Killer bear mauls Vancouver housing market

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?

14 Responses to “Killer bear mauls Vancouver housing market”

  1. j6p Says:

    housings or houses

  2. condohype Says:

    Thanks j6p.

  3. jesse Says:

    “traditionally, more people buy homes in the fall.”

    Watt is either ignorant or a liar. Fall sales have been less than summer sales for the past 10 years save 1. Never let the facts get in the way of a good spin job.

    Watt is powerless to save this market now.

  4. Chilled Says:

    Where did you get the photo of my former sister-in-law??

  5. condohype Says:

    That’s hilarious, Chilled. Thanks for reminding me to mention that photo credit goes to this guy.

  6. Will Says:

    The board release is a presentation of facts. The Vancouver Sun question elicited a personal opinion. Personal opinions have never appeared in the Board press releases as far as I am aware.

  7. Larry Yatkowsky Says:


    It is unlikely that as the president of the board Dave Watt would have a personal opinion for the press that did not follow the course.

    His media training failed him.

    It can be envisioned that Watt was caught in the bush by the reporter. With his pants down he did what all good bears do in the woods and delivered a semblance of market reality which decoded means, nobody can afford it anymore. All said, consumers are now left to contemplate his vertical smile which like real estate, goes up and down.

  8. blueskies Says:

    luv that image…… lol!!

  9. Abbotsford Real Estate Says:

    Hey Condohype, you blog has changed direction. You used to pick on condo advertising but now you are into a more fun game of predicting real estate market in Vancouver.

  10. aetakeo Says:

    Ahhh, the pic is AWESOME.

  11. condohype Says:

    I think what I’m going for in this post is the idea that spin is ineffective. To do PR, you shouldn’t be afraid of bad news. Effective communication is about real language and an awareness of the audience’s concerns. What confidence is instilled with the corporate-speak contained in the REBGV press release? All it does is avoid the issue and insult people who have an interest.

  12. Larry Yatkowsky Says:


    “Are you talkin about truth as effective communication?” If so, that’s a very dangerous topic!

    I suggest that if truth were given and found, few in the audience would recognize it and those that do, rarely choose to believe. It is the belief in the words delivered that are at stake not the truth.

    A timeless example: where’s the truth in the corporate-speak surrounding – creation versus evolution?
    The assumption is that each corporate camp delivers confidence to their respective audience? If you were to ask the consumers in each camp if their confidence is based on absolute, undeniable, proven words that are true, each camp would shout, “Hell Yah”! But is this really the truth? Do you know? I don’t! I also think we can agree that each camp’s confidence is rooted in the perspective of their individual belief. For each, evolution provides one answer while creation provides another.
    One certainty, ‘successful’ communication is aware of audience concerns. It acts to target the fire of belief. Often, the biggest flame is a sign of its effect on the audience.

    I leave you these thoughts:
    Telling a man that he is dying is not great PR but it certainly addresses his concerns and almost always confirms his belief.
    As to the RE market the simple truth is: it’s good for some and bad for others. It’s the degree that’s in question. :>)

  13. van-zee Says:

    In the essay “on bullshit” Harry Frankfurt makes the claim that bullshitters aren’t lying, they just don’t care about the truth. What they care about is their agenda, the “truth” doesn’t even enter the picture.

    Liars care about the truth and need to know it so they can be better liars, they need to conceal the truth. Bullshitters don’t care about the truth as they can just make crap up, the relationship of these facts to truth isn’t important to them.

    “on bullshit” is a tiny little book, a short read and a cute little gift for a loved one.
    I think many people would enjoy reading it and gain a new perspective on the bs and lies that are aimed at us all.

  14. dingus Says:

    In the immortal words of Elwood Blues, “It wasn’t lies, it was just… bulls—“.

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