If you want to visit an overseas property exhibition these days, it’s a bit like getting work in Ireland, you have leave the country. So I made my way to the ‘A Place in the Sun’ exhibition at the wonderful NEC in Birmingham at the weekend. It turned out to be more of ‘A Place in the Rain’, as it chucked it down for the Sunday morning, but that was to the advantage of the organisers, it was an indication of why people would eschew Britain for sunnier climes abroad. It also meant that a large number of people who might otherwise have been watching, or even attending the Ryder Cup which was being held about 50 miles down the road at Celtic Manor, probably reluctantly agreed to be dragged along to the show with the family.
Visitors attended in their thousands, the organisers reckoned that they had seen more than 4,000 visitors over the weekend – it’s a long way from the vibe in Ireland I can tell you although I did hear a few Irish accents wandering the aisles. There is, essentially, still an overseas property industry in the UK, whereas the market in Ireland is currently very restricted. That’s not to say that it has disappeared altogether, it hasn’t, but it is now, more than ever, very investor-centric. Holiday homes, off-plan punts and the quest for mega capital appreciation have all been consigned to the bin. It’s got to be proven returns – which is probably how it should have been to begin with in all honesty, before the madness took hold.
Of course, if you want to get information on what is available out there, what you should be doing if you are a distressed property owner, getting tips on how to maximise your property investment overseas, you’ve got nowhere to look in Ireland these days. The print media has all but deserted the punter that fuelled the property boom so, at the time when information is needed most, there isn’t any. It’s not the ideal scenario but those who count the pennies in the newspaper industry have decided that the property sector is not entitled to the same consideration as the sport, business, motor or fashion sections. These sections never made any considerable amount of money for newspapers from advertising. Property was, undoubtedly, the golden goose of the sector and it has, for some inexplicable reason, been decided that property sections are of no consequence to anybody now that there is no advertising revenue to be had from them. Figure that one out.
In any case, while UK exhibitions don’t exactly cater directly to Irish tastes in property investment, they are a decent barometer of where the industry lies in general terms. It is not in the rudest of good health, but is in a better place than it was this time last year. The obvious thing that has evaded the attention of the Irish newspaper industry is that interest in overseas property investment is going to be years ahead of interest in its Irish equivalent. NAMA, the large potential for open-ended property taxes and the inability of the banks to balance their books has meant that the Irish industry has most likely been consigned to a prolonged period in the doldrums when those that can afford property are given no incentive to purchase it and those who can’t afford it are in no position to borrow money in order to obtain it.
On an aside, the NEC arena in Birmingham is an interesting concept in joined-up thinking. Putting a massive conference centre, a rail station, an international airport and a supply of hotels all in one place makes a lot of sense. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional, just what you want from a conference centre. Now why couldn’t we have thought of that? We put our new convention centre on the docks, a significant and expensive journey from the airport. That’s going to attract a lot of international conference business!