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How Much does a Licence to Spoof Cost? Twelve Grand and about 20 Minutes

Posted on: December 12th, 2006

“Why not be an auctioneer? You could earn a fortune for doing eff-all. You were a parasite when you were a broker, so you could happily be a parasite again.” That was how my wife started me on my new career path.

“Come on,” I protest. “I’ll never qualify before the housing boom ends. Money for jam is a great idea, but it will surely take years to gain a licence to practise as an estate agent?

“Anyway I would skip the lectures, fail the exams, and probably be senile before I had served out my apprenticeship. It could be a decade before I am up and running. How long do you think it would take?”

“About 20 minutes,” says she.

So, five weeks ago, I put an ad in the Bray People stating that “Sean de Rossa” was applying for an auctioneering licence. Then I picked up my tax clearance certificate and filled in the application form.

That was the apprenticeship.

Three weeks ago a Garda called to our house and checked up on my bona fides.

That was the interview.

Ten days ago I headed for the District Court in Bray armed only with a tax clearance certificate, a bond of €12,700 and a solicitor.

The solicitor put me in the box. He asked in open court whether I intended to practise under the Irish version of my name. Which I do.

Anxious to emphasise my property credentials, I volunteered truthfully that I had advised on all sorts of investment including property bonds when I was a stockbroker and that I was director of an investment trust with interests in Irish property.

The judge asked the Gardai if they had any objection. They had none. He then wished me well in my venture and certified me as qualifying as a fit person under the Acts.

That was the exam.

The judge had little option as I fulfilled the undemanding requirements of the law.

Today, six weeks after I set out, I am a fully licensed auctioneer. Off I go to plunder and pillage inthe property jungle among the cowboys.

Today I can advertise as an auctioneer; I can buy and sell houses for commission; I can advise on guide prices; I can conduct auctions galore; I can gazump until the cows come home. Best of all, I can take in buckets of money from a gullible public. I am not subject to the prying inspections of the Financial Regulator, the Central Bank, any fig-leaf of an auctioneer’s body – or anyone else.

I have never bought or sold a property as an agent in my life. I have never formally studied property valuations. I am a bookkeeper’s nightmare. I have never done a day’s work in an auctioneer’s office. I have never . . . In brief, I am a licensed impostor, but hopefully an honest one.

And I can spoof as well as any of them.

But I do have a few ideas to upset the auctioneers’ apple cartel. A no-frills estate agency.

But alternatively I am contemplating another road. I am looking forward to a long sojourn in Barbados or some sanctuary in South America. When I scarper to faraway sunnier climes with all those clients’ booking deposits, I will reflect on a piece of good fortune.

When de Rossa Estates goes belly-up, my innocent clients – who have given me booking deposits – will be recompensed out of the derisory bond of €12,700 which I lodged last week.

Happily for the nation’s auctioneers, the bond (supposedly providing security in the case of a default) has – incredibly – remained anchored at the 12 grand figure ever since 1973.

Over the same time, the housing market has boomed. The property index has multiplied by 40. The average price of a new house in Dublin in 1973 was €9,206. Today it is close to €400,000. So today the average 10 per cent booking deposit would be €40,000. My paltry bond would not even cover a third of a booking deposit for one unsuspecting client.

Whoopee. If I vanish to the Bahamas with a modest 20 booking deposits (€800,000) under my belt, the pitiful €12,700 security will not provide more than token cover.

Auctioneering must be the only “profession” in Ireland where the barriers to entry are falling.