Archive for July, 2007

Highland evolution

July 27, 2007

Highland Park at Morgan Heights

I often think of advertising as a kind of cultural vampire sucking away at the body of knowledge and meaning. I look at this ad for Highland Park at Morgan Heights and I’m left dizzy trying to make sense of what it means. Consider:

Highland Park at Morgan Heights. A place to flourish. Life is about to evolve around you.

West Coast architecture in a park-like setting inspires newfound freedom. Artfully designed, these spacious 2 and 3 bedroom townhomes feature clean lines to encourage uncomplicated living. Beyond your front door, a growing community beckons.

Such a flurry of flowery words only fuels my lack of understanding.

What life is to evolve around me? What is a park-like setting? Is a park-like setting similar to a wood-like floor? How does a park-like setting inspire newfound freedom? What is newfound freedom?

How is the property artfully designed? How do clean lines encourage uncomplicated living? What is uncomplicated living? Is my current living complicated?

How does a growing community beckon?

If there’s a front door, does that mean there’s a back door?

One last question. Where is Morgan Heights? Considering you haven’t mentioned it, I’ll take a guess. It is… Surrey?!?

Funny how silence can speak volumes.

Grand Central Coquitlam

July 24, 2007

Grand Central | Coquitlam

There’s this great scene in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross where a ruthless corporate “motivator” played by Alec Baldwin verbally eviscerates a crew of haggard real estate salesmen. After unleashing a terror of profanity and insults at each Willy Loman in the room, the motivator reaches for his briefcase, grabs two golden spheres and suspends them at his crotch. He asks the men, “You know what it takes to sell real estate? It takes brass balls to sell real estate.”

Mamet’s maxim gives insight into what it takes to be a Vancouver condo marketer. Just think about the ego needed to launch a condo in Coquitlam named Grand Central. Consider the audacity of selling it as “high-style” living. Reflect on the outrageousness of pitching it using an airbrushed fashion model and then showing nothing else at all in the ad.

Does anybody even know what the hell is for sale here? All I can say is somebody better call an advertising manager at the Georgia Straight. I think an ad for an escort service made its way into the Sun’s Homes section by mistake.

Up a tree of hype

July 20, 2007

Thunderbird Creek in the Highlands

Earlier this week we learned of a young couple who purchased a $500,000 condo in Vancouver. Only after they closed the deal did they realize the place was infested with bats. According to the Vancouver Sun, the couple made the decision to buy based on a 20-minute walk-through. Fearing they’d be outbid by other buyers, they made a subject-free offer.

The couple partly blamed the hype machine for their lack of due diligence, saying they took the risk because of the “state of the market.”

Regardless of who you blame — the seller for not disclosing the situation or the buyer for not demanding a professional inspection prior to closing — there’s no denying the influential power of hype. In today’s market, it’s as if we’ve all run up a tree, grasping for dear life, not realizing that we aren’t that far off the ground and there’s really no reason to panic.

That’s Vancouver real estate in a nutshell.

It’s also the key visual of the ad campaign for Thunderbird Creek in Squamish. The self-described “masterplanned community” is targeted at those buyers “feeling constrained in your home in the city.”

While I like the visual — see folks, I can say something nice — the dimwitted nature of today’s buyers makes me wonder if they might miss the cleverness and confuse this for some kind of high-end treehouse for executive-class hippie couples.

Hey, stranger things have happened. Didn’t a batcave just go for a half million?

To sea or not to sea

July 18, 2007

O2 Condo | Vancouver

Remember that scene in Al Gore’s PowerPoint movie where he shows all sorts of coastal areas getting flooded by the rising sea-levels of a warming planet Earth? The team at Platinum probably did. How else to describe the inspiration for the water-world environment portrayed in their ad for O2?

The inconvenient truth that is O2 is a condo anchored at Davie and Denman in Vancouver’s downtown west end. Despite the water-logged ad design, O2 is actually a few blocks away from the ocean. It’s close, sure, but it’s by no means on the waterfront. Well, maybe the architect plans to install a moat but I wouldn’t bet on it.

What I would bet on is “sea & be seen” as contender for the most foul condo tagline of the year. As if the narcissistic angle wasn’t enough, the marketer also throws in a bad pun. Is the thinking here that a double-negative makes a positive? (Such a question assumes condo marketing involves thinking. Sorry, my bad.)

Well, let us “sea” what the website has to offer. Here’s some “info” on the uniqueness of O2’s interior design:

The impeccable design of the open concept plans and the inspired brilliance of the decor capture the essence of both time and place….Discover an ambiance of airy transparency captured with fresh ideas and imaginative finishes. All is innovative, sophisticated, and stylish.

Save me before I drown in this pool of superlative fluff.

This one blows

July 12, 2007

Live at Fuse

If you’ve browsed any of the local real estate blogs, chances are you’ve come across “tick tock, tick tock” at the close of somebody’s post. For some, the phrase is a shorthand for the impending market implosion forever looming over the Vancouver housing market. For the tick-tockers, the boom can only end in bust.

Not everyone sees it that way. Enter Surrey’s Fifth Avenue Marketing. They’ve taken the tick-tock through the think-tank to give birth to a radical new brand in condo marketing: a Surrey condo named Fuse.

Yes. Fuse. As in “a cord of readily combustible material that is lighted at one end to carry a flame along its length to detonate an explosive at the other end.”

Could there be a more perfect metaphor for today’s real estate market? What else can I say?

Tick tock, tick tock.

The address you always wanted

July 10, 2007

Lakeshore Three, Penticton

Forget Robson Street. Forget Main Street. Forget West 1st. For maximum address envy, choose Lakeshore Drive in Penticton. Yes, Penticton.

Introducing Lakeshore Three:

This is where summer happens — at Penticton’s waterfront — steps from the best beaches, dining and shopping in town. And Lakeshore Three is at the heart of it all.

With resort-style amenities including a pool and personal wine cellar, homes at Lakeshore Three range from the high $300’s to over $1 million. But they won’t last much longer.

Folks, this is advertised in the Vancouver Sun. Miss the Penticton mention and you’d confuse it for Coal Harbour. In a world of condo hype, generic is the new specific.

Worthless by the lake

July 6, 2007

The Cottages at Cultus Lake

Today’s subject for evisceration is imaginatively named The Cottages at Cultus Lake. I must confess to having to do a bit of research on the location of said lake; my knowledge of the Lower Mainland is mostly limited to areas around SkyTrain lines and ‘hoods accessible by trolley. It turns out Cultus Lake is on the outskirts of Chilliwack, making it roughly within the GVRD — meaning it qualifies for a condohype critique. I’m sure the developer’s thrilled.

If you’re looking for insight into the quality of this investment, you might find guidance by looking at the name of the lake. You see, cultus has its origins in First Nations languages. Taken from the Salish word kul, it means “bad” or “worthless.”

Don’t look to the French for anything better. In French, cul means “ass” if you can pardon my, uh, French.

Now to be fair, the name of the lake has nothing to do with the developer. The same can’t be said for the ad copy, which I present to you here in all its superfluous exuberance:

It’s moments like this that will hook you. Come home to Cultus Lake. To real moments. To the rush of a mountain stream. To the sharp smell of wood smoke. To your cottage nestled amidst towering cedars. And to people you love. Here at the Cottages you are just 90 minutes from Vancouver, yet a world apart. Beyond your expectations. So close to home.

I love how the cottages are “just” 90 minutes from Vancouver. As if three hours roundtrip to downtown is a breezy good time. Commute times of that length pretty much mean an end to daddy spending time with son. I say nothing about commuting’s effect on the daddy-mommy love life. (OK, maybe just one thing: cultus in the sack?)

Returning to the father-and-son angle, there is something very peculiar about this ad. In small text, a caption reads “Fishing with Dad – the Cottages at Cultus Lake, May 25th, 2007 — 11:00 a.m.” Why is this mentioned?

My best guess is that the marketer wanted to take their River Runs Through It imagery and connect it to reality, using a date stamp to ground the message. Problem is, they didn’t take care to check the date. Flip your calendar and you’ll see May 25th was a Friday, meaning lil’ Craig Sheffer here should’ve been in school.

A River Runs Through It? This is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

And what does this say about dad? Cool dad, maybe? Nah. I’d say kul.

Oh that building

July 4, 2007

South Granville Lofts | Vancouver BC

Yeah, it’s the one that isn’t sold yet. I am of course talking about South Granville Lofts, Rennie’s offering of “true loft living” at Sixth and Granville. Unlike much of what we see advertised these days, this baby’s not a pre-sale. That’s right, it’s built and ready for occupancy. It could be yours, provided you have a big enough suitcase to carry all the cash you’ll need to pay for it.

Can you imagine yourself in this mecca of “soaring” ceilings and “galleryesque” interior spaces, as the marketer describes? I can’t, but only because I don’t know what galleryesque means.

Rennie et al. have put together a jazzy little website for these envy-shacks complete with “funky” music. The music is totally superficial in its relationship to the neighbourhood. Face it, there’s no confusing “hipster Kitsilano” for Motown.

You know, I’ve never really understood why the condo marketers put such short music samples on their sites, and then run them in endless loops. I can’t see any buyer visiting for more than a minute not being supremely irritated by the blips and beeps of condo pop.

Kerry quite contrary

July 2, 2007

The Kerry | Kerrisdale

Can you believe this ad for The Kerry in Kerrisdale? I don’t even know where to begin describing this embarrassment. It’s as if the condo marketers are begging to be made fun of. Honestly, this looks like a rejected publicity still from an Enrique Iglesias music video.

But maybe that’s the point. You see, Enrique Iglesias is the son of the highly successful singer Julio Iglesias. If it weren’t for Daddy J, Enrique probably wouldn’t have made it. I suspect the same applies to any thirty-something buyer of a Kerry home.

Unless they’re backed by a mammoth down-payment from a parent, Vancouver’s top-tier upper-income thirty-somethings probably can’t even think of a property like this. The pricing here isn’t simply on the high end for young professionals, it’s completely and absolutely out of their scope. (Even Vancouver’s high earners will tell you that the salaries in this market are garbage.)

Time for a song. Hit it Julio:

I can be your hero baby
I can kiss away the pain
I will stand by you forever
You can take my breathe away

Breathe? Oh dear.