A Wellington businessman has taken a big punt on an old Mt Victoria villa - paying more than $1 million for a stripped-out house that he couldn't get to see inside.
The house at 48 McFarlane St, next to St Gerard's Monastery and with spectacular views of the harbour, was marketed as "an opportunity like no other" when it was put up for mortgagee sale by Westpac bank.
The house, which has a 2012 rating value of $2m, was formerly owned by imprisoned tax fraudsters David Rowley and Barrie Skinner, who bought it two years ago for $2.13m.
It was mortgaged to Westpac and Wellington property developer Vladimir Barbalich, and had been stripped of its kitchen and bathroom fittings. Floorboards had also been ripped up in recent months.
Harcourts agent John Callam listed it with a less-than-glowing endorsement, declaring: "If you are prepared to take on a challenge, it could be yours too."
He also advised that would-be buyers could not get into the house - a statement reinforced by a man living in the house, who told anyone coming to the door that it was not for sale.
The new owner said that when he took possession on Tuesday there was nobody there.
The former resident, "who seemed pleasant enough", turned up later and left after being given the Maori sovereignty flag that had been hung on the front window.
"I don't know if it's a bargain or not," the buyer said.
He was not prepared to say how much he bid for the house, except to confirm it was more than $1m and that it was going to cost "a fair bit more" to fix it so it could become his family home.
Callam said he could not disclose any details of the sale, apart from confirming that it had gone through.
Westpac spokesman Chris Mirams was not prepared to disclose how much it was owed on the property and whether that had been recovered by the sale.
"We have nothing else to add."