Archive for April, 2007

Taming the tiger

April 29, 2007

Mandalay Residences - Richmond, BC

I’d like to think that I came up with that cool headline, but credit goes to the Vancouver Sun. They profiled the condo I’m looking at today — Cressey’s Mandalay Residences in Richmond — about nine months ago. Before you fret that I’m running out of content and resorting to old news, you should know that this is a deliberate editorial choice.

Today’s hype would have us believe that opportunities are running in short supply, that the market has no place for the contemplative buyer. Not so with Mandalay. You could’ve contemplated having a child and actually carried it out, start to finish. With more than nine months since pre-sales opened up, residences at Mandalay are still up for grabs.

Of course, you might not know this if all you consulted was the mainstream media. Like a good arsonist, they’re quick to start the fire and flee the scene. On July 15, 2006 in the Sun’s business section, the headline proclaims “Pre-sale interest high in Richmond development.” Quoted in the article is Cressey vice-president Hani Lammam, who offers up this deliciously ironic gem:

We really stepped up the quality on these projects, and buyers are telling us that’s what they want.

Stepped up the quality? What, like as opposed to the “stepped down” quality of Cressey’s previous developments? (Things get funnier when the Sun reporter goes on to list “stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, solid wood cabinets and hardwood flooring” as examples of Mandalay’s “stepped up” quality.)

I’ll leave it to the bulls and bears to debate whether Mandalay is a good investment. For me, I’ll just take pleasure in being hip to the hype. Oh, and remember my theory from a few days ago about the use of the word luxury? I think we’ve got a record here: Four uses in the first 21 words, or roughly 20 percent of the copy. Maybe the writer lost his/her thesaurus?

Sugar sweet on East Hastings Street

April 26, 2007

Sugar - 2636 East Hastings Street, Vancouver

Looking for sugar on East Hastings? What might have been an invitation to criminal activity is now a navigational inquiry for Vancouver condo buyers. I don’t know how such a bad joke in the marketing room could turn into a full-fledged brand campaign, but here it is.

Sugar at 2636 East Hastings Street has certainly done sweet business. Project developer Euro-Pacific (whose website at time of writing is a GoDaddy Starter Page) had their grand opening for their condos a little more than a week ago. Already more than 75 per cent of units have been sold. Apparently a “suite” deal, ho hum.

As as an enticement for buyers, an LCD TV is included as a standard feature. How nice of the developer to throw in a television after you throw in $300,000 (probably more). This is the kind of novelty you expect when buying a couch at The Brick. Classy move, sugar. Ten bucks says your TV is some crap brand like those Digimate models collecting dust at Futureshop. Must be the “slim” profit margins on condos these days. After all, it wouldn’t competitive to cover the cost of a brand name add-on. (I invite Euro-Pacific to correct me if they are actually offering up a decent TV. Corrections are welcome and encouraged.)

The kids over at Real Estate Talks have been trading barbs over this one for a few weeks now. I’ll highlight some of the better comments here. To avoid the risk of being boring, I’ll spare you my usual method of dissecting the copy and making jokes about it. I mean, I could make a funny about Sugar’s “quick access to Vancouver’s hottest spots” and then reference the huge adult video store that’s steps away but that’s not that funny. Or maybe it is. You tell me.

Some entertaining, slightly incoherent and deliberately out-of-context excerpts from the Sugar thread at RET:

  • “The area is absolutely fine and in my opinion better than Marpole.” -vanreal
  • “I don’t know if some of the people posted in this thread ever been to E. Hastings and Nanaimo area. Really, it’s not that bad. It ain’t Yaletown, but it’s not Cracktown by any means.” -Yoree
  • “I park my car in the lot out back or on Hastings Street itself. Never a problem.” -wgb.llb

I just love that last one. It inspires a great tagline. “Sugar. Park on Hastings or around back. It’s never a problem.”

Are you having as much fun as me? This is the sweet life, kids.

In West Van, luxury gets you a private elevator

April 24, 2007

The Aerie

So I’ve got this theory: The use and prominence of the word “luxury” in condo advertising is inversely related to price. The lower the price, the more likely you’re to see “luxury” in the copy. For properties that are genuinely luxurious and boast the price to match, you’ll maybe find the word mentioned once, if at all.

The Aerie at British Properties in West Vancouver is a fine example. The ad for these “penthouse-style” homes refer to luxury once. From there, the ad mostly lets the opulent characteristics of the estates speak for themselves. Why not throw luxury all over the ad? Why hide from the truth?

Well, for starters, there’s no grey area about luxury when the features list include private in-suite elevators and floor plans starting at 2,000 square feet. Heck, the place bears the official crest of the British Properties. (No mention of granite countertops though.)

At $2-million to start — that’s for the “cheapest” one in the bunch — an Aerie unit is at least six times more expensive than a suite at Pitt Meadows’ “luxurious” Keystone complex. In a recent ad, Keystone speaks of luxury twice.

Of course, just because the Aerie ad is reasonably modest doesn’t mean it gets to escape my scorn. I still need to give ’em hell about the garbage line about construction with “many green features.” Umm, yeah. Are we talking genuinely green engineering or a lame way of trying to associate the trees in neighbourhood as having something to do with the build. I want the facts, ma’am.

For more facts, go to

Scooter symphony

April 21, 2007

Dolce Symphony Place - Vancouver

If you’re like me, you spilled your coffee all over the table when you came across this ad on page K13 of today’s Vancouver Sun. It’s a three-quarter page placement for Dolce Symphony Place — a condo property purported to provide access to “the sweet life just steps away from Robson.”

Indeed, this is true — Dolce is sweetly located within a block of what some would call Canada’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive. But if the old cliché holds that a picture says a thousand words, then this ad says some funny things.

You see that purple and white train car in the bottom left? That’s a commuter train and I can tell you right now, there ain’t no railyard “just steps away” from Robson Street. Most Lower Mainland residents could tell you right away that that train is the West Coast Express and this image is most likely snapped in Gastown. Either somebody gave the photographer the wrong address or this is yet another example of how reality has no place in Vancouver condo marketing.

I love the discomforted look of the male passenger. It’s even better because you know the Vespa is at a stand-still, probably supported by the kick-stand cropped out at the base of the image. But props to Solterra for putting the male as the passenger. On an intertextual level, this is a cute jab at the gender politics featured in the most recent ad for The Zone which I looked at a few days ago.

For the interested, you can register at the Dolce website for more information. Those on the registration list are eligible to win a Vespa. Now I’m not encouraging anything but it would be pretty sweet if a condohype reader won. If that happens, I’ve got a stylish condohype t-shirt ready to be worn to the prize pickup.


April 19, 2007

Rockcliff - Squamish

As the Vancouver real estate market scorches the earth, we find the market redefining its standard as to what constitutes Greater Vancouver. What was once seen as a drive into the country can now be considered a neighbourhood within reach. This may partially explain the mass marketing behind Solterra’s Rockcliff at Eaglewind in Squamish.

Described as a series of “luxurious apartment homes,” Rockcliff bills itself as the ticket to the province’s best recreation — including climbing, hiking, riding, windsurfing and paddling.

You might also want to include treading to that list, as you try to stay above water with the mortgage payments.

Squamish’s “next epic landmark” is adventurously located past the McDonald’s off Highway 99. This isn’t just me being cheeky. This is actually noted at the base of the ad.

Introducing Rockcliff. Soar to new heights and get a McChicken to go.

The final sellout

April 17, 2007


Aura at 139th Street and 108th Avenue in “The New City of Surrey” is a one- and two-bedroom condo project geared toward young buyers and girls named Rachel. Or perhaps more accurately, the parents of young buyers and girls named Rachel.

As pitched by Surrey’s Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing, Aura’s “low monthly payments, the excitement of the new Surrey City Centre neighbourhood, the walk to the SkyTrain, all make it easy to call AURA home. How much better can it get!”

Probably best for someone like me not to be asked this question.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this campaign, which is to say there may be a glimmer of goodness in it. Perhaps because it’s less calculated and more clumsy than the standard we’ve come to expect from wizards such as Rennie and Wong.

There are inconsistencies in style (is it “Aura” or “AURA”?) and, more significantly, there’s a complete oxymoron in the call to action. Compare the urgent “move in today” and “do it” in the print ad with the calm “we want you to take your time” instruction from the website. I’m not kidding. The website invites prospective buyers to take their time and consider their potential purchase.

A condo marketing coup? Not quite. That girl still looks like she fell out of a Gap commercial from 1998. There’s this faux New York suggestion that Aura is an “upper east-side cityhome.” And it’s way too liberal in its use of adjectives (i.e. the features sheet lists a “funky” lobby entrance and “bold” 3 inch baseboards). But we’re spared a close-up of a latte and on one of the website’s pages it can be inferred that a resident may actually be commuting to work. Yeah, work. In today’s hype, that might just be worth glowing about.

Oh, the urbanity!

April 15, 2007

The Zone

Whenever I’m feeling down, I try to seek out a good ad from the comedians at Platinum. Nothing like a good joke to raise one’s spirits. And Platinum’s definitely “in the zone” this weekend. As seen in yesterday’s Sun, Platinum presents The Zone, a new condo going up on West Broadway near Oak Street in Vancouver.

Complete with a stock shot of a yuppie couple zipping around on scooter, The Zone encourages buyers to “Discover the Fairview lifestyle” — further proof of the growing neighbourhood lifestyle nationalism inflamed by the Vancouver condo craze. (Just you wait, in three years we’ll have Kerrisdale asking for recognition as a distinct society. “We are the creme de la creme!”)

My favourite part of this ad is the quote from developer Peter Redekop in he which calls The Zone, “Arguably the best concrete value on the westside today.”

Two points on this.

One, by saying “arguably,” Redekop effectively renders his quote meaningless. Anyone can argue anything. Coke is “arguably” a healthy beverage because it contains water, which is essential for human life.

Two, Redekop is the developer of The Zone. What kind of validation is this? I’d like to see the film industry pull this kind of silliness in movie ads. “The Number 23 is arguably one of the best thrillers in years,” says Joel Schumacher, director of The Number 23.

At the project’s website, other treasures await. I’ve learned that The Zone is probably the best thing to happen to social networking since Facebook. Here’s some copy:

The Zone is where you get to connect with like minded individuals; people committed to succeeding in all areas of life and creating as many enjoyable experiences as possible.

The Zone is where you get to rest, reflect and be the very best that you can be.

The Zone is the space you’ve always wanted. Your concrete condo. Your Westside retreat. The ultimate urbanity within reach.

The 500 square-foot “urbanity” begins at $276,900. View suites extra.

Catch of the day

April 13, 2007

Coho Chapter II at Osprey

There’s something fishy going on in Pitt Meadows and its name is Coho Chapter II. Not to be confused with the North Shore’s Sockeye 6 Townhomes or Gastown’s Oncorhynchus Lofts, Coho Chapter II offers “two and three bedroom Georgian brick rowhomes with flex space and parking for 2 cars.”

Say what you wanna say about naming a housing development after a fish (unless this is some slippery acronym that I just can’t decode), I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Mosaic — this is brilliant. Just look at the tag line:


That’s it. There’s no spin about lifestyle, legacy or the address you’ve always wanted. No comparison to world cities, no suggestion of luxury. It’s just a celebration of the current condo era summed up in one word. This is condo hype in pure form.

Can’t wait for Chapter III.

Chilliwack legacies now

April 12, 2007

New Mark - Downtown Chilliwack

Here’s another hunk of gold from the team at Platinum Marketing. For the New Mark condo development in “downtown” Chilliwack, Platinum disowns its traditional lifestyle approach in favour of a more historical sensibility. Because this is Chilliwack, what is called for is not lifestyle but legacy. That’s right. Buy now and own the legacy.

I love the choice of the couple, standing before a clouded sky in a field of wheat, dressed in the purity of white. Without question, these birds are “living the countercultural message of chastity to its fullest expression.” (If you know where I stole this quote from, you are awesome and have great taste in reading. If you don’t, that’s OK. Just read Russell Shorto’s fantastic article.)

Though you might say the upward tilt of the woman’s arm refers to buyers’ hopes for rising property values, I think she’s just pointing out the spot where she hopes to consummate her marriage. Again, this is Chilliwack.

Jump on over to New Mark website for a tease of a Flash animation with music. Actually the music and graphics kinda reminded me of the opening of a Neil LaBute movie. For a split second I was excited. Misanthropy and relationship dysfunction as a marketing device? Then I got to the copy and my hopes were shattered:

Picture a thriving community bright with promise. Open spaces, new opportunities, and room to grow. Play. Learn. Work. Live. This is Chilliwack, one of Canada’s most progressive and fastest growing cities. In this desirable destination, you will discover New Mark – the address of new beginning today … a legacy for tomorrow.

Progressive? Chilliwack? The last two federal elections in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon saw the Conservative candidate win with more than 50% of the vote. If that’s progressive, what do you call East Van?

The legacies begin at $125,900. But please, smart buyers only.

Luxury is in the details

April 11, 2007

Keystone - Your Life, Your Home

Not wanting to fall into a trap of repeated Surrey bashing — two posts so far and this blog isn’t even two weeks old — I’m hucking today’s quips to the northeast. Pack the bags, kids. It’s time to visit Pitt Meadows, the natural place to grow. (That’s the district’s official slogan, not my editorial judgment.)

For all you folks hurling the hype that there’s never been a better time to buy, I ask you to explain value-for-money in spending $319,900 for a 1,000 square-foot box in Pitt Meadows.

Welcome to Keystone.

Apparently, at least as far as MAC Marketing Solutions is concerned, the luxury of Keystone is in the details. Details including a washer and dryer, wood cabinets and tiled entries and bathrooms. If you haven’t fainted yet from all the opulence, you better not risk it by learning that Keystone also provides buyers with parking stalls. Two of them.

Your life. Your home.

Your money.