Archive for September, 2008

Via bankruptcia

September 30, 2008

Don’t get too excited about the headline. I’m not suggesting Boffo’s Via condo is going bust. It’s just with the global stock market plunge, I’m having a hard time not looking at everything as a total disaster. Or maybe that’s just my nature. I’ve been called a curmudgeon before.

So anyway, here’s another Metro Vancouver condo ad depicting someone dead in a field. I don’t get why this is popular in ads. Like, OK, she’s relaxing. Living well and living smart if I follow the tagline. But still, she looks like a corpse.

Sophia’s block party

September 26, 2008

The world is a strange place. Lots of weirdness all over. Like the President of the United States saying the only way to save the private sector is for it to be owned by the government. Um, yeah. That’s weird.

Vancouver is no stranger to the strange. Remember, we consider 400 square feet a home. Anyway, if you’re looking for a new line item on the list of things ‘couver-crazy, a condo “block party” might be for you. The realtor-marketers behind the revamped Sophia condo are holding one today, complete with unspecified “refreshments” and a property tour.

I’m not sure how this differs from an open house but whatever. If they call it a block party, I’ll take their word. Hopefully they won’t be mad when I show up with a bottle of Grey Goose and my “Are You Afraid of the Big Bad David Wolf?” T-shirt.

La Galleria, where blurry means cool

September 23, 2008

Nothing like a little motion blur to set the tone. Thanks heavens for Photoshop filters. Just look at these awesome urban professional people. Even their dinner party is moving at the speed of business. Better act quick to seize on this “unprecedented” buying opportunity. Don’t delay, we’re talking exclusive Abbotsford living.

La Galleria starts at $139,900. Fuel and commute time to your North Vancouver office job not included.

Oh James

September 17, 2008

Condo branding is a lot like LEGO. The pieces are mostly the same. If anything’s different, it’s the colour. It doesn’t matter if you swap the pieces around.  Everything fits together.

So here we have James, an “intelligent, sophisticated, intimate” condo coming soon to False Creek. It’s built by Cressey and marketed by MAC. In the past, they copulated to bring us Donovan. Like Donovan, James is pitched as a condo that’s worth getting to know. But in lieu of Donovan’s intimate mustard coloration, James goes for plain old background brown.

Come on, guys. This is a template job. Inspiring? Thoughtful?

Oh James, you’re so full of it.

Do you like apples?

September 10, 2008

This ad ran a year ago. When it did, I gave it a good ripping. Something about the Pitt Meadows’ condo’s promise of “projected 10% – 20% property appreciation” rubbed me the wrong way. A couple of readers took offense to my skepticism. One even called me an idiot.

I wonder what they have to say now.

Friends-with-benefits as condo ownership model

September 8, 2008

Vancouver housing is overpriced. That’s the word from UBC’s Tsur Somerville in a new report so shocking to the local media they don’t know what to do with themselves. For most of us regular folk, this is old hat. We’ve known about high prices for years. The incomes in this town make ownership impossible. Unless, of course, you like the idea of sharing a studio suite with three of your closest friends. Hey, do you smell a marketing concept?

Richmond’s Remy condos may be the first development in the region to overtly promote the ménage-à-quatre as a lifestyle benefit of condo living. (I won’t speculate on what the gentleman on the left of the ad is looking at.) All told, this “joy of sex and home ownership” thing is brilliant. I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. What’s the old saying? Oh yes: Two’s company, three’s a crowd and four’s a mortgage paid off in 35 years.

If this is for you, you need to get your sexually liberated self down to the Remy sales office today.

Killer bear mauls Vancouver housing market

September 3, 2008

So much for a “softening” market — Vancouver real estate is into full-fledged bear mode. The latest numbers from the industry tell it all. In only 90 days, Greater Vancouver house prices have fallen by tens of thousands of dollars. In percentage terms, houses are down 4.3 per cent, condos 3.9 per cent and townhouses 3.2 per cent. These declines aren’t year over year. They’re since May.

In a press release, Dave Watt from the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board tries his best to position the “Summer lull” in the most flattering light:

In August, properties on average remained on the market longer than we’ve seen in recent years. As the market heads into the traditionally more active fall season, we have begun to see property listings recede and prices moderate.

[Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, News Release, September 3 2008]

Sometimes, such as when dealing with bad news, organizations make a conscious choice to release an awkward quote. Watt’s scripted words seem to follow that thinking. If I decode him correctly, he’s saying listings are up because homes are on the market longer but we can expect this to change because, traditionally, more people buy homes in the fall.

In theory, a convoluted quote should be effective because it distracts the audience from the negative and directs them to the positive. In practice, it rarely works, usually because the quote doesn’t address what people want to know about. For this reason, reporters have little use for them. They prefer to go to the source and get a real quote for themselves.

So when the Vancouver Sun asks Dave Watt to explain why the market’s peaked, we get a no-nonsense answer you’d never find in a release:

I think it was not a willingness to pay more. We hit a level where buyers simply could not. They weren’t able to borrow more money or whatever. That’s a real, true market taking care of itself.

[The Vancouver Sun, “Big drop in Lower Mainland home sales,” September 3 2008]

My question for the real estate industry and PR people in general: Why not be so honest and direct in a press release?

Should I buy or should I rent?

September 1, 2008

The Labour Day weekend saw the Vancouver Sun attempt to redeem itself with articles admitting not all is well in the world of Vancouver real estate. Max Fawcett’s “Real estate collapse? Bring it on!” raises a number of critical questions, including why it takes a writer from Toronto to get a bearish perspective published in the Sun. The next day, the paper ran an even more intriguing piece called “Should I buy or should I rent?” though in the tradition of the “15 Myths” debacle, the article fails to deliver the goods.

Rather than address the headline question, the buy/rent article concerns itself with market timing. The implicit assumption is that the reader is someone who intends to buy. Never is renting presented as a viable, standalone option with its own benefits. Instead, it’s a pit stop on the track to ownership. According to the hype machine, to rent is to give your money away. By this ideology, there’s no choice other than to own.

It’s time the levees broke on Vancouver’s ownership myth. A hard look at the numbers shows renting is vastly superior to the choice of becoming a homeowner. How do I know this? Because every month, I have $1,500 more in my pocket than I would have if I owned the same, brand-new apartment that I live in. I’m also off the hook for any building deficiencies, maintenance or the risk of being unable to move out when I want to. If I get a job somewhere else and need to relocate, the state of the market has no effect on me. In short, I have the fullest level of control over my lifestyle. Without owning.

But what about accumulating wealth? Well, you don’t get rich paying dump trucks full of interest to the bank. Today’s housing prices ensure a life sentence of mortgage payments. (Isn’t the point of owning a home to own a home, not rent it from the bank until you die?) For me, the better strategy is to live debt-free and invest the savings I gain as a renter. Just because I rent doesn’t mean I burn my extra cash on hookers and coke — I’m into stocks, bonds and dividend-paying investments that perform better over the long-term than real estate. (They also don’t leak or need extensive repairs.)

If you’re not cool with “sophisticated” investments like those I’ve described, there’s always an ING Direct savings account. Sure, the high interest barely keeps up with inflation but even then, it pays better than rental income based on current housing prices.

So long as the price-to-rent ratio remains out of whack as it is today, it makes no sense to become a homeowner in Vancouver. Don’t worry about never being able to get in. If you live here, you’re in. That’s all it takes to live the lifestyle, no matter what the condo hypers say.