Sunday, March 8, 2009

Marketing Challenges - The Broadstone Foothills and Real Estate-ese

Man, I thought I was so smart when I noted that the reports about the Broadcrest Foothill Apartments were using the wrong name for the complex. I suspected that the development was actually called the Broadstone Foothill Apartments, and I was eventually proven right when a big-time journalistic newspaper thing used that particular phrase to identify the complex.

Long-time readers, I'm cueing Jim Bakker here. Yes, I was wrong.

It turns out that the official name for the complex is the Broadstone Foothills (plural, no "apartments"), which is what is listed on the complex's website at the URL.

I've lived in the area for over a quarter century, so I have some familiarity with the neighborhood. I remember Benjie's, the place where I used to drink cold brown thingies with BBS friends. I remember that there used to be two strip clubs in the area...and that there is still one strip club in the area today.

Strangely enough, that particular feature isn't mentioned on the Broadstone Foothills website. I've already quoted text from another place; here's the story from the equine mouth.

A remarkable new apartment community set in an idyllic location, situated between the quaint towns of Claremont, Upland, and Montclair, in western San Bernadino (sic) County, and only a half mile east of LA County!

Technically there is only one lie in the paragraph above, since there is no county called "San Bernadino" in California. (It's "San Bernardino"; think "St. Bernard" and you'll get it right.)

Now this type of flowery language isn't restricted to apartment communities who evict the kids of murder victims. This writing style, also known as advertising, is practiced throughout real estate-dom. Take this description of a New York apartment complex that caters to post-grads and is known as "Dormandie":

It is..., at least in official real estate-ese, a luxury property, though the bright teal apartment doors in the halls and maroon Fleur de Lys carpeting don't exactly evoke the Four Seasons.

Now I should note that I consider a difference between flowery writing (which is, after all, putting your best foot forward) and outright lying. And you can lie with pictures as well as with words:

My department leader and I encountered a bait-and-switch method...when we went looking at a house he was thinking of buying. The house was pictured in a magazine but, when we drove to the address given, we noticed some glaring differences. While the house itself looked the same, the land around it did not. The real estate agent had obviously paid someone to edit the photo to remove the cattle fencing around the property and remove the huge, slopping hill in the front yard.

Joel Nash presents his view in a post that he wrote. He notes (point 2) that there's a difference between disclosing a problem such as a leaky faucet, and bringing attention to it in your real estate ad. He also notes (point 9) that you should not oversell your property.

Then again, overselling is in the eye of the beholder.

I am going to try an experiment right now. I am going to find a random ad for a home for sale in East St. Louis, Illinois and reprint it here.

5450 State St East St Louis, IL 62203

Located By New School, Close To Downtown, New Library, Walgreens Drugstore And Other Office Buildings. Has All Utilities Available.

I like it. It states the positives, and definitely doesn't oversell.

But if you run across an ad that's a little more flowery, Joshua Dorkin tells you how to translate it. Here are a few examples:

Old charmer - an old and ugly house
Stunning house - the house is not ugly
Tudor - two bedrooms are in the attic which is not insulated; very hot in summer and very cold in winter

Read the rest here.
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