David Turley couldn't help but be impressed at the opulence promised by the developers of Beetham Tower, the £50 million 39-storey glass-fronted tower soaring above Birmingham city centre.
"Wake up to the most incredible views you have ever seen over Birmingham. The tower will offer the highest quality apartments ever seen in Birmingham," the sales blurb raved.
There was more to wet the appetite.
Purchasers of the 144 apartments and six penthouses would find themselves in the enviable position of living on top of a five-star hotel - the SAS Radisson.
While admiring the night-time skyline they would even be able to pick up a telephone and order room service from the hotel, it was suggested.
The apartments would also benefit from solar-powered heating, natural slate floors, a card-entry security system and a large health club.
Mr Turley, a sales manager, had no hesitation in agreeing to pay £277,000 for a two bedroom flat. In common with many other would-be purchasers, he agreed to buy the property 'off plan' as an investment.
At 400 feet, Beetham Tower is the tallest residential building outside of London. The prospect of stunning views along with the prestige factor of having a five-star hotel as a neighbour persuaded purchasers that they could reap handsome returns by renting their flats to tenants. Mr Turley said he expected to be able to let his flat for £1,200 a month.
Three years later, with the Beetham Tower flats nearing completion, Mr Turley says he is a wiser but poorer man.
He paid a £27,700 deposit, but failed to complete the contract after claiming that his flat had been seriously over-valued and the specification did not match descriptions on the sales literature.
There are at least five other purchasers who, like Mr Turley, believe they are being short-changed.
Their complaints are: n The flats have been overvalued, while projected rental values are significantly below what was anticipated. n The solar-powered heating, slate floors and card-entry security system failed to materialise. Investors have been told to provide their own TV and phone line and install it themselves if they want a video entry system. n The gymnasium covers less than a quarter of the 18th floor. n The SAS Radisson is a four star, not a five star hotel.
Mr Turley would actually have been the second owner of the flat if he had completed the contract.
He was buying from a speculator who purchased several of the Beetham Tower apartments and was looking to sell-on part of his investment.
Now, having lost his ten per cent deposit, he is considering litigation in an attempt to reclaim the money.
Mr Turley said: "When I had a look at my apartment it wasn't what was first promised in their glitzy sales magazines.
"A lot of the fixtures and fittings aren't in keeping with what was advertised.
"The rooms aren't very spacious. You would struggle to get a bed in the second bedroom.
"The point is that we were being promised luxury, but we didn't get it."
In the end, Mr Turley simply could not afford to buy. He has been told by his mortgage lender that the flat for which he was being asked to pay £277,000 is actually worth about £210,000.
"They said the rent you could get would be £1,200 a month, but my
valuer thinks I would be lucky to get £750. The provisional service charge was £1.65 a square foot. Then when it came to completion it was £3 a square foot."
He admits that buying off-plan is a speculative business and that prices can fall as well as rise.
However, Mr Turley added: "You expect the interior of the apartment to reflect what it says in the blurb."
Internet housing inspection site Inspector Home, which investigates "snagging" problems on new properties, has been retained by five Beetham Tower investors.
Spokeswoman Vanessa Ambler said an inspection of one apartment uncovered 40 separate faults. Most involved a failure to deliver the promised specification, but there was also evidence of poor finishing of building work.
Inspector Home were astonished to discover that none of the lounges and bedrooms of the flats they inspected had been fitted with ceiling or wall lights. Purchasers were told to provide their own freestanding lamps.
Ms Ambler added: "There was meant to be a solar-heated water system, which isn't there. There was meant to be a special card entry system, which isn't there.
"There was meant to be natural slate tiling and a power shower in the bathroom, which isn't there.
"People aren't getting what they were told they would be getting and this is of course reflected in a fall in the overall value of the properties."
Inspector Home managing director Stephen Nancarrow said: "We have found the sizes of the rooms are incorrect, the video entry has not been fitted, the fire escape is not finished properly, the standard of finish is average and there are still lots of major things wrong.
"This building was sold as a five-star development. We would expect the workmanship, finish and materials to be of the highest quality, but it isn't."
Investors threatening litigation against the Beetham Group face an uphill struggle.
Clause 18 of the sales contract, 'exclusion of liability', states that the buyer "has not entered into this agreement in reliance wholly or partly on any statement or representations made to him by or on behalf of the seller." ..SUPL: