Archive for April, 2016

Is Negative Equity Still an Issue in Northern Ireland?

Property Prices in Northern Ireland are rising but is it enough to cure the Negative Equity epidemic post property boom?

Is Negative Equity Still an Issue in Northern Ireland? The answer is – it depends on where you live.

According to Ulster University Housing Price Index the average property price in Northern Ireland is now just under £150,000 and this represents a 9% increase over the same period measured last year.

Jon Frey from Northern Ireland Housing Executive stated “This is the highest annual rate of increase in house prices since the downturn in 2007”. It is in fact the highest price rise in 9 years.

Although finding a different percentile rise in prices the Department of Finance still showed an increase in property prices. They classified the rise at 7%.  Finance Minister Mervyn Storey said: “I believe there is continued confidence in our housing market which is encouraging for the Northern Ireland economy as a whole.” The Minister also commented that there is a healthy level of sales in the country for the past two years and these sales figures are almost double what was experienced between 2008 to 2011.

Nonetheless, property prices are still down by over 50% from the peak of the market in 2007.

Geographically we see considerable differences across Northern Ireland.

Of particular concern is property in the Northwest Regions including Londonderry/Derry and Strabane which saw average prices fall by 20% from £113,662 to £90,451. This really bucks the trend we see across the rest of the country and is concerning for homeowners. Conversely prices are at their highest in South Belfast averaging at £210,000 and the markets of North Down and Ards showed consolidation and an average price of £141,000.

From a Bell & Company perspective this fits in with what we discuss regularly within the firm. We see many being over optimistic taking Belfast as their measure of property prices in Northern Ireland. The city is performing well and seeing rises across all areas and all property types. However, our concern is that country areas are being rather overlooked and the figures in the Northwest are worrying for borrowers who are in negative equity and still seeing their home values fall against the trend.

Overall then we are seeing some positive signs in the market with prices rises and sales increasing. There is still a long way to go to get even close (if we ever do) to 2007 price levels and the Northwest area and continual price declines is a concern that should be addressed.

If you are anyone you know is suffering from Negative Equity and doesn’t know how to move on then please call Bell & Company today on +44 (0) 2895 217373 to arrange a free initial consultation.

Terry Bell


Your free consultation

Initial Contact

When you call Bell & Company you will speak to our Business Relationship team. Our personnel in this team are trained to assess your situation, outline the services we offer and ultimately arrange your free initial consultation with an advisor.

Come Prepared

Often many individuals who contact us are quite shocked when we ask for information to be prepared for the meeting. Although there a few items required it isn’t a time-consuming exercise and you will often have documentation stored safely somewhere.

Provide us with as much information as you can.

Despite the information being quite personal and financially sensitive, it is important you provide as much of this as possible. With this and honesty regarding your situation, our advisors can work with you to plan a potential route forward to end your debt burden.

It is imperative you are honest about your circumstances as Bell & Company have had to deal with cases when crucial information wasn’t given upfront and came up mid-way through negotiations. This jeopardises any chance of success.

More the just advice

Our motto has always been “Professional Independent Debt Advice.” Supplying documentation and being upfront with Bell & Company allows us to deliver the best, tailored service to your circumstances.  Also, the exercise of a financial review is quite beneficial to you yourself, you can budget better and be more aware of your finances.

If you or anyone you know could benefit from any of Bell & Company’s services, then please contact us today on 0330 159 820 to arrange a free initial consultation.

Provided you are upfront and provide the information we request we are sure our advisors can assist.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Personal Guarantees

During the boom Personal Guarantees were given by numerous individuals to facilitate borrowing by corporate entities and dependent relatives. Now many of those guarantors are in difficulty and their Personal Guarantees are outstanding and have been called on.

Do you have clients facing exposure by way of any Personal Guarantee?

There are always options available to the individual and the key is in obtaining professional advice that is tailored to the specific needs of each and every client. Strategy is one element but implementation is another vital component and Bell and Company have the team and resources to make both happen.

The distinction between a pre-insolvency consultant such as ourselves, and an Insolvency Practitioner, is that an Insolvency Practitioner has a legal obligation to work to obtain the best outcome for creditors.  Our obligation as pre-insolvency consultant’s is to the director or individual. Therefore, the objectives are distinctly different and this is where the value of pre- insolvency becomes clear.

Bell & Company are based in Belfast with offices in London and Spain. Should any of your clients wish to avail of a FREE initial consultation at this challenging time, please contact Karen immediately on +44 (0)2895 27 373 or visit our website

Settlement examples

A client approached us with issues in respect of a Personal Guarantee of £500,000 on his ex-wives’ borrowings. After a Fixed Charge Receiver was appointed a deficit of £528,000 accrued, thus triggering a call on the Personal Guarantee for our client. Through thorough representation and presentation to the Bank, a settlement of the £500,000 guarantee was made for £35,000 in Full and Final settlement.  *

Our client owed in total €2,350 with security value of €1,000,000. A personal Guarantee of €1,500,000 was called for the impending shortfall of €1,350,000. We assisted the client with a buy-back of some of the security and settled with the Bank on the Personal Guarantee at €80,000 over time. *

A personal Guarantee was quickly settled as our client wanted to move to Australia. An £85,000 Personal Guarantee was settled for £5,500.  Speed was of the essence here and an excellent settlement for our clients was reached. *

*  Documentary evidence available at meetings.


For Corporate clients or those suffering business debt issues you may have been advised by a Bank that if your account is not rectified and arrears reduced then a Fixed Charge Receiver (FCR) may be appointed.

Why and FCR is appointed.

Fixed Charge Receivers are appointed once a Banking Institution has chosen to proceed to Recovery on a connection.  FCR are basically the Bank’s own Agents, appointed in order to proceed with the sale of property secured to the Bank.

A Fixed Charge Receiver will be chosen from a Banking panel list, shall be given instruction by the Bank to actively market properties on their behalf in most instances and shall give same Bank on-going advices/recommendations in respect of any offers that are forthcoming.

Consequences of having an FCR is appointed.

They can negatively affect your business through a loss of control. The sale converts from a consensual process into a forced sale scenario. This will ultimately reduce the sales proceeds as forced sales typically result in 70% of market value being achieved, this loss in value will reflect on the borrower with a higher shortfall to repay. FCR fees may also be added to your account. Communications from any potential purchasers will go straight to FCR as opposed to through Borrower direct.

Furthermore, any rental income will be collected by FCR directly. They will honour tenancy agreements where they correctly hang together and where there has been consent however may look to change locks where no tenancy agreements in place. Unfortunately, the borrower is still liable for rates if property is vacant even after FCR appointed.

Our experience with FCRs.

In dealing with FCR’s Bell and Company from experience have found it best to be co-operative & maintain communications. We have had some very positive experiences of working with FCR in progressing sales/transactions. It is also good to keep them informed regarding any interest in property/properties & provide all paperwork requested.

Maintaining a positive relationship with FCR can benefit all parties involved.

If you have any Corporate Banking Issues including issues with Fixed Charge Receivers, then please call Bell & Company today on 0330 159 5820 to arrange your free initial consultation. We look forward to assisting you.

Business for Breakfast- Cookstown

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This month we just passed the seventh year anniversary of Interest Rates being set at a record low 0.5%. The Budget announcement and Brexit have stolen financial press headlines to this milestone sneaked under the radar. The graph below (although slightly comical) shows the Interest Rate trend over recent years.

The 0.5% rate was set in 2009 during a time of financial crisis and it was a necessary measure to curb the impact on the UK economy. However for the last 7 years we have seen the economy settlement and unemployment is consistently falling and below pre-crisis level. We are currently in a low interest rate environment worldwide, this is fuelled by uncertainty, inflation being low particularly given oil prices have slumped.

There are problems with ultra-low interest rates and Central Banks should be concerned:

  1. Inflation erodes the value of savings. Despite inflation rates being low inflation adjusted interest rates are negative means savings are being eroded. This is concerning as people are not saving and considering the future including retirement.
  2. Low interest rates is encouraging more people to take on debt – this is what caused the financial crisis in the first place. Remember the credit crunch?
  3. House prices (particularly in London) are being pushed up. People who are already homeowners benefit from this but first time buyers and the younger generation simply cannot get on the property ladder.
  4. People are beginning to consider this rate the norm. This will make it harder for the Central Bank to increase interest rates which are in line or higher than inflation. The longer we continue the greater the risk is of addiction to low interest rates and subsequent economic shock when they do (inevitably) increase.

As the US Federal Reserve has (already) the Bank of England must consider a rate rise soon given economic performance is adequate. There always seems to be a short term issue which stops any increase happening and given the EU referendum in the UK we will be waiting some time yet before a decision is made. But, the role of the Central Bank is to take a long term view and not just look at Short term issues. Accordingly point 4 above supports that an interest rate rise should occur sooner rather than later.

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