Sunday, 4 March 2012

Real estate agents are at it again

The housing market balloon that deflated so rapidly after the bankquakes and earthquakes is reinflating, despite the dodgy repairs to the many holes in its fabric.

If it takes off into the stratosphere, trailing desperate red-zoners from its mooring lines, thanks will be due to the politicians who have failed to control the process. In exerting full bureaucratic control of some aspects and none at all on others, responsibility for what happens in Canterbury will rest with them but we mustn’t ignore the sterling efforts of those estate agents who are generating the vast quantities of hot air without which the housing balloon would remain grounded.

The old hyperbole is flowing like the wine at a CCC senior management team-building weekend, and adjectives are flying like Lake Ellesmere’s geese would have if they’d been able to.

The city is teeming with discerning buyers and determined sellers and the market is bursting at the seams with bargains of the century.

I suppose it should reassure me that Christchurch still has restful sanctuaries, secluded and private havens - and other such tautologous examples of sales jargon.

But, what really grips my imagination is the anthropomorphism - which seems to know no bounds. Buildings tempt, exude, entice, allure and promise; they are sophisticated, chic and generous. One wonders how mere mortals have the confidence to set foot in one let alone use the toilets. One ad promised rooms that will ’enfold you’. I’m not at all sure I’d want to live in rooms that wanted to enfold me, however elegantly proportioned they were.

Mostly I read the ads for the typos – the computer’s revenge on the orthographically challenged. My week’s favourite was the house that is ‘defiantly for sale’.

Getting into the anthropomorphism groove I imagine a grim visaged little eastern Christchurch villa :

“All I can promise you in the exuding and brimming department is the silt that oozes up through my floorboards every so often. I’m definitely private and secluded now that I’m pretty much the only house left in the street. I’m not very alluring although the feral cats seem to quite like me. I never was chic and sophisticated, I’m more your down to earth sort of house – especially now my foundations have crumbled and sunk. And my owners – well, they’re not so much determined as desperate. So I suggest you take all that estate agent puffery and stick it down my portaloo.”

I do apologise to those agents whose common sense and professionalism prevents them from engaging in overly silly embellishments. For what is the point? We all know the code.

I am a tad tetchy because anything that exudes the merest whiff of profiteering makes me angry and - I went over to my mother’s house in Wainoni last week to find burglars and vandals have targeted it again. The last time they visited, one of the charmers drew a picture of his genitalia on a cupboard door – no doubt making his mark for posterity. Sadly, posterity won’t be able to express its delight and wonderment at the discernment, intelligence and artistic skill of this product of our times because my Mum’s house is going to die.

It is still essentially solid. Its piles are knackered and its 9 load bearing brick pillars sheared in February so they were replaced with steel props that have been holding it up for a year. Its big fireplaces were demolished by the insurers and some doors don’t close but in the main body of the house there are no cracks in the thick lathe and plaster walls and ceilings, and its rimu cladding, flooring, skirtings, windows, panelling, doors and beams are all in good order.

But, it was cheaper to rebuild than repair it and now that is all academic as it is in the red zone. One year after being red stickered and, on the same day that my Mum finally got a cheque from the EQC, CERA red-zoned the land. So, in all likelihood this big family home will be bulldozed and end up in a tip.

In the light of this and what so many others are facing, the inanity of some housing ads rings way too hollow.

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