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$390 Million in Irish Distressed Properties Coming to Market
The British commercial real estate market can hardly wait for the upcoming public auction of $390 million (300 million euros) in distressed Irish properties (one euro equals $1.30 USD). The United Kingdom market has been thriving this year from sales of troubled Irish-owned properties.
One of the biggest sales will involve Ireland developer Noel Smyth's Auburn Real Estate Capital whose assets are valued at 147 million euros, according to the Irish Independent of Dublin.
The auction comes as receivers also have on their sales clipboard 15 Westferry Circus, considered a trophy London property owned by Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell. The property carries a price tag of 130 million pounds or 162 million euros.
The Alburn portfolio is being readied for sale after Smyth lost control of the UK portfolio in May. Senior lenders owed £200 million (?¬250 million) voted to appoint receivers from Savills and administrators from Moorfields to take control of the portfolio when their debts fell due without being repaid, according to the Dublin-based newspaper.
The Alburn portfolio is made up of 45 properties scattered across the UK, including Project House on London's Tottenham Court Road. The portfolio is a mix of office blocks and industrial and retail units.
Receivers were appointed after Smyth's Jersey-registered investment company failed to repay or restructure £200 million (?¬250 million) of debt.
The debt is secured on the property empire through a complex lending facility with a number of layers of creditors.
According to the Irish Independent, rather than attempt to sell the portfolio either as a single unit or one at a time, the receivers plan to break the 45-strong portfolio into a number of lots that will be targeted at different investor types before bringing them to market.
Savills is also the receiver of Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell's London trophy property at 15 Westferry Circus, in London's Canary Wharf.
It has now been put on the market with a £129.5 million (?¬162 million) price tag, close to the £134.7 million price paid by the O'Donnells' Vico Capital for the office block in 2006. Receivers were appointed over the summer after plans to sell the property to repay debts fell through.
Savills said the price being guided would offer any buyer a 6 percent yield on the property which has sitting tenants, including US investment bank Morgan Stanley. The bank signed a 35-year lease in 2002 at an annual rent of £8.2 million ($13.2 million US).
A Mountain Camp in Africa
Hidden away in its own private corner of Africa, away from the glamour spots and the business centers, the country of Namibia is filled with natural wonders quite different from most of the rest of the continent. It remains pretty much undiscovered by the travelers who've been everywhere else and done everything else...so you can enjoy the memorable scenery and wildlife without a hundred other people snapping photos right next to you. (Indeed, there won't be a whole lot of Namibians next to you, either - there are only about two million of them, in a territory four times the size of the United Kingdom.)
Those two million spread-out souls (only six per square mile) inhabit a land of stark landscapes and sweeping vistas carved out by nature over the ages. In the past, much of the interior was inaccessible to foreigners. But not so much anymore. And one of the best places to see it is from the vantage point of a real mountain camp.
Etendeka Mountain Camp sits in the foothills of the dramatic Grootberg massif, amidst the ancient volcanic soil of northern Damaraland. The mountains here are flat-topped, and lava flows from the past couple of million years have left them strewn with boulders.
There are ten well-equipped tents at Etendeka, all scattered around (and connected by pathway to) the main dining tent. Each tent has recently been upgraded, with luxury mattresses and high-quality cotton linens, and re-done bathrooms. However, one thing hasn't changed - when you want to wash off the grime after a day of exploration, you'll be doing it in a traditional bucket shower.
The food is simple and wholesome, and based on local products and crops. It's cooked either on solar or open fires, and many guests enjoy it outside, under a star-filled sky. Dining is family-style buffet.
This is no jungle, but, rather, a collage of basalt mountains; undulating, desert-like sand dunes; and riverbeds shaded by the ubiquitous Mopane tree. The overwhelming impression, to the naked eye, is of a dry, unforgiving landscape. But you'll quickly discover that this landscape is very much alive, and host to a diverse collection of wildlife and vegetation. Desert elephant and black rhino wander the boulder-strewn valleys along with cheetah and huge herds of oryx, who shake the ground when they run. Your guides will lead you out on exploratory hikes, as well as in open vehicles which afford up-close views of the wildlife. They'll point out the hoof prints of the mountain zebra...and the lions that are on their trail. Scorpions prowl behind volcanic rock shards, and snake eagles drift overhead, hunting for their evening meals.
Etendeka Mountain Camp is not for everyone. It's for the traveler who wants an off-the-beaten-path experience in the middle of nature at its most primeval. It's definitely rustic. It's a traditional tent camp, with the emphasis not on luxurious amenities, but on the natural surroundings - which look exactly as they must have looked thousands of years ago. And it's won numerous awards for its conservation ethic (such as using solar energy).
Dennis Liebenberg, co-owner of Etendeka, has been running the property for the past 20 years. He knows every inch of this rugged land. And his wonderful nighttime stories will remind you of scenes from the famous movie, "Out of Africa."
Afterwards, you'll fall asleep to the sounds of authentic Africa.
A South Australian Road Trip
Two of Australia's best road trips are in the state of South Australia. So, gas up the rental car, put the top down, and prepare to see South Australia from valley to vineyard.
From the bustling capital city of Adelaide (pop. 1,000,000), you can head north toward the country's best wine region, the Barossa Valley, about 60 miles away. Or, you could head south about an hour-and-a-half to Kangaroo Island, home to a stunning array of wildlife.
Or...you could do both!
Either way, don't sprint out of Adelaide too soon. The city's surrounded by parklands with great hiking, biking, and boating. And the Central Business District is filled with good museums and restaurants, as well as the Central Market, the largest covered market in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, you'll wander among fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, seafood, gourmet cheeses, bakery products, and treats made by local expatriates from all over the world.
When it's time for your road trip, you might point the car north first, toward the Barossa Valley.
Twenty minutes outside of town, you'll start passing historic wineries. Barossa's viticulture was brought here by German immigrants in the 1840s. Now, there are some 80 wineries here. The region is home to the oldest Shiraz vines in the world (up to 170 years old), as well as labels such as Jacob's Creek. And a local vintner named Penfold's is selling a bottle of wine produced from century-old vines; it's yours if you can pony up $168,000.
Many of the villages through which you'll drive look as if they've been transplanted from Europe, among them Hahndorf, Australia's oldest German village, established in 1839. In restaurants here, specialties of the house will be schnitzel and strudel!
The Barossa Valley has a nice variety of accommodations. One of the best is the Kingsford Homestead, once a dusty sheep station, now a brand-new luxury lodging with seven suites. Jacob's Creek Retreat at Moorooroo Park is a collection of historic stone buildings from the 1840's, now country cottages nestled in tranquil gardens.
Kangaroo Island, accessible by the Cape Jervis ferry, is at the southern end of our road trip.
Here, you'll walk paths with koalas in the trees, and kangaroos and wallabies in the bush. You'll pull into Flinders Chase National Park to see the incredible granite formations, and the colony of 6,000 native New Zealand fur seals (larger than the island's human population of 5,000) sunning themselves on the rocks. At Seal Bay Conservation Park, you can actually walk among a colony of rare Australian sea lions. And Little Sahara is a series of desert-like sand dunes more reminiscent of the Middle East than the western Pacific.
Like Barossa Valley, Kangaroo Island is also home to a burgeoning wine scene. The nutrient-rich soil, sunshine, and moisture from the sea produce wonderful vintages. There are now 11 vineyards on the island, turning out distinctive Cabernet, Shiraz, and Riesling. And they produce spirits here, too; Kangaroo Island Spirits is South Australia's only boutique distillery, and its products are made with local ingredients such as organic honey, wild fennel and juniper.
Kangaroo Island was set up as a bee sanctuary in 1885, and today is home to the only pure strain of Ligurian bees - and honey - left in the world. Clifford's Honey Farm produces more than 22,000 pounds a year, and offers tours, tastings, and treats such as honey biscuits and ice creams.
Pull off the road occasionally to sample local specialties like seafood, artisanal cheeses, marron (a freshwater crayfish), native spices, yogurt, and, perhaps surprisingly, olive oil. And stop at Island Pure Sheep, where you can try the Mediterranean-style cheeses and yogurt produced on the farm.
Perhaps the best thing about South Australia, though, is the fact that the Barossa Valley-Kangaroo Island road trip is just one of many great ones.
Blackstone Completes $1.9 Billion Motel 6 Acquisition
Paris-based Accor, one of the world's leading hotel operators, recently completed the sale of its Motel 6/ Studio 6 hotels in North America to an affiliate of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII.
Blackstone acquired the iconic low-budget brand for $1.9 billion dollars, allowing Accor to reduce its adjusted net debt by approximately $1.1 billion or 780 million Euros, according to Accor.
Interestingly, 50 years after American homebuilders Paul Greene and William Becker were inspired to create a "no-frills" hotel chain following a month-long, cross-country road trip, the Motel 6 brand is back under American control courtesy of publicly traded private equity juggernaut, Blackstone Group.
Meanwhile, Blackstone (NYSE:BX) announced Oct. 10 that its latest global real estate fund used for the Motel 6 acquisition, Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII (BREP VII), closed at $13.3 billion. This massive war chest, which Blackstone called the largest opportunistic real estate fund ever, was open for the past 13 months and raised capital from more than 250 global investors.
Blackstone Group said its largest category of investor in the fund were U.S. public pension plans that fund retirements of state and local employees. According to Blackstone, approximately 35 percent of the fund's capital has already been committed or invested in a wide variety of asset classes and geographies.
"We are extremely appreciative to our investors for their strong support of BREP VII," said Jonathan D. Gray, the global head of Blackstone's real estate business. "We believe the current environment provides a highly attractive opportunity to generate favorable returns for them. In addition, we think that the experience and global reach of our team uniquely positions us to capitalize on this opportunity."
Blackstone's real estate unit now manages more than $50 billion in equity as of the end of the third quarter, according to Blackstone. Leading Blackstone's impressive global real estate holdings is Jonathan Gray, 42.
In 2007, Gray started Blackstone's real estate buying binge with the $26 billion buyout of Hilton Worldwide. Gray's group, which already produces more profits for Blackstone than any other unit of the private equity firm, then purchased Equity Office Properties Trust for $39 billion and picked up 2,000 foreclosed homes it plans to rent and eventually sell.
With $190 billion under management, Blackstone oversees more assets than any other private equity firm, according to a Forbes magazine report, and Gray has emerged as a star under Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and president Tony James. Gray was recently appointed to Blackstone's board and is being frequently talked about as a potential successor to billionaire Schwarzman
Back in April, Motel 6 CEO Jim Amorosia celebrated the company's 500th franchise-owned location and said: "Serving the budget-conscious traveler has always been - and will continue to be - our mission. The future of Motel 6 will be one of growth and sustainability for our brands, our partners and our people; we're focused on expanding, primarily through franchising."
The first Motel 6 was built on the sandy shores of Santa Barbara's Cabrillo Beach. Sleepy travelers found free coffee, a pet-friendly environment, two bars of soap and no-iron sheets, all for just $6 a night - thus the name.
Fifty years later, with the highest occupancy of any hotel chain, today's locations offer those same amenities and a few more modern-day necessities, including an extended cable channel lineup, free local calls, no long distance access charges, and at most locations, Wi-Fi web access and swimming pools.
Following the divestment, Accor is left with 17 Sofitel and Novotel hotels in North America, 9 of which are in the United States and 8 in Canada.
California's Declining Inventory Hurt Home Sales in September, Median Price Climbs to Four Year Highs
According to the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), continued shortage of available homes for sale lowered California home sales in September, while the median price reached the highest level in more than four years.
"Sales in the inland and coastal markets continue to move in different directions. Low inventory - especially in distressed areas - is dampening sales activity," said C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold. "In many of these areas, there is a one- to two-month supply of REO homes on the market.
The Inland Empire and the Central Valley have experienced double-digit sales declines compared with last year. Meanwhile, sales were higher in San Diego and most Bay Area counties, where the economies appear to be growing faster than the rest of the state."
LeFrancis ArnoldClosed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 484,240 units, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. Sales in September were down 5.2 percent from a revised 510,910 in August and down 1.2 percent from a revised 490,280 in September 2011. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2012 if sales maintained the September pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home inched up 0.3 percent from August's $343,820 median price to $345,000 in September. The September figure was up 19.5 percent from a revised $288,700 recorded in September 2011, marking the seventh consecutive month of both month-to-month and year-to-year price increases. September's median price was the highest since August 2008, when the median price was $352,730. The year-to-year increase was the largest since May 2010.
"For the state, at 3.7 months of supply, unsold inventory is still less than half what it would be in a normal market," said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "As a result of the constrained supply at the moderate and lower end of the market, sales of homes priced under $200,000 dropped nearly 28 percent, and homes priced $200,000-$300,000 fell more than 15 percent in September. By contrast, in the upper price range, where inventory isn't as much of an issue, sales of homes priced $400,000-$500,000 rose more than 14 percent, and those priced above $500,000 increased more than 15 percent."
Other key facts of C.A.R.'s September 2012 resale housing report include:
Dubai's Land Department Showcases New Services Targeting International Property Owners
(Dubai - United Arab Emirates) -- Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai witnessed the launch of the E-S T E P (Smart Travel Estate Pack), the new service provided by Dubai Land Department (LD). The service comes in line with the LD's strategy to improve public service provided to the various segments of property development and real estate investment.
The E-S T E P (Smart Travel Estate Pack) will accelerate and facilitate the completion of some transactions at the LD for property investors either from the UAE or abroad; such as the sale and purchase transactions. The service is the first of its kind in the world provided by public entity related to the real estate registration.
Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, LD's Director General presented detailed explanation of the service to the Crown Prince, and how the investor will get the title deed certificate within minutes with the help of LD's staff. The details related to the transactions must be completely entered into the system of the E-S T EP supported with e-solutions and linked to the systems and database of the department.
The LD's launch of this new service during GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK 2012 was welcomed by visitors and exhibitors, as it will save time and effort for customers.
Bin Mejren said the E-S T E P provides different types of property transactions services such as sales, mortgages and leasing. The clients can request the service through the official website of the department, then use the e-Appointment system to book appointment that fits their own time.
The LD launched various new applications and programs during GITEX; such as the E-S T E P, e-procedures (2nd edition), e-mart, my licenses, developer self registration, trustee self registration, real estate indicators.
It also showcased LD's new application on Apple Store as part of LD's website for smart devices initiative along with other new services that enhance and develop the type of services provided to our clients through the Dubai real estate portal, the official website of the LD.
England's St Mellion Resort Debuts New Golf Homes
Unlike America, finding a home on a golf course is not as commonplace in England. Or the rest of Great Britain for that matter.
Fans of St Mellion International Golf Resort, however, now have a rare opportunity to purchase residential overlooking the resort's Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. According to the developer's of this new "Esprit" enclave of homes in the heart of St Mellion, the development comes with an "investment guarantee scheme" offering an 8 percent return for three years to investors.
St Mellion, located near Plymouth in Cornwall, is noted for playing host to 12 PGA European Tour events. The attractive "investment guarantee" offer is available only to purchasers of the first 27 of the 66 proposed properties. The homes situated in the heart of the St. Mellion overlooking both the Nicklaus golf course and Kernow Golf Course.
The first properties are planned for completion by Easter 2013. The properties range in size from 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartments (641 square feet) and go up to 4-bedroom detached homes (1,410 square feet). Prices are $328,000 to $720,000.
Built with an energy efficient timber frame the homes feature high quality fixtures and fittings, under floor heating throughout, bespoke modern kitchens, bathrooms and oak staircases. All rooms on the upper floors are characterized with high vaulted ceilings.
The built-in rental revenue scheme runs for three years from the date of purchase, according to the developers. During this period the developer will cover all other running and servicing costs with no other costs payable by the purchaser. Owners can utilize their property for three weeks within any one year, in low and medium seasons, with the option to have a reduced rental payment if using it for longer periods.
Though England overhauled its tax code on rental properties, the developer says there are still favorable tax breaks for savvy purchasers looking to make an investment in a furnished holiday rental property. For example when the property is sold, the rate of capital gains tax charged on any rise in the value of the property is less than half the usual 28% rate at just 10%.
Early purchasers will benefit from free membership for three years to the resort's two golf courses and other leisure facilities on site such as their health club and spa with three separate indoor swimming pools, a large gymnasium, an Elemis spa, crÃ¨che, kids club, tennis courts and bowling greens.
The resort also has its own four-star 80-room hotel featuring an onsite brasserie, fine dining restaurant, bars, and golf clubhouse. All early purchasers will receive discounts on food and beverages within the Resort.
The developer are anticipating the properties will be popular with investors looking to rent them out as holiday lets and the golfing and leisure facilities onsite will give owners a much longer rental or "letting" season.
The demand for self catering holiday lets has soared by 20% since before the financial crisis, according to a recent Knight Frank report on second homes. The trend is expected to continue with Deloitte and Oxford economic forecasting that spending by Britons holidaying at home will rise by a cumulative 30% by 2020. The southwest region dominates the domestic tourism market accounting for one in every five trips taken by holiday makers last year.
"Whilst investors will get a guaranteed return for the first three years, most investors will want to be assured of the long term potential for renting their property and of capital appreciation," said developer Shaun Fox. "St Mellion is already a mature resort destination with all of the resort facilities in place and fully functional, unlike some other UK and European resorts. Cornwall has an enduring popularity both within the UK and further afield. We are confident that the facilities on site, and all the regional attractions, will be sufficient to keep any family or visiting guests entertained across all seasons."
Caution: Bogus RE/MAX Listing Alerts Seek Email Logins
Please be advised of a recent phishing scam, which exploits the RE/MAX brand in an effort to gain consumers' e-mail login credentials.
Consumers have received generic, one-line e-mails, which appear to be sent from the recipients' known contacts - and sometimes even from "@remax.com.au" or "@remax.net" addresses - that advertise property listings. The subject lines for these e-mails have been vague, such as "RE: Check New Properties Around You," "RE: check out this remax listings in your area," or, "RE: Hot Property Alert!" The e-mail does not address the recipient by name. A link to a web page is included, and at that page, such as shown here, the Internet user is asked to login with their webmail credentials in order to see a "secured page."
Do NOT enter your information. RE/MAX and other reputable organisations will never ask for your password or personal information via e-mail.
In general with online transactions, be cautious when clicking on ANY link in an e-mail you receive. If the landing page looks suspicious, do not proceed with the transaction. If you doubt the validity of any message or website, it is likely not legitimate. In addition, take a look at the address bar of your web browser to view which site you are on. If the address looks unfamiliar, do not proceed.
Please report any suspicious e-mail that features the RE/MAX name, RE/MAX logo, or RE/MAX hot air balloon to email@example.com
Thank you for your caution.