Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

Newry suffers UK's biggest recorded property boom and bust

By Claire McNeilly

Published 11/09/2015

Tough times: Estate agent Bronagh Boyd
Tough times: Estate agent Bronagh Boyd

Newry has suffered the biggest property boom and bust ever recorded in the UK.

At Digney Boyd, one of the city's biggest estate agencies, director Bronagh Boyd said it now mostly deals with "shortfall sales", where property is sold for a lot less than the owner paid.

One of her clients, for example, lost £127,000 when they sold their home after seven years.

"A couple who had just got married bought a standard three-bedroom semi-detached house outside Newry for £220,000 in 2006, but then they lost their jobs and could no longer pay the mortgage and ended up selling it for £93,000 in 2013," she said.

Ms Boyd herself purchased a house during the boom that had fallen in value by 50% five years later.

"I bought a four-bedroom detached house for £250,000 in a popular residential area of Newry in 2007," she said.

"I sold it for £125,000 in 2012 - half of what I paid for it." In another case, a man spent £900,000 on a property in a plush part of Belfast, only to watch it slump to half its value.

"He bought it in 2005 and sold it in 2013 for £400,000," she said.

Ms Boyd said that a standard three-bedroom semi-detached house in the Mid Ulster area selling for £220,000 in 2006/2007 was worth just £85,000 between 2011 and 2013.

"A young woman recently burst into tears when I told her the house she bought in 2006 for over £200,000 is only worth £87,500 today." She added that a successful shortfall sale leaves the seller virtually penniless but not bankrupt, and although you will have bad credit, it won't be shredded to pieces.

Firms such as GDP Equity Experts were set up in the wake of the property market crash and they act as a go-between between homeowners and their lenders over unmanageable mortgage debts.

Conor Devine, who set up the brokerage in 2011, has 150 clients on the books at present. "This has been our most successful year to date and we've still got four months of 2015 to go," he said.

His job is to help the borrower prove to the bank that his clients have no other assets, in order to secure an agreement over the debt shortfall payment.

One case he dealt with involved a single mother who had to sell her Newry home because she could no longer afford it.

The property, which she bought for £150,000, sold for £65,000 - leaving a £95,000 debt shortfall.

Fortunately, her parents were able to raise £3,000, which the bank accepted as a full and final settlement in January this year.

In another case, a couple from Bangor sold a semi-detached property that they had purchased for £125,000 in 2007 for £85,000 in 2014.

"The debt shortfall was £40,000, but we managed to get the bank to accept £500 as a full settlement in May this year," he said.

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