Those looking to invest in property could get 20% returns from an eco village in Norway, but how reliable is a project like this?
The scheme is called the Convent in the Hills, and is described in its advertisement as “a new exclusive eco village development investment opportunity providing homes in Norway.”1
Pictured as a small charming Scandinavian village in the advert, the material explains that planning permission has been granted for 212 plots that will form the village and incorporate The Convent development of 20 eco properties.1
Investors are required to give a minimum of £15,000 to the project. For this they will get shares in the UK firm that owns the 3,500-acre plot.
Investors are promised a 20% yield within the year. The scheme is called “secure” and “asset-backed”1, but what is really at the site?
Norway Eco Village Offers 20% Returns… But What is Really There?
The spot is isolated; a three-hour train journey from the nearest major city of Stavanger. Around the area, many communities still speak their own languages. There are small settlements made up of wooden houses.
Near the site, a woman doing her gardening says that the project has been well received by neighbours. However she adds: “But now I hear it has been delayed.”1
Through the forest is a clearing; the Convent in the Hills. Some trees have been chopped down, but there are pools of icy water and no sign of construction work.
The architecture company that initially designed the plans for the project says that they stopped work on the Convent before last Christmas. A local newspaper also reported that the development has been postponed.
The owners of the project say that work was always planned to start this year, and should begin in the autumn.
This information, however, is not included in the Convent’s adverts. There is a warning though that informs investors that the Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate the scheme. This means that consumers are not protected if anything goes wrong. Investors will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
There are a number of unauthorised investments being sold currently, due to pension reforms. They include airport parking spaces, second-hand car loans and hotels.
Head of Pensions Research at investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown, Tom McPhail, says: “On the face of it, these sorts of investments don’t seem the sort of places where people should be investing their retirement savings.
“Do you want to gamble your nest egg on something so niche? You should always think twice before taking money out of your pension and be mindful of the consequences. If you are looking to invest, be very, very wary about investing in unregulated investments. You have no protection if things go wrong.”1
The British couple that own the Convent in the Hills project is Matthew and Charlotte Roberts. They run a luxury hotel in Woodchester, Gloucestershire, also called The Convent.
This hotel was backed through crowdfunding, where the cost was raised by a large number of contributors. These investors are paid a return. Already, 185 people have invested in the hotel.
However, Mr. Roberts was declared bankrupt last September. Therefore, he cannot be a company director in the UK until this is discharged. Mrs Roberts is the director of three companies and Mr. Roberts is employed in the businesses.
A company called Investment Opportunities sells investments in both The Convent and the Convent in the Hills projects.