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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fake condo line ups, fake press photo ops, fake buyers... and now fake houses?- Updated



We've spent a lot of time this month covering the shenanigans of the local real estate industry.
  • We've told you about fake condo line ups (wherein ads appeared on craigslist for people to stand in line for condo pre-sales).
  • We've told you about fake press photo opportunities.
  • We've covered incidents where realtors have been caught posing as fake buyers.
But has it stooped so low that realtors are now faking the very existence of the house that is for sale?

For the past couple of days the blogosphere has been talking about what appears to be the latest example of deception in the media (hat tip Many Franks).

Over the weekend, the Vancouver Sun carried a story about the most expensive home currently listed in Canada. It is located at 3810 Marine Drive in West Vancouver.


Google the story and you will find the two google links in the image above.

If you clicked on them on the weekend, they would have lead you to this story (this version was in the North Shore News):


Attached to the story was this picture gallery showing you this gaudy home, presumably for sale on this property:


Go through the gallery and you will see these images.  Each picture has a description of what you are looking at and the website of the listing realtor:




There's just one problem, there's no such house on this property.

Don't misunderstand, the property at 3810 Marine Drive exists - and it is for sale.  But the house in these pictures does not exist.  All of these pictures are fake in that they do not represent anything at this property.  

Here is what is really there:


It's a 50 year old tear-down rancher/bungalow.

How on earth do you justify showing pictures of a Versailles-style mansion in place of a 50 year old tear-down house?

When the Vancouver Sun was alerted to the fact the pictures were of a house that didn't actually exist on that property, the Sun promptly removed their article and issued this statement:
The Vancouver Sun last week published a story and photo gallery online about a West Vancouver waterfront home at 3810 Marine Drive listed for $38 million. The Sun has since learned that the photos on the listing realtor’s website are artist’s renderings and not photos of the actual home on the property. The home on the property is a rancher/bungalow built in 1964. Realtor Laura McLaren says the images on her website depicting a mansion “are renderings of what could be built on this property.”

So how is it that the Vancouver Sun came to publish this article and these pictures? Clearly when they learned the mansion did not exist, they removed the article and the photos.

Were they duped? And if so, by who?

If you go to the realtor's site, the Vancouver Sun is correct...  the house is a featured listing on the realtor's website, complete with these photos:



And nowhere in the description that we could find does it say the house isn't really there; that the photos are "renderings of what could be built on this property."



(note: the ariel photo of the rancher/bungalow is included with the photos of the Versailles-style mansion in the listing on the realtor's site)

But as Many Franks said, "Of the 19 images on the realtor’s website, two thirds are total fiction. There are only two photographs of the actual house you’d get with your $38 million. None of the interior fantasies include any indication that they don’t really exist."

Even if the press came across the listing on their own and published their story without any prodding from someone in R/E, what the hell is going on in the real estate industry?

Is it not a deception to list this property with these pictures without clearly indicating that the fictitious house isn't really there? Doesn't transparency demand at least a prominent notation that the house pictured in the majority of the listing photos does not exist?

Certainly the lack of transparency fooled the Vancouver Sun into running this story!

Was the whole purpose of the fake pictures a means to garner free advertising as the media runs this as a "news story"? Would any media outlet have run this story without those pictures?  We think the fact the Vancouver Sun promptly removed their story when they learned the house didn't exist speaks volumes.

How is it that the Real Estate Council of BC stands by and seemingly allows the public/press to be continuously mislead?

There are supposedly over 11,000 realtors in the Lower Mainland alone.  But the reputation of the majority is being significantly tarred by a few.

Allegations of media manipulation like the ones we have covered this month should be throughly investigated and serious wrongdoing should result in expulsion from the profession, plus hefty fines.  And the results of those investigations should be widely publicized.

The integrity of the industry is at stake here.

Is anyone looking out for the public in all of this?

I would love to hear the personal thoughts of some of the realtors out there in the comments section of this posting.

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UPDATE: The listing on the homepage of the realtor has now been modified and all the "fake" house pictures have been removed with the exception of the one exterior pic.  That single exterior pic used to be the lead pic for the listing, now it is not (it's number 7 in the thumbnails below).  Still unclear why that one pic is even there to begin with.


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UPDATE 2: The "fake" house image on the listing on the homepage of the realtor has now been modified to indicate it is an image of what 'could' be constructed on the property.


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41 comments:

  1. Of course it was all a stunt. Assessed value is $6,768,500. The agent claims the value is in subdividing the lot into 3. Even if all three lots were worth the $6,768,500 the entire home is assessed for, that's still only $20million dollars. I think they realized that there was no way to sell this thing for anywhere near what their clients wanted so they just made the price so outrageous that the press would do a story on it and the realtor would get all of that free publicity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No real surprise here. Desperate times call for desperate measures and when you have no moral compass...anything goes,

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lazy journalism. They don't do the most basic amount of background checking- like the two sisters/MAC episode- or in this case why didn't the reporter arrange a viewing of the property before writing the story up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paid journalism not lazy.

      Delete
    2. Yes, it's lazy to find some real estate porn and make a gallery out of it for hits -- just like it's lazy to make cheerleader or Kardashian galleries or the like. That said, I wouldn't blame the news organization for this. This is not a news story; it was just meant to be something quick and simple that readers would find amusing (and generate the site a bunch of hits). It is the realtor who was deliberately deceptive. It didn't say anywhere on her site that the photos were artist renderings, or what could POTENTIALLY be on the site.

      I feel the same way about the MAC Marketing / "sisters" fiasco, too.

      Delete
    3. Calling anything the Sun does "journalism" is a bit of a stretch.

      Delete
  4. What is going on in the heads of these realtors? And the press had better wake up to the fact they are being duped on a regular basis by these nefarious realtors for their own ends. The press should run an article about all the deceptions over the last few years.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The press hasn't been duped, they are part of the scam. Who do you think pays their bills? The local media wouldn't survive without all the RE ads peppered on every page so they tow the line until they are called out. We need to keep on them or they will keep trying to get away with it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Press is part of all this. Someones getting paid.

      Delete
    2. It's not a big conspiracy. The press is lazy and sure they know which side their bread is buttered on so they will look the other way, but to say someone is "getting paid" is tin foil hat territory.

      Delete
  6. And the icing on the cake is the uncredited/stolen art included in the renderings:
    http://vancouvercondo.info/2013/02/fake-houses-for-fake-buyers.html/all#comment-195236

    ReplyDelete
  7. Straight from the media and realtors mouths

    "the listing is based on what could be built on the estate"

    OMFG.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Looks like Laura has removed all the interior renderings from the listing (leaving only the exterior one, which no longer has a caption explaining that it doesn't really exist).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Can someone please pass this on to Chinese and HK newspapers about the fraud that is the Vancouver RE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's not a fraud when it is clearly stating that this is what could be built....

      Delete
  10. This home has also been listed for 4 years:

    March 11, 2009 V756184 $30,000,000 $0 0%
    April 01, 2010 V756184 removed after 386 days
    September 17, 2010 V850547 $30,000,000 $0 0%
    June 03, 2011 V850547 removed after 259 days
    June 08, 2011 V892922 $30,000,000 $0 0%
    January 01, 2012 V892922 removed after 207 days
    January 19, 2012 V926362 $37,900,000 $0 0%
    February 01, 2013 V926362 removed after 379 days
    February 03, 2013 V988782 $37,900,000 $0 0%

    How does this make the news? They wouldn't be able to sell this lot for $8 million let alone $38 million

    An Observer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now been reduced to $28,888,000

      http://lauramclaren.ca/mylistings.html/details-28906294

      Delete
  11. And the walls came down.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nothing can be legally done(maybe slap on the wrist with small fine)and the RE companies know this. The fact that this realtor is pulling this publicity stunt just after the Mac fiasco is proof.
    Perhaps we should be concentrating on the corrupt media that is covering this advertizing and presenting it as news.The reporter who published this article must have spend hours preparing ,so I guess he ran out of time to visit the property(even with google earth) or do a BC assessment search.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Interior design would look good in a Liberace museum in Dubai,but for a home?Baaaarf.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Aaaand now she's stuck a banner across the rendering. D'you figure she's paying attention to the blogs now?

    Hi Laura! I think we're pretty much done with making you jump through hoops over here. I can't promise the media and the real estate board don't have some additional hoops in mind for you, however.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D'you?

      you have the grammar of a first grader...
      hoops are meant to be jumped darling.
      It's all part of life.
      I'm sure Laura will be just fine,
      don't you worry now.

      Move on with your day, your repeated comments bore us.

      Delete
    2. Look in the mirror and repeat your final comment.

      Delete
  15. There has to be a joke in here somewhere. Someone take a crappy DTES MLS listing with a teardown on it for like $500k, and photoshop the Burj Khalifa on it so that we can show the media what really could be built on these lots.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh, by the way, I hope you are covering the fake/fraud/misrepresentation of the foreclosure listings that is going on right now. It's all over here: http://vancouverpricedrop.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/the-weekly-drop-suburbs-february-25-2013/#comment-2900

    ReplyDelete
  17. Booya Whisperer, this shows that if the bears stick together we can right these wrongs one at a time.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This gets more surreal every day. Now, what would be interesting is if BC Assessment took their high list price material input on market value and factored in raising their portion tax bill. (Cynicism and a laugh there)

    ReplyDelete
  19. The media site responsible for spreading this fake property is the Huffington Post. They did a link bait article and listed that home as the most expensive in West Vancouver. Global or CTV sent a helicopter over there which the Sun must have seen then realized, it was the wrong house. In all fairness, the MLS listing showed those photos which has now changed.

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  20. I suggest you put the realtor's name in the title of your blog post so that it comes up whenever someone searches her name. There needs to be some public shaming.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Anyone with 2 eyes can tell the pictures are "Artists Renderings" Why the Sun did not disclose this in the article is beyond me.. instead they willingly chose to bury a correction a few days later... This is not a new article but a blatent PAID advertisement IMHO

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dysfunctional Real Estate Board, overpaid Realtors looking for easy commissions and no one making them accountable for their actions. Any Joe Blow can get a quick and easy Real Estate License, why do you think there are so many Realtors. There are few good Realtors (I believe) the rest are slimy and unethical and do not deserve the grossly over priced commissions they receive. Now for the media, that is another story all in itself!!!! Can you say "The National Enquirer"

    ReplyDelete
  23. Now it's my turn to defend myself, my colleague, George Tsavdaris and I never "faked" a listing or mislead anyone regarding our listing at 3810 Marine Drive. We never spoke to The Vancouver Sun. They did not interview us. The media that we did speak to got the story right. The older house on Marine Drive has a special lot that can be subdivided into 3 lots. The "renderings of the castle" are pics of what could be built on this lot. CTV and Global ran the story with the overview of the existing house. The Vancouver Sun took the story from another media sources and used the wrong pictures then they added the address on each picture. They never even spoke with us. These rendering pictures were clearly marked on our website as just that "renderings" of what could be built. I was alwys quoted as saying "the value is mainly in the land". We are consummate professionals. We would never jeprodize our reputations and/or our license. Now you have the truth of what happened.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, I can't speak for the others here. Personally, I don't believe you had fraudulent intentions. However, the original listing did badly misrepresent the property: the cover photo was of a non-existent house, and the majority of the photos were of non-existent interiors. The only indication that they were renderings (beyond their unbelievable tackiness) was a note buried below the exterior rendering. This volume of irrelevant and fictional content swamped the actual information about the listing and was clearly designed to attract attention (as, I presume, is the outlandish price). Well, if you wanted attention, you got it, and it's testament to the state of real estate in Vancouver that it's necessary to explain what was wrong with it.

      All of that was ill-advised and sloppy, but not necessarily fraudulent. Likewise the inclusion of an uncredited piece of art off the Internet, though I suspect the latter was FX-40's gaffe, not yours.

      However, it was attention-seeking in a way that was well-positioned to make it a whipping post for the industry. As you've already seen from the MAC Marketing scandal, it's probably not a good time to be sticking your neck out with this kind of gimmick.

      I see the Vancouver Observer blog is picking this up now -- see http://www.vancouverobserver.com/city/realestate/38-million-listing-featured-fake-mansion -- and I'll happily leave it to the real estate board & co. to decide whether this crosses whatever line currently they're using to define their values.

      I trust my grammar is sufficient to get the point across.

      Delete
    2. A real estate agent, a lawyer and a banker walk into a bar...

      Delete
  24. I love how the first thing she does is throw her colleague under the bus by immediately naming him. Then she goes on to confirm everything in your post. Deception, fraud, misrepresentation. Take your pick. I pick all three.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just because it's bugging me, I wanted to point out that there are three (3!) times in her response above where she puts the onus on the receiver of the information to reach out and interview or ask her "if the information is really true". Is that what the Real Estate advertising industry has come to? We have to second guess everything we read or view and then reach out to the original content maker and ask "So I see what you're writing and posting, but is it really true?". This goes for the foreclosure (lack of) advertising crisis, too. Do we really have to reach out on every listing we're interested in and ask "So, I see your listing, is this in foreclosure?". Really? The onus is on the consumer to do that?

      Delete
    2. Her colleague is her husband......

      Delete
  25. 99% of the realtors give the rest a bad name.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow. And now a nice $10,000,000 drop in price. This couple are scam artist.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Make that $18 million now with the fake gold house pictures and the previous realtor both removed:

    http://www.realtylink.org/prop_search/Detail.cfm?MLS=V1000930

    An Observer

    ReplyDelete