The art of selling condos
In Hong Kong, the marketing of new developments, by a handful of companies, may be world leaders in devising clever sales pitches as this essay demonstrates.

Evil, cheating, greedy devils

Time Out Hong Kong magazine
21 February 2012

In the 2009-2010 construction boom and apartments were scarce, the developers used marketing practices designed to make the most of such scarcity.

Would-be buyers were forbidden to use tape measures in the model show rooms, which contained scaled-down furniture and glass walls to make the spaces look bigger. They were kept waiting, and it was nearing midnight when salesmen placed contracts before them. Sign or lose the chance – oh, and prices were due to rise the next day.

People complained to the media about the high-pressure tactics and their bitterness resonated.

Lucky floor numbers
The major symbolic flashpoint was Henderson launching its 39 Conduit Road luxury high-rise in 2009.

As a gimmick, the company offered lucky floor numbers like 88, even though the building had only 46 stories.

Rather than act amused, as once might have been, Hongkongers grew irate, calling Lee Shau-kee a conman.

More seriously, Henderson announced suspiciously healthy sales at astoundingly high prices. To many, the transactions looked rigged to mislead gullible buyers as to the apartments’ market worth. The police even made a show of investigating.

The growing assertiveness of Hongkongers since the 1990s played a crucial role here, as probably did the global backlash following the 2008 financial crisis. It certainly didn’t help that much of the younger middle class were seeing their chances of buying a home slipping away.

Whatever the reasons, a new, received public wisdom came into being: Hong Kong property developers are evil, cheating, greedy devils.

The square foot scam
When they go to meet their maker – and it can’t be long now for some of them – the tycoons could have a lot to answer for. The list of property-related rip-offs goes on and on, but the most notorious is undoubtedly the ‘square foot scam’.

Here’s how it works: developers advertise an apartment as 700 sq ft, yet in fact its internal area comes out at, say, 530 sq ft.

The missing space is your share of the stairwell, the lobby, the swimming pool and other communal space (the developers are pretty much free to include anything they like).

It makes the flats sound bigger – or cheaper per square foot – than they really are. It’s a swindle. The ratio of true to untrue measurement is called ‘the efficiency rate’. You can even find yourself saying ‘wow, that’s pretty good’ when the efficiency rate is 80 percent.

top  contents  chapter  previous  next