Whether your off-plan purchase was intended as a holiday home or simply as an investment, you almost certainly assumed that it would actually be built.
Developers are typically not construction companies – they subcontract actual building work, using your funds to speculate on the future value of a project. A fall in demand, prices or the availability of mortgage finance for purchasers soon leads to an untenable situation for the developer, who seldom has the capital to bridge the gap in a depressed market, and construction stops. Whilst the developer may face liquidation, it is the investors who pay the price. However, there is a solution
The first thing to recognise is that the developer is unlikely to have any cash. Whilst the obvious recourse for an individual investor is to sue, victory in a civil action will do nothing to change this and will incur more costs. Eventually, prompted by the actions of at least some of the creditors, the developer's assets will be seized and sold off under the direction of the courts. Unfortunately, even in normal times, a development which is 80% complete is worth nothing like 80% of its completed value – in the current climate, it is likely to be sold at public auction as a single lot for a nominal amount. Preferential creditors, such as the civil authorities and banks with secured loans, will be paid from the proceeds first and investors may be lucky to recover anything, even if they've incurred additional costs in pursuing their claims legally.
The key challenge is therefore to transform this situation into one which will produce a satisfactory return for the investors.
There may be dozens, perhaps hundreds, of creditors who have an interest. Individual creditors can do little to dictate proceedings and are left in a passive role with few prospects of recovering much of what they are owed, if anything. The majority of these creditors are likely to be off-plan purchasers. The solution is to deal with the entire development project rather than with individual cases. This is what we help you achieve.
We begin by bringing together as many investors in a project as possible. Since we started operations in 2008, we have frequently achieved a rate of investor participation of over 80%.
We then devise a strategy for the project - each one is different – and obtain a consensus. We establish a syndicate with a secure web site and a forum for each individual development so that members can collaborate. It is the syndicate that evaluates options and makes decisions – ICP simply provides the infrastructure, resources and expertise to support democratically agreed objectives.
We retain lawyers and other professional advisers who are experts in the relevant fields and who will work with a syndicate as a single group – this allows us to negotiate fee rates which are usually well below the norm.
We must then take control. A syndicate will typically become the dominant creditor and will therefore have significant influence. In some cases, we can negotiate terms with the original developer but we may have to take legal action. A majority creditor position increases our options and we can, with the right professional support, take cost-effective and relatively timely action.
Once in control, ICP negotiators will work with other creditors, such as banks and suppliers, and, if appropriate, construction companies who can complete a development in partnership with us or simply take it over. We also have our own property services subsidiary, which is operated by an investment syndicate, providing construction, site management and professional services. In some instances, we may be able to switch your investment to another development.
If the most viable solution is to complete a development, we can introduce investors to provide further funds via an Investment Syndicate. There is a huge difference between the cumulative value of completed, habitable units and that of an incomplete project. Whilst with hindsight you will be aware that you bought at the peak of the market and that the value of your purchase has decreased, even if it is completed, the picture is entirely different for new investors – the market is at or near the bottom and the time to invest is now.
Some developers are genuine and are either casualties of the recession or were simply over-optimistic. We always recommend negotiation as the quickest, cheapest and most effective option, but we remain ready to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the interests of syndicate members.
In cases where there is clear evidence of fraud, we can initiate criminal proceedings and pursue individuals personally.
Is your project listed?
Take a look at existing Management Syndicates (from the Syndicates menu option) to see if your development is listed. If it is, you can apply to join. Full information will be forwarded before you confirm your participation. If it's not listed, you'll find a form which will allow you to submit your project as a potential candidate.
Please note that when we receive an application to join a syndicate, we ask for proof of investor status to ensure that only bona fide investors can participate in syndicate activities and discussions.
Most cases require a significant commitment on the part of ICP, usually for an extended period. We understand that many investors have limited access to funds, often because of their investment in the development project itself.
ICP is a not-for-profit company. Whilst we must cover our expenses, we recoup these from recovered funds - we don't ask you to actually pay these. You should however budget for costs payable to third parties, These are likely to include legal fees, court and state charges and services such as translation, notarisation etc. However, by working as a group, we can achieve the best possibe terms where these are negotiable - whatever happens, costs will almost certainly be substantially lower than if you try to go it alone and the chances of success should be much higher..
To find out more about what not-for-profit means, click here.