Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Wise up and step away from the property porn

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No wonder real estate agents were miffed that they were not presented in a flattering light in Robyn Malcolm's new television show Agent Anna, Says Hill Cone. Photo / APN
No wonder real estate agents were miffed that they were not presented in a flattering light in Robyn Malcolm's new television show Agent Anna, Says Hill Cone. Photo / APN

T.S. Eliot said "Humankind cannot bear very much reality".

But I'm not sure that he read a real estate advertising section. You are pretty safe from reality there. It is full of the unreal. "But as much as they are enjoying the house the time has come to move on to another project."

That is real estate-speak to fudge why someone who has apparently only just bought their dream house is now flicking it on. The more likely reason is they're a hustler and want to make a big fat profit. Although they are pictured making an espresso in their lab-like kitchen as if they live there, it seems all staged.

Could we just occasionally say this? It is empowering to know the truth.

"They have loved the last five years of all sleeping in the same room while they built their six-bedroom dream home but now they feel like they are ready to do it all again and have a new do-up 500m away in Remuera."

Real estate marketing can be an elaborate construct.

Does anyone get fooled by a staged table set up with a bottle of wine and two empty glasses? Do they really think: Ooh, that could be me! I guess such bogusness wouldn't matter that much, except our whole society seems to revolve in financial and cultural terms around property and houses. As I have written here before, much of our identity is constructed around home ownership. So any deceit influences our lives in quite insidious ways. It makes ordinary people who live in houses with extended family, and ageing relatives and disabled children and the whole catastrophe of a regular messy life feel they are crazy and abnormal. Hey people, step away from the property porn! It is a ruse designed to help sell the myth of the perfect life and keep people brainwashed that happiness is to be found in a house with better indoor-outdoor flow. The property market might grind to a halt if we all stopped being suckers for this myth.

I hate myself for doing it but I buy into it, too. I might have to go cold turkey on reading the property section. It's not healthy. And why do I do it when I am not even interested in buying a new house? I find it destructive as it creates a feeling of dissatisfaction with your own life when you compare it to the phony lives in property ads, not to mention generating unnecessary status anxiety.

Have you noticed no one ever seems to divorce in real estate land? Strange, as divorce is one of the main reasons people sell their houses. And the featured homes are always those of tidy, usually white, wealthy nuclear families. Death and divorce are two of the main reasons why people sell properties. But I guess that isn't in the fairy tale. The weasel words for divorce in real estate land are "change of circumstance". You don't often see people selling because they are laid-off or their business has gone belly-up either.

And it is not just the houses which are duchessed.

Have you noticed lately there is a trend towards real estate agents creating their own little cult of personality?

They have arty photos of themselves pushing bicycles with fresh-cut flowers or in a clinch with their spouses.

The subtext is that if you buy this house you will be nonchalantly chic like me.

No wonder real estate agents were miffed that they were not presented in a flattering light in Robyn Malcolm's new television show Agent Anna.

Some must believe their own publicity bumf.

What would happen if, like Socrates, we stopped watching the shadows on the wall of our cave and came out into the light? How much of our property market is held up by fairy dust and frippery?

Real estate marketing is built on selling the dream. Maybe it is time we woke up.

- NZ Herald

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