Archive for October, 2007

Horseplay at High Point

October 30, 2007

High Point

Granite countertops. Laminate floors. Soaker tub. Horse.

Quick, can you spot the feature that doesn’t belong?

Well, for all the developers, realtors, and condohype haters that think I should get off my high horse, the joke’s on you. Stallions are now a standard-issue offering in the wacky world of Metro Vancouver real estate.

The proof is High Point, an estate community in South Langley whose premier feature is an exclusive equestrian centre. Why be just steps from your preferred coffee shop when you can be a saunter away from your favourite mare?

Before you get too excited and get all “zoo” on me, know that the property isn’t completed yet. In fact, it’s currently situated on 287 acres of a former gravel pit.

Speaking to the Globe and Mail, one of the High Point developers spares no superlative talking about his Flicka farm:

No where else in the country — maybe in North America — offers the combination of the planning and care that has gone into High Point, the surrounding untouched parklands, the scenic mountain views, and the wide range of top-notch recreational and retail amenities just down the road.

Apparently the site is so impressive that High Point was but one of the proposed uses for the land. Previous ideas include, no lie, a mobile home site, a golf course, and a GVRD garbage dump.

Smell the luxury, kids. Condohype is back.

Condo copy and paste

October 22, 2007


Working in marketing is a grind. Those who’ve been in the business know it’s one thing after another after another. There’s little time to reflect on your work or connect with the product you’re selling. The client wants an ad, you make an ad. Then you move on to the next thing.

Despite its image as a “creative” industry, the marketing business is notoriously uninspired and boring. If anything, marketers seek homogeneity. Why be original, when it’s so much cheaper to do the same as everybody else? What start new when you can do what you did before?

In marketing their developments, Polygon Homes seems to have fully embraced a template approach to condo advertising. Look at this copy for Montage, a new condo in the Brentwood Mall area of North Burnaby:

Discover Montage, Polygon’s newest collection of apartment homes in Burnaby’s up-and-coming Brentwood neighbourhood. Enjoy the convenience of urban living surrounded by a sense of freedom.

That’s straight from Polygon’s website. See how it compares to the copy for another Polygon project, Meridian Gate:

Discover a community rich in both tradition and lifestyle in central Richmond. Discover Meridian Gate – the first of many new communities by Polygon in the up-and-coming Alexandra Gardens neighbourhood.

But why stop there? Take a sniff of this stink from Polygon’s Cathedral Grove:

Nestled in a serene setting amongst a grove of existing trees, you’ll discover Cathedral Grove, Polygon’s new executive-style townhome community in the revered Morgan Heights neighbourhood of South Surrey.

In each case, the reader is invited to “discover” the said condo or townhouse. Each property is positioned as belonging to a certain kind of neighbourhood, which is further characterized as being part of some larger community. All suggest an enveloping experience for the buyer — i.e. urban living surrounded by a sense of freedom, a community rich in both tradition and lifestyle, a serene setting amongst a grove, etc.

Polygon commits no wrong in marketing its properties with a set style and format. But it does suggest an emptiness to the ideas being presented. Once broken down into elements, the messaging is easily seen as being applicable to any condo, anywhere.

As a final thought, I offer a definition of the word montage:

The technique of combining in a single composition pictorial elements from various sources, as parts of different photographs or fragments of printing, either to give the illusion that the elements belonged together originally.

The illusion of originality as a name for a condo? This may be the smartest and most honest thing I’ve seen in condo marketing in a long time.

Depreciation at Meadows Gate

October 16, 2007

Solaris at Meadows Gate

Some of the best advice I ever got was from my dad. When I was a little kid, I came across a TV commercial selling some “sure-fire” system to make money. Trying to save up for new Atari games, I was really into the idea of growing my money. So I asked my dad about it. My dad said that if anyone developed a guaranteed way to make money, they would have no interest in sharing it. In fact, they’d tell no one and do everything in their power to make as much cash as possible, and screw everyone else.

With this advice, it makes it easy for me to decide that I will never consider purchasing any condo at Solaris at Meadows Gate in Pitt Meadows. Nothing says lock the money in the bank like “projected 10% – 20% property appreciation” plastered right across the ad.

The marketers ought to be ashamed of themselves. And the buyers too, if they fall for this pap.

If property values are expected to increase, why would the developer have any interest in selling to you? Why wouldn’t the developer hold out and wait to maximize on the higher prices to come?

Wait, what’s that sound? Do you hear it? That grinding noise. It’s faint but it’s there, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s the sound of risk. If you don’t hear it now, you soon will. And when the real estate “hot spot” of Metro Vancouver goes into meltdown, you’ll wonder why so many were so deaf.

The real world of condo marketing

October 5, 2007

Laguna Parkside

In response to my post about Jameson House, the insightful Aesthetic Poetic makes a compelling point about how condo marketing brings the concept of Vancouver’s “real-world” existence into question.

Much of my motivation for starting this blog — which, by the way, is now in its seventh month despite the predictions of even bigger cynics than me — relates to the question of what Vancouver is all about. The condo marketers, shilling a product that cannot be sold on its own merit, took the approach of the selling the city to itself and to the world.

Of course, marketers have their own interests, and that means creating a reality that best serves their objectives. This has meant presenting Vancouver in many different shades, each of which is driven by a sales goal rather than a truth. So they shovel up fantasy concepts of chic neighbourhoods and lifestyle living, show us pictures of underused furniture and childless couples, and speak of luxury as if it’s affordable to all.

A postmodernist will tell you that we live in a world of copies for which there is no original. Laguna Parkside with its “live the luxury” pitch sure feels like everything else we see in Vancouver condo ads today. But does it speak to the real Vancouver? What is the “original” Vancouver? Does that even exist anymore?  Did it ever?

I open the floor to you.

Rennie’s world-class hype

October 2, 2007

Jameson House

A common argument made by Vancouver real estate’s most ardent fans is that because Vancouver is a “world city” it follows that the market charge “world-class” prices. Never mind that those other world cities — London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo — are the economic capitals of the planet. Vancouver’s top talent knows the “smart money” is earned elsewhere.

This whole thing about Vancouver being “world class” is an empty concept to satisfy our collective ego because we’re too stuck up to admit that we’re really not that high on the international radar. It’s kinda like the debate about the Canucks being an “elite” team.  Really, does it matter if Naslund and the boys are perceived as elite or not? Who cares?! Just get past the second round.

Before I go too far off the rails, I should note that the world-city pitch has been gangbusters for the condo marketers. What better way to shill a dump than appeal to consumer “sensibilities” about what a great city Vancouver is.

Bob Rennie’s marketing for Jameson House is all about world class. Designed by Norman Foster — as if the average Vancouver Sun reader has any idea who that is — Jameson House is a condo tower assembly of 131 suites of “unequalled value by design and price.” That’s a direct quote from King Bob himself. Never mind that the suites in question range from $829,000 for an “organic suite” to $3.75 million for the penthouse.

World-class city? Oh sure. World class for hype.