Claire Sweeney in “the biggest scam in Turkey"
The former Brookside star went on to say that the house was bought for 250,000 Euros eight years ago, and is so desperate to get rid of it she’s offering to sell it half price through Twitter.
However, what Sweeney didn’t mention is that her villa, located outside the Bodrum Peninsula in Gulluk, is one a large number of homes marketed and sold by British company Parador Properties that are sitting empty and unsellable. What’s more, Sweeney, who already has a number of investment properties under her belt, became the face of Parador in 2005, fronting a commercial and using her image to sell properties.
In July 2007, Claire Sweeney told the Express: “I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the place. I came here with Parador Properties and I’m so glad that I did as I’ve now bought a wonderful villa!”
The Parador sagaPropertyturkey.com director Cameron Deggin, who divides his time between his homes in London and Bodrum, is very familiar with Parador Properties.
Anticipating a sharp upturn in price and demand in Bodrum, Parador partnered up with local developers, who had bought up swathes of cheap land outside the peninsula in the early 2000s, Deggin says. They began to construct large co-operative style, cheap developments.
“There were so many properties built in this deadzone,” Deggin says. “Although growth was happening in the area, it was concentrated on the Bodrum Peninsula. There was no way Parador were ever going to sell all these properties.”
Parador began selling £49 inspection trips to potential buyers, where they would work hard to close deals.
“This was a company whose sales tactics redefined the hard sell,” Deggin says. “They would bring clients out to the area and would not leave them alone - even to eat at night, and the commission rates were huge, one client told me they discovered afterwards that the commission on their property was something like 20%.”
When Parador were at their busiest, between 2006 and 2008, Deggin received many calls asking about Parador Properties. “I wanted nothing to do with the properties,” he says. “I outlined the problems with Parador and I told these clients that I couldn’t help them, I just didn’t want to get involved. Some listened, but most didn’t, they were seduced by the low prices and the hard sell. Now some of these people are calling me and asking for help.”
False promisesParador made promises of rental guarantees and capital gains, says Deggin. “They were told there would be a new marina in the area, a golf course - they sold a fantasy, and people bought it.”
Parador’s prediction of a Bodrum Boom was correct. Prices rose, tourist numbers skyrocketed. Centres like Bodrum town and Yalikavak flourished, with new marina developments and luxury hotel complexes attracting interest and investment in the area.
However, far away from the hustle and bustle of the peninsula, Tuzla and Gulluk stagnated. The infrastructure that was promised never materialised. The rental income never materialised as holidaymakers stuck to livelier centres on the peninsula. The resorts stayed quiet, and those who bought Parador properties began to get desperate.
“None of these promises ever materialised, and what’s worse: people can’t even get half what they paid for these places now,” Deggin says.
In July 2008 Parador went into liquidation, leaving thousands of buyers in limbo. Reports from the time say that Parador was still taking money from buyers a few days before the company went bust, even though they would’ve been well aware that the company was in dire straits.
“Crying down the phone”Deggin, who has been in the Turkish property business for more than a decade, says he receives at least one call each week from someone desperate to offload their Parador property. While he’s sympathetic to anyone who bought a Parador property in Gulluk or Tuzla, he still “won’t touch these properties.”
He tells a heartbreaking story of a 65-year-old man who bought six properties through Parador. “He was crying on the phone, begging me to help sell his apartments. When I asked him how many he bought, he said six. He’d mortgaged his UK home to fund the purchases.”
“When I asked him why he’d bought six properties, his answer floored me. He said: ‘I am now convinced there was hypnosis involved’. That is exactly what he said - that in his sane mind he would never have bought, and they ‘made’ him buy.” While Deggin doesn’t believe hypnosis was involved, the man’s story gives an insight into Parador’s tactics, he says.
The biggest scam in Turkey“Simply put, this was the biggest property scam I ever saw in Turkey, and it was perpetuated by a British company. I feel sorry for Claire Sweeney but she was part of the problem here, helping to sell these doomed properties to fellow Brits. And now she is one of many people who are desperate to sell their properties, and most of them are worse off than she is.”
Deggin is surprised a seasoned investor like Sweeney, who owns property in London, Brighton and Spain, got on board with Parador, investing her money and her reputation in the company. “I can only imagine that she too, fell for the hard-sell tactics of Parador. It’s unfortunate that she chose to get involved in their marketing, becoming party to all these people losing money in these properties.”
Too good to be true?Deggin’s advice is simple. “If something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Turkish property is cheaper than it is in other Mediterranean and Aegean locations, but that doesn’t mean you should just buy the first cheap property you see. Ask yourself - why is this priced so low?”
He advises potential buyers to get to know the market. “If buyers had asked around at the time, they would’ve discovered what everyone who knew the Bodrum market already knew. Tuzla, where the bulk of the homes are built, is a dead area. It’s far from Bodrum centre and there’s nothing out there. There isn’t enough infrastructure for the marinas and golf courses that were promised, and there’s certainly no chance of the property accruing value anytime soon.”
While Bodrum property prices have nearly doubled since Sweeney bought her property in 2007, the Parador Properties in Tuzla and Gulluk have stagnated.
“Turkey is currently a great place to invest, you’d be mad not to,” Sweeney said back in 2007.
Deggin agrees, but with a proviso: to exercise the same caution that you would at home.
“Buying a home in Turkey has exactly the same pitfalls as it does in the UK. If you don’t do your homework, like Claire Sweeney you might end up with a property in an undesirable area that you’re lumbered with forever. Find out what the market is doing, ask around. Use a reputable agent. Just because you’ve heard this or that place is a good spot to buy property, it doesn’t mean that every property there is good value, or even every suburb.”
Deggin invites Claire Sweeney or anyone with questions about buying property in Turkey to call him on +44 (0) 20 8371 0059 or send him an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.