property. Its title, incorrectly, refers to it being a ground floor apartment. After much frustration and cost solicitor tells me if I buy it as is then it will probably be unsellable in future with the title problem and he will only " allow" me to proceed if I sign a letter indemnifying him etc As its a repo the sellers lawyers have no interest in sorting out the title mess and I walk away. Agent then acknowledges its fallen through for this reason before and explains ( while attempting to sell me something else) they will now take it off their books.......which they don't. I've watched with interest all summer as its gone under offer, then been removed for a few days then popped up for sale again, so clearly the scenario has been repeated many times with agent hoping that sooner or later someone's solicitor doesn't spot the issue? Clearly not going to happen and property now showing as up for auction next week. Kind of makes think its got to be VITAL that pre auction the legal docs are read so carefully....buyer very much beware!?

did not you loose your 10% deposit ??????

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No as did not exchange contracts. The bizarre bit was in the end it was me explaining to the EA that I was equally as desperate as they were to get the problem sorted and wanted to get deal done but the seller ( Bank I guess) solicitors were just telling everyone it was sold as seen and they would not even assist my solicitor in attempts to sort out title issue. What hacked me off most was the later hints from agents that they had been through it all several times and were just hoping someone would come along whose solicitor did not notice the problem and/or it would be bought by someone not worried about an inability to mortgage it or sell it later on. Guess that had failed on open market which is why its now going to auction. Interesting thing is the house next door ( so no 34) seems to be going through a similar on/off market situation so may have exactly same title problems.

Thanks for your thoughts on South Studios 2bn2b - will bear that in mind - though the flower sellers would have to be doing really well at moment to manage the £695 a month asking rent up there at the moment! Thing that puts me off about SS and Whitehall is all those tatty flags. Whatever your politics (or lack of interest in them ) it all looks so tatty and faintly intimidating at the moment - so they ever come down or do we just wait for them to rot away?

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Thanks for posting this, studentsdad, and welcome to the forum.

I'm looking to buy my first flat/house in that area too, as I work nearby. I had spotted the ashley courtyard flats/townhouses staying on the market forever and had spotted in the photos that some of them were repos - didn't know what sort of reputation the block had (thanks to the earlier poster for clearing it up), but I took a walk around the area where the flats are on google maps and it didn't look too good.

I'm a bit of an expert on the blocks in the city centre/university area, having watched the market closely and lived here (renting) for the last 5 years.

There really isn't many blocks that I would own in. Botanic and Stranmillis have lots of old houses that are falling apart and are quite expensive. Many of the streets around there just look like they're turning into slums, so you wouldn't want to own anything round there anyway.

That leaves the apartment blocks. I know the following:

- Bass Buildings - heard from a few posters here that there's a noise problem

- Whitehall Square - mate of mine used to live here. It's near sandy row which isn't ideal, but at least there's proper 'corridors' leading to the flats (several of the blocks have outdoor walkways to the apartment which just feel dangerous and like something out of a 70's council block) - so Whitehall might be the lesser of several evils

- Library Square - located just behind the belfast telegraph offices - horrible place, heard horror stories about it, don't go near

- College Central - avoid - dodgy block apparently

- The Tannery - group in the same 'avoid' category as Library Square and College central

- St Anne's Square - good quality block but overpriced and really, really small apartments. Friend of mine used to rent there.

- Margarita Plaza - might be worth considering - haven't heard anything bad about it

- Quay Gate - nice flats, good block, but too far out of the city centre to be worthwhile in my opinion

- Obel Tower - a friend of mine lived here for a few years - horrible flats, no insulation so massive heating bills even in a studio apartment. The block is virtually empty. Don't touch with a barge pole.

- Victoria Place - located in an alleyway beside Sandy Row. 'Nuff Said.

I'd be interested to know what your experiences are, have you viewed much? Feel free to PM me if you want.

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I would say buying at auction is not for the novice, title issue, access issues, boundary issues, planning issues, secured lending issues are all a concern, even you don't mind owning a repo who knows what your new neighbours will think of the situation. My experience is that you need to have a very good solicitor but even then there are issues they either miss or are not responsible for. For example, if the house or flat turns out to be poorly constructed its unlikely there will be any comeback.

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No as did not exchange contracts. The bizarre bit was in the end it was me explaining to the EA that I was equally as desperate as they were to get the problem sorted and wanted to get deal done but the seller ( Bank I guess) solicitors were just telling everyone it was sold as seen and they would not even assist my solicitor in attempts to sort out title issue. What hacked me off most was the later hints from agents that they had been through it all several times and were just hoping someone would come along whose solicitor did not notice the problem and/or it would be bought by someone not worried about an inability to mortgage it or sell it later on. Guess that had failed on open market which is why its now going to auction. Interesting thing is the house next door ( so no 34) seems to be going through a similar on/off market situation so may have exactly same title problems.

Thanks for your thoughts on South Studios 2bn2b - will bear that in mind - though the flower sellers would have to be doing really well at moment to manage the £695 a month asking rent up there at the moment! Thing that puts me off about SS and Whitehall is all those tatty flags. Whatever your politics (or lack of interest in them ) it all looks so tatty and faintly intimidating at the moment - so they ever come down or do we just wait for them to rot away?

No way South studios rents for £695. And if it did, you'd be mad to pay it.

Housing benefit sets the floor. That's how they afford it.

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Stranmillis Warf. Great block but expensive.

I just don't get why anyone would pay the amounts that are being asked for that block. It's a nice block, but it's still a flat in Belfast....check this out; offers OVER £295K:

http://www.propertynews.com/Property/Stranmillis-Belfast/TRLTRL76758/Apt-8-Stranmillis-Wharf/

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Thanks for the summary Joe Davola - VERY useful.

Had a look at a couple of 2 beds in South Studios - and yes bn2b they are asking @ £700 a month and saying that what they go for but they would wouldn't they .... The block seems very well maintained and cleaned. Agents assure me place is full of medics?? Who know, cars in car park seem good indication that there is some money there and its not all students though... Front facing ones get lots of road noise and unexciting views of tatty flags and run down student houses opposite so the ones facing inner courtyard seem better value but bn2b advice on noise from kids etc echoing around that hadn't occurred to me , so maybe rethink on that.

Based on really useful advice here I think we'll have a look at Whitehall square next. Just a bit worried about the area reputation. Stranmillis wharf looks great - but not in my budget! Started off the buying hunt as alternative to paying student rent for next year for (mature student) daughter at QUB , so now finding ourselves back to looking at renting again maybe will just revert to the normal " student" areas... thanks for everyones input, wish we'd found site earlier..

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No problem, keep us updated if you're considering something - you have to be very, very careful with what's available in central/south Belfast.

I'd say that if your daughter doesn't plan on living near Queens for a long time (5 years+) then renting might be better than buying. I laugh at how expensive some apartments are now - about 3 years ago I went to view a massive 3 bed apartment which was £125,000. The agent said that an investor from Dublin had paid over a quarter of a million.

The investor had bought two similar apartments in the block and was getting rid of them. The agent at one point asked if I'd take the pair for £200K. (after the investor had paid over £500k)

The reason I declined was that the rates and maintenance fees combined, for EACH of the apartments, was £3500 a year. Ridiculous.

They'd probably be looking £175K at least for the same apartment now, only 2 or 3 years later.

Edited by JoeDavola

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I just don't get why anyone would pay the amounts that are being asked for that block. It's a nice block, but it's still a flat in Belfast....check this out; offers OVER £295K:

http://www.propertynews.com/Property/Stranmillis-Belfast/TRLTRL76758/Apt-8-Stranmillis-Wharf/

Others in the block going for a lot less.

175 and under. It's Stranmillis though. Ss is the village.

Edited by 2buyornot2buy

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dont understand the LPS problem - get it sorted with a good solicitor. i bought a repo myself and can send details of who i used . they were brilliant!. about two years later they even emailed me to say during book-keeping they realised they had overcharged me £60. now how many people would just keep the money ? - most!

my house is a semi detached house but is classifyed as a "three story apartment". dont really see any issues its pretty obvious it is what it is.

im familiar with bt9 as live here

would avoid Whitehall square and Southside Studios

1 beds in Ashley Courtyard went for 250k off plan at the peak of the boom! People queuing to get one and all priced POA at the time !

They look to be tiny by dimensions

what is your budget ? why dont you get a traditional 2/3 bed terrace , rent out spare room(s) and avoid all the problems of maintenance fees etc in flats

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Others in the block going for a lot less.

175 and under. It's Stranmillis though. Ss is the village.

Stranmillis Wharf is nice and the price of a standard two bed there seems to have held up well at the 175k level

malone Square is another development with similar priced 2 beds that were asking crazy money in 07 ( 1m+ for penthouses)

both are nice tho it wouldnt be a great rental yield £600-700 ? on £175k+ but a nice development to live for someone young with generous parents!

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dont understand the LPS problem - get it sorted with a good solicitor. i bought a repo myself and can send details of who i used . they were brilliant!. about two years later they even emailed me to say during book-keeping they realised they had overcharged me £60. now how many people would just keep the money ? - most!

my house is a semi detached house but is classifyed as a "three story apartment". dont really see any issues its pretty obvious it is what it is.

im familiar with bt9 as live here

would avoid Whitehall square and Southside Studios

1 beds in Ashley Courtyard went for 250k off plan at the peak of the boom! People queuing to get one and all priced POA at the time !

They look to be tiny by dimensions

what is your budget ? why dont you get a traditional 2/3 bed terrace , rent out spare room(s) and avoid all the problems of maintenance fees etc in flats

It should be possible to sort the title problem but no two repos are the same. I can see the difficulty in that the vendors solicitor is based in England tho I imagine they have a NI contact for the conveyance. All these things can be fixed, it's weather you're prepared to pay the money or not. Fees soon add up at £200 an hour and I wouldn't trust this to a GP conveyance.

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