First let’s play a little game.
Here are three real estate descriptions and three commercials made by our agency. Let us see if you can match them up correctly.
National Foods Recipes Eid TVC, Dalda CupShup and Indigo New Beginnings
A majestic mid-19th century landmark, Haveli Azam Khan is situated close to the northern gates in the old city. Built in the traditional Mughal style, the haveli boasts a beautiful carved teak doorway, a still fully functional drainage system, an airy courtyard with a pond and seven bedrooms. The kitchen has been renovated for modern use. Perfect for a large family.
Double-story penthouse, tastefully decorated in the neoclassic design with dark wooden floors; this is a luxury home for the modern family. The seafront view gives you a stunning view and ventilation. Four bedrooms with attached baths, including a master bedroom with a walk-in closet. Your refuge away from the madding crowd.
This charming mid-20th century bungalow located in PECHS is archetypal of post-Partition architecture. With French windows overlooking a lovingly maintained garden and high ceilings keeping the rooms cool, this house exudes warmth and memories of the family that lived here for the last 60 years. Just the home to make your memories.
If you are wondering why I would stress on the architecture of words when the architectural subject is all bricks and mortar, it’s because I have a guilty secret.
I like to indulge in perusing real estate listings when I travel, reading seductive descriptions of properties that I don’t have a hope in hell of ever buying.
It could be the “beautiful and spacious apartment with a spectacular view of the harbour” in Kalk Bay, or the “serene, airy colonial bungalow with the cantilevered deck and pool” in Galle. Sometimes it is the “charming cottage which commands the skyline on the eastern border of the picturesque village” in the English countryside. They draw you in and if you are in the middle of a satisfactory vacation, it’s very easy to momentarily suspend reality and imagine yourself living there. Those who are actually house-hunting can then imagine themselves making a home in one of them.
Just read the local listings. They are sparsely Communist, just stating the bare basics – X square feet or marla or canal, X number of bedrooms with attached baths, the all-important American kitchen.
Fortunately or otherwise, I have never had this little brush with fantasy once home. Just read the local listings. They are sparsely Communist, just stating the bare basics – X square feet or marla or canal, X number of bedrooms with attached baths, the all-important American kitchen. And an emphasis on exclusivity and security. At times, it seems like they are selling luxury safe houses and not family homes. Emaar does a bit better on the advertising front, but their properties never seem to see the light of day. And so my savings are spent on vacations rather than mortgage instalments.
What we often miss out on real estate advertising is that people are not always looking for a swanky, brand-new pad. They may be in the market for an older home in an established neighbourhood. Perhaps they want to know why one house is better than the other. Real estate advertising is just like any other; it is about selling stories, selling dreams. Encouraging people to imagine themselves in that space – no, scratch that – enticing them to do so.
How is it that something as personal and permanent as a home inspires such insipid communication? Cold, bland visuals that are positioned as investment opportunities and not homes to grow old in and where notches on the doorposts document swiftly growing children.
Real estate advertising is just like any other; it is about selling stories, selling dreams. Encouraging people to imagine themselves in that space – no, scratch that – enticing them to do so.
It is no wonder that we are more interested in the sets we show in our TV commercials than we do in real estate advertising. We put in such a lot of effort in describing the requisite set to our production counterparts and drive directors crazy to ensure that the one in our minds is replicated on screen. Why is it that we are not able to create the same allure for actual real estate? Is it because most real estate advertisers are too rigid in their demands (Celebrity check, functional attributes check, security check) or just don’t go to the right agencies or are just really bad paymasters.
In short, real estate advertising is boring, it’s ugly, and most of all, irritating. And if the purpose is to sell an investment opportunity to expats and locals, then perhaps the advertising needs to be a bit more honest. Perhaps a more targeted approach would be better. And the rest of us would be spared.
And on that note, here’s a little real-life real estate anecdote related to me by an Indian film producer. Well, it is as real as a celebrity anecdote can be.
An up-and-coming Bollywood star, living in a one-room flat with his young wife, was walking along the seafront when his wife pointed to the horizon and wistfully wondered when they could live in a place like that. He followed her line of sight and saw a large heritage building, somewhat dilapidated. Love pushes you to do the impossible. He walked into an influential producer’s office the next day and convinced him that signing him on for a three film deal for 30 million would be a very good opportunity for the producer. The producer was bemused at his gumption, but nevertheless, agreed. The deal was signed and the payment made up front. After which the young Bollywood actor took his wife for a walk along the same promenade and proudly told her that he had signed the lease for the heritage site for 99 years with a promise to renovate the building. His wife was flummoxed. It transpired that she had, in fact, pointed to the block of flats behind the heritage site.
S. Hyder works at an advertising agency in Pakistan.