€100m gamble on property market revival

Irish house builder New Generation Homes has spent “over €100m” buying up a vast land bank around Dublin to build new houses in one of the biggest gambles on the property market recovery ever seen. The company is headed up by 28-year-old Arklow man Greg Kavanagh.

It is understood that New Generation Homes recently raised money from US private equity firm Starwood, with earlier backing from Pacific Investments — the buyout firm founded by British entrepreneur Sir John Beckwith, uncle of socialite Tamara Beckwith.

The sums raised from investors are thought to be in the “tens of millions”. The funding relates to specific transactions and development projects.

Property sources have also indicated that Pat McDonagh, Ireland’s most successful software tycoon, is also involved. However, Kavanagh declined to comment on other investors in the venture. New Generation is advised by Grant Thornton, William Brennan & Co and Copsey Murray.

“We have no bank debt. Everything is funded in cash,” Kavanagh said.

It was a mixture of equity and investors. People were keen to invest,” New Generation chief executive Mark Elliott added. “There was a good appetite for people to invest in the Irish residential property story.”

“We just knew it was a sector to plough into as hard as we could. There was no competition in residential house building so we could buy up a lot very quickly and that’s what we did,” Kavanagh said.

In an incredibly gutsy move, New Generation sealed its first property deal at the start of 2011, just weeks after Ireland was forced to enter the Troika bailout.

Market sources have told the Sunday Independent that the builder has inked more than 50 deals to buy sites in the greater Dublin area and has plans to build “thousands” of houses. It has bought land at Knockcree in Carrickmines, Belmont in Stepaside, two sites in Knocklyon, a large site in Sutton, Westmanstown Cottages in Lucan and the Boulder site off Rochestown Avenue near Cabinteely.

“We have acquired enough sites to keep us busy for the next couple of years,” Elliot added.

The company is sitting on major paper profits already on some of its land deals, as prices for sites have risen strongly over the last year with investors flooding back into the market. One site, thought to have been purchased for €13m last year, may now be worth over €30m based on current values of up to €100,000 per unit.

New Generation sold over 100 newbuild homes last year, according to Kavanagh, with prices ranging from €280,000 to €630,000.

The company is currently building on six sites, working on the construction of up to 500 new homes. One of these, Belmont in Stepaside, has space for 350 units. Planning records show that the companies associated with New Generation have received 13 grants of planning permission with another six applications still live.

“Right now our bias is to get homes built. We want to get more staff. We want to be more active on sites and we’d hope to at least double our output next year,” said Elliot.

“Next year we’ll probably do 300 to 400 houses,” added Kavanagh.

However, Kavanagh told the Sunday Independent that it is no longer in the market to buy sites as prices have risen dramatically over the last year.

“We’re starting to exit because the value is diminishing — and what people are paying doesn’t stack up,” he warned.

Super-rich are starting to buy Irish property once again

FEW people will have heard of Greg Kavanagh. The Arklow man is now the face of what could be the biggest domestic gamble on the Irish economic and property market recovery.

The low-profile 28-year-old doesn’t crop up on Google searches much. He has deliberately stayed out of the limelight. Over two interviews in the offices of his solicitor William Brennan and in the Merrion Hotel in DuBlin, Kavanagh outlined how his hunch that Ireland would recover would make him, and his well-heeled backers, an absolute fortune.

Many of the traditional home-builders in Ireland have either gone wallop, like McInerneys, or have shifted their focus abroad. This has meant that only a fraction of the homes needed to satisfy demand are being built.

The ESRI estimates that around 20,000 net new households are created each year, with a large proportion of those wanting to live in Dublin. The raw fear experienced by consumers over the last six years, coupled with a lack of mortgages from the banks, has meant that demand has been almost non-existent since 2007.

But it couldn’t stay like that forever. And that’s at the core of Kavanagh’s €100m gamble.

Kavanagh told the Sunday Independent that he knew the market would turn because of “debt graphs” and studying “the movement of capital” back in the darkest days of the economic crisis.

So far, he’s been bang on the money.

His New Generation Homes has hoovered up prime sites around Dublin over the last two years and is preparing to build thousands and thousands of houses. Already, he’s in profit as the value of those lands has soared.

But Kavanagh isn’t the only ballsy investor to take a punt on the Irish property market coming back from the dead.

Big US buyers such as Kennedy Wilson, Franklin Templeton and George Soros have put money directly or indirectly into the property market here.

‘The feel-good factor has been fuelled

by estate agencies and land professionals — confidence is key, they say’

Irish buyers have been few, but that’s all changing.

Beef baron Larry Goodman splashed out over €43m to buy the Bank of Ireland headquarters on Baggot Street in December 2012. He’s spending another €35m on doing it up.

A blue-chip client like Facebook or KPMG signed in on a long lease with give Goodman a dynamite yield — better than money in the bank.

Increasing capital values will also boost the family bank balance. Goodman’s Parma Investments is also behind a major new retail and residential development in Newry to capitalise on cross-border shopping. Source: The Irish Independent