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Snakes and ladders

Hook in the west

Hook in the west
George Hook

TRUE story. A young couple with two small children are renting a two-bedroom apartment in North Dublin. Both work full-time jobs; she being self-employed and he working full-time as a photography editor. Both have steady incomes with job security and both have the means to prove their financial position.
The pair have been keen savers for the best part of ten years and have managed to save enough money to put towards a deposit on a house. They go to the banks with all the relevant details and apply for a mortgage. Because of their good track record and accumulated savings, their application is approved.
Now, with the necessary finance behind them and with both children beginning to outgrow the cramped space in the apartment, they decide to take the plunge and look for a property to purchase.
They begin searching around the local area but, for various reasons, including family ties, they decide to concentrate their efforts in Wicklow. After several unsuccessful months visiting houses, putting in bids and consulting with estate agents, they happen upon a small site at the back of a house that has been up for sale for over two years.
At this particular time, the vendors in question have yet to have a single offer on the site, but the couple are excited by the prospect of building their own home, to their own specifications, so they put in an offer to purchase.
After several back-and-forth negotiations, where the estate agent does his utmost to jack up the price, their original offer is accepted and a deal is reached, subject to planning permission. But before planning permission can be obtained, the couple are required to undertake various different tests on the land, to make sure it is suitable for building and to ensure that the specifications listed under the sale agreement are adhered to.
They employ an architect and a quantity surveyor and begin drawing up plans for the house.
Months pass. Finally, in conjunction with the architect and quantity surveyor, the couple are ready to submit their application for outline planning permission to Wicklow County Council and An Bord Pleanála. The outline plans for a dormer house are fully in line with other developments in the area and similar designs have already been passed for development.

Within four weeks and with no reason given, the planning application is declined. The couple are advised that the council is inundated with applications and that there wasn’t sufficient time to give their proposals due consideration. They are advised to re-submit their plans for a bungalow-style house and go through the entire process again.
The site in question cannot accommodate a bungalow house to suit the couples needs. Put simply, a bungalow would be too small for a couple with two children. A dormer house would provide them with upstairs bedrooms and would be in line with four other similar type developments, either side of the site.
The vendors of the site are getting impatient at this stage and demand that the deal go through, without planning permission. The couple plead with them for more time and insist that they cannot take the risk of buying the site without planning permission, as this is their only shot at owning a home.
They explain that whomever comes in to buy the site will have to go through the same processes and procedures that they themselves undertook during the preceding months and that, ultimately, any perspective new buyer would take a lot longer to complete the deal, than if the sellers decided to wait for a second planning application to go through. The couple are advised that, with some minor alterations, the council would grant planning permission the second time around.

Hard to believe
The estate agent decides that he can get another €50k on top of the agreed sale figure for the site and the owners decide to pull the plug on the original deal and put the site back on the market. The couple are left with no site, several months wasted and outstanding fees for the architect and quantity surveyor.
Then, less than a week after the sale is pulled, the estate agent that convinced the sellers to renege on the deal telephones the couple to ask them for the name and contact details of their architect and quantity surveyor.
So, not content with spoiling the deal and convincing the site owners that they can get a better price, despite no previous interest in the site, the estate agent wants to take advantage of all the previous hard work that the couple had to undertake to get the site fit and ready for planning.
A week later, the couple get a letter from the bank informing them that their mortgage offer is due to expire and that, if they wish to extend their agreement, they will have to apply all over again.
In the meantime, the site goes back up on the market and the estate agent, who happens to control 70 percent of the lettings in the area, continues to hound the couple for the architect’s details.
The couple must decide whether to tell him to get lost and run the risk of being ostracised from the housing market in the locality, or give in and hand over the contact details in the hope that this agent will look favourably on any future offer in the area.
The Irish housing market in 2016, ladies and gentlemen.