Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fake mansion photos appear again, this time in the Vancouver Province. Is it time for the RECBC to draft guidelines for the way a listing can market a property? - UPDATED



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UPDATE: See below for response fron Vancouver Province Editor Erik Rolfsen

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Yesterday we talked about the big news in real estate this week, the release of the R/E sales statistics for February, 2013.

The story was in all the media, but did you happen to notice the March 4th Vancouver Province Newspaper article titled "Vancouver home sales plunge 29% in February, prices fall"? (that's a screenshot of the story above).

 Did you notice the picture and caption accompanying the story?


The photo caption says: "The exterior of 3810 Marine Drive in West Vancouver.  The 5,500 square foot waterfront mansion is listed for $38 million."

Of course, if you follow this blog (and clearly the Province Newspaper does not), you know there is no such mansion. The house pictured isn't really there.

How is it that one of Vancouver's daily newspaper's continues to perpetuate this fallacy, particularly since the Province's sister newspaper - the Vancouver Sun - has already issued a statement about why it pulled the photos it published?


You will recall that Business in Vancouver explored the issue:


BIV noted that:
The story first appeared in the North Shore News on February 18 about a house listed for $38 million, accompanied by a photo of the real house, a sprawling rancher-style suburban home.

The fake photos went viral when the story was picked up by the Vancouver Sun, who added a photo gallery showing gilt-covered rooms in the style of Louis XVI and the opulent exterior of the house, taken from the realtor’s website.

The paper neglected to say that the images were photo illustrations. On February 25, the Sun published a correction, and the story has now been removed from its website.

But by then, the story had been picked up by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, who published the photos on its website under the headline: “The $38 million Vancouver mansion that is Canada's most expensive home and also one of its ugliest too.”

Realtor Laura McLaren said the blogger is wrong and that the photos on her site, which have now all been removed apart from the external shot (pictured above), were always identified as photo renderings of "what could be built on this property."

“The pictures are renderings and you can see that they’re renderings … Each picture had ‘these are renderings,’” said McLaren.
But as we noted in our original post, the main page of the real estate agent's website gave no indication that the photos were renderings.

When you clicked on the listing, the summary page showed 19 thumbnail photos.  This summary page also gave no indication that any of these photos were "renderings".  

The official explanation is that this was all clearly explained in small captions on the individual photos themselves.

The media frenzy supposedly erupted when the fourth estate horde (and misguided bloggers) failed to research the issue. If they had only read the fine print on individual photos from the agent's website, the media would have known better and not run with the errors in this story. 

Yes, there were 19 photos in the agent's webpage listing.  Yes, 13 of those 19 photos showed a 'fake' mansion... and yes, there were only two actual photos of the real house on the property in that listing (aerial ones at that and no interior pictures); but the fine print explains it all?

Is this really an acceptable way to present a property for sale in the eyes of the Real Estate Council of BC?

(One has to wonder that if it's a property being promoted for 'what can be done with the land', why is it there were no 'renderings' promoting how the lot could be subdivided into three - it's chief selling feature? Why no photos of what the property might look like with 3 smaller mansions on the site alongside those of the gaudy mansion showing what could be done if one house were built?)

So what we have here is a story the North Shore News originally published February 18th (a story, it must be noted, that only carried one photo - that of the real teardown bungalow), morphed into one that was picked up by papers like the Edmonton Journal on February 19th (which carried the North Shore News reporter's byline - but now sported the fake mansion photo prominently), and by Saturday February 23rd it exploded onto the pages of the Vancouver Sun complete with all 13 'fake' photos presented as the actual mansion for sale (and going viral world-wide after that). 

Over a week later - even after having been exposed as fake - the gaudy facade is still being propagated by the Vancouver Province as an actual home for sale.

How was this allowed to happen?

How did this story morph so badly from the one that appeared February 18th in the North Shore News as a teardown bungalow to the one that appeared February 19th in the Edmonton Journal as a gaudy, opulent mansion?

Don't the 'renderings' and the way they were presented play a key role here?

As one contributor to the comments section of this blog observed, if this is the new standard for real estate marketing in Greater Vancouver why not simply graft a picture of the Burj Khalifa overtop of the local crack shack property?


If the Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) doesn't have guidelines to protect the public, why not fake things in a big, big way?

In the meantime, perhaps the RECBC can contact the Vancouver Province and set them straight on what's actually on the land at 3810 Marine Drive?

Someone should do something to sort out the ongoing media confusion.

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UPDATE: Response from Vancouver Province Editor Erik Rolfsen posted in comments section:
If you had been paying attention two weeks ago when every media outlet in town was scrambling to post a gallery of this phony house, you might have noticed that The Province was the one outlet that had it right. That's because I personally picked up the phone and questioned the agent representing this property about the suspicious images. He graciously explained that they were indeed artist's renderings. We included this information on the photo gallery we published on our site at the time (we were the only ones to do so), but we later suppressed it altogether because it seems pointless to show people photos of a house that doesn't exist.


The story you reference above is a wire story from Canadian Press that was packaged by CP on Monday and appeared on our site via an automated feed to which we subscribe. Clearly they searched the archives for a recent listing to accompany their story and grabbed one of the renderings. I see that somebody has since brought the error to their attention and the photo no longer accompanies their package.

Thanks for the attention, though.

Erik Rolfsen (Province News Editor)
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29 comments:

  1. Absolutely ridiculous. The Province shouldn't be so lazy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is starting to look like Olympic Pedobear revisited

      http://forum.teamxbox.com/archive/index.php/t-638992.html

      A friend of mine did up the bear alongside others as a joke, before he knew it newspapers were picking up the image all over the globe....hahaha

      Delete
  2. When I started following this, when there were 13 renderings and 19 photos total on the listing, there was a disclaimer on the exterior rendering but no others. Laura's statement to the media claiming that all renderings were marked is incorrect.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What do people expect from the local rags....? Just heard David Radler is outta jail and now running the Victoria Times-Colonist.....yeah, HIM.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/ex-hollinger-executive-david-radler-now-acting-publisher-at-bc-newspaper/article9246696/

    Standard operating procedure for Radler and Lord Fatbottom was to fire all the fact-checkers and run stories straight off the newswire. It's so-o-o-o-o much cheaper.....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Why not show the actual palace of Versailles? That will silence the critics.

    ReplyDelete
  5. not a feng shui expertMarch 6, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    Wow - a fake mansion to go with the 29% drop in sales headline. Maybe The Province is trying indirectly to say, so as not to offend and drive-away their condo advertisers, that the whole real estate prosperity situation is fake and non-existent.

    ReplyDelete
  6. $10M chopped off the price today. http://www.ecorealtyinc.ca/listing?id=260033663

    $29M still a little overpriced for a teardown, in my opinion at least. But I don't have $29M to blow on a teardown so who am I to say!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. not a feng shui expertMarch 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Marketing at its finest! A very effective way of selling a property, ha ha.

      This is going to make Vancouver Price Drop for sure!

      Delete
  7. If you had been paying attention two weeks ago when every media outlet in town was scrambling to post a gallery of this phony house, you might have noticed that The Province was the one outlet that had it right. That's because I personally picked up the phone and questioned the agent representing this property about the suspicious images. He graciously explained that they were indeed artist's renderings. We included this information on the photo gallery we published on our site at the time (we were the only ones to do so), but we later suppressed it altogether because it seems pointless to show people photos of a house that doesn't exist.

    The story you reference above is a wire story from Canadian Press that was packaged by CP on Monday and appeared on our site via an automated feed to which we subscribe. Clearly they searched the archives for a recent listing to accompany their story and grabbed one of the renderings. I see that somebody has since brought the error to their attention and the photo no longer accompanies their package.

    Thanks for the attention, though.

    Erik Rolfsen (Province News Editor)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erik, I'm genuinely happy to hear you folks are sniffing around this corner of the web.

      What about this gallery?
      http://www.theprovince.com/business/real-estate/Ostentatious+West+palace+lists+million/7980703/story.html

      It also appears to have made the rounds in other papers, though there's no AP byline I can spot. It pretty clearly mistakes the virtual mansion for an actual one.

      Delete
    2. Adding this to the correct thread...

      That's not ours, it's a Calgary Herald copy of a gallery originally compiled by the Vancouver Sun. It's a long story, but try replacing "theprovince" with "montrealgazette" in that URL and see what happens. Did the Gazette just get fooled, too?

      Delete
    3. Erik, I'm not qualified to tell you how your business runs, but are you saying The Province is not responsible for the news content that shows up under its own domain name? I understand that the content is compiled from a lot of sources, but it's tenuous to claim that the Province "had it right" while that gallery, which is clearly incorrect, is still active under your domain name and banner.

      I actually think the Vancouver Sun did fairly well in making up for their own journalistic lapse by being the only outlet that I've seen to actually publish a correction or retraction.

      Delete
    4. The reasons that gallery is able to appear under our name are highly technical, far beyond our control and extremely frustrating to us, so yes, that is what I'm saying. I could not edit that gallery right now if I wanted to, because it is the Calgary Herald's and I do not have access to it.

      I'd love to show you the gallery we compiled and posted on Feb. 18 with the correct information, but we made a decision to suppress it and it's going to stay that way.

      When realtor Laura McLaren was quoted in the Feb. 28 post that the "media that we did speak to got the story right," she was referring to The Province, possibly among others.

      Delete
    5. That does sound frustrating: as News Editor you've done your homework, but nonetheless the paper you represent is running content that is clearly incorrect. To the reader, the distinction between editorial and technical failure is invisible (if not immaterial); at least the "Vancouver Home Sales Plunge" story had a CP byline to indicate its source.

      Delete
    6. I guess nobody at The Province checks to see what is being posted through CP on their website.

      Delete
  8. That's not ours, it's a Calgary Herald copy of a gallery originally compiled by the Vancouver Sun. It's a long story, but try replacing "theprovince" with "montrealgazette" in that URL and see what happens. Did the Gazette just get fooled, too?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So as an editor you are saying you're not responsible for the content that appears on your website?

      Delete
  9. Fascinating that theprovince, calgaryherald, montrealgazette, and who knows how many more are completely interchangeable. Just the headers change to make it look like it's your news. Probably all the more reason to make sure these types of country-wide articles are fact checked. I agree with Many Franks, this shouldn't exempt you from responsibility for posting it, however. Not to mention, you know the story is false, and you have no way to disconnect your feed of this article from the group. Laughable.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "I personally picked up the phone and questioned the agent representing this property about the suspicious images. HE graciously explained that they were indeed artist's renderings"

    Umm, isn't the realtor a woman?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ray, on the flip side, we're now having a discussion on a public blog with the news editor of one of Vancouver's major newspapers. He doesn't have to spend his time here and I'm thankful for the weight his presence is bringing to this conversation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He doesn't seem to be bringing anything to this conversation except excuses. It's time to get the "highly technical" team together for this shared URL manipulation scheme they have going and add three more requirements:

      1. Ability to edit the source's post in case of emergency

      2. Ability to delete/suspend an article from Canada-wide circulation if it's found to be misrepresented.

      3. Ability to disconnect a single article from the group, stopping local dissemination at the local Editor's choice.

      Am I really the only person to think of these?

      Delete
    2. No. 2 is certainly possibly under our existing system. I've just sent the request to Calgary.

      Delete
  12. Being in the web development biz myself, I can say that there are, indeed, sometimes "simple" changes that one would like to make but can't easily do because of legitimate technical reasons.

    But in this case, I suspect the real reason is not so much technical as economic. The major media outlets have been consolidating for years due to the cost pressures, especially the emergence of the internet. Having a single source of news across media properties reduces costs, and cost reduction is the only way these dinosaurs can stay out of the red.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You guys do great work, the gallery is down now

    http://www.theprovince.com/business/real-estate/Ostentatious+West+palace+lists+million/7980703/story.html

    Good job whisperer and Many Franks!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Please, seriously, who do you have to sleep with to get this much publicity for a listing? Free advertising in the major newspapers such as The Vancouver Sun and Province would otherwise cost how much? Not to mention the other smaller local newspapers and the blogs all talking about one house for sale. This is generating so much attention, if this didn't have a chance of selling before it does now. Genius.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I think MAC should hire this realtor to generate more publicity for themselves after Amandagate.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks Erik for taking the time to come and explain the issue. It sounds like you understand the surprise many feel that you are not fully in control of what gets posted on your website.

    On a more general note, I have been surprised how many journalists seems to be hanging around bear-blog sites these days. Perhaps a reflection of the sentiment shift in terms of housing. Or perhaps a realization that the 'data' provided by REBGV et al. is self-serving and suspect.

    Bally

    ReplyDelete