New Blue Chip wave hits

The apartment was worth about $180,000 in today's market, she said, and was "way overvalued" in 2005. She was currently paying 8.85 per cent on a mortgage of $422,000…some of the original Hudson Brown values were "just ridiculous"…Many owners were "good solid Kiwis … trusting people" who stood to lose an "enormous" amount.

The New Zealand Herald
June 14, 2009

New Blue Chip wave hits
Jane Phare

While a triumphant Mark Bryers has escaped an attempt to liquidate his company, freeing him to transfer his business to Australia, a new wave of distressed Blue Chip investors face mortgagee sales.

In downtown Auckland's Hudson Brown complex, six investors could lose up to $400,000 each when their apartments go to mortgagee sale. Estate agents say more will follow.

Shaun Luyt, Harcourts sales manager for Ponsonby, said of 13 apartments coming up for auction this month, 10 were ex-Blue Chip including the Hudson Brown group. He regularly dealt with distressed Blue Chip investors who faced losing everything, including their homes.

Initially, Blue Chip liquidator Jeff Meltzer appealed to banks for mercy on struggling investors, many of them retired, to try to buy time while complex Blue Chip transactions was sorted through. That time has run out and GE Money has instructed the six apartments be sold.

Three years ago investors paid between $525,000 and $605,000 for six Hudson Brown apartments, next to Quay Park, on leasehold land. Agents handling the sale say they will struggle to reach between $150,000 and $200,000, leaving owners with losses of up to $400,000.

Hudson Brown apartment owner Maree Aitkenhead, the partner of Bryers' former business partner Bob Bangerter, could lose her investment because of arrears. Aitkenhead bought the two-bedroom apartment in 2005 for $524,000 and was told to expect between $640 to $680 a week for short-term rentals. Instead Aitkenhead receives $380 a week for a long-stay rental, not nearly enough to cover the mortgage payments, insurance and body corporate fees. She has until June 23 to pay the arrears before the bank considers a mortgagee sale.

The apartment was worth about $180,000 in today's market, she said, and was "way overvalued" in 2005. She was currently paying 8.85 per cent on a mortgage of $422,000.

"Considering the apparent value of the property now, I can't refinance at the lower interest rates available."

The Hudson Brown complex is on a 20ha, ex-Auckland rail yard site bought by Ngati Whatua in 1996. Developers pre-paid 15 years of the 150-year lease and the rental is due for renewal in 2011. The tribe's website says the first year's rental is expected to be more than $15 million.

Harcourts agent Jack Regan said some of the original Hudson Brown values were "just ridiculous". One investor had paid $475,000 for a one-bedroom on leasehold land. "That person had no idea what they were buying."

Two of the Hudson Brown apartments are the subject of formal complaints to the Valuers Registration Board. Six complaints, against three valuers who valued Blue Chip properties, have been lodged since the company folded early last year and are still grinding through investigation.

Luyt, who specialises in managed apartments, said Harcourts took over Blue Chip's managed apartments when Bribanc folded.

This year banks had increasingly sought appraisals for Blue Chip apartments as investors fell behind in their payments.

Many owners were "good solid Kiwis … trusting people" who stood to lose an "enormous" amount.

Luyt was also dealing with clients who had bought Blue Chip apartments in the Beaumont Quarter near Victoria Park, on leasehold land. A one-bedroom apartment bought for $349,000 in 2006 sold for $56,800.

Last year Beaumont Quarter residents reacted angrily when landed with massive ground rent increases after Beaumont Partners increased the yearly rent from $900,000 to $4.4m. The residents succeeded in having the amount cut to $3.1m.

Luyt said the owners of some one-bedroom apartments were earning about $17,500 from rent but paying out $12,500 in ground rent, body corporate and a residents' society fees. They then had to pay a large portion of the mortgage out of their own pockets.

"They are mostly Ma and Pa investors. They can't cope any longer. They just want out."

Bryers this month escaped an attempt by the Registrar of Companies to have his company, Northern Crest Investments (formerly Blue Chip Financial Solutions) liquidated. The company issued a press statement that it had developed a scheme to "assist former New Zealand clients of the collapsed NZ franchisee."

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