Naughty property publicists get desperate

Sales have been fantastic, scream the headlines. From Dubai to Cape Town, the facts are finally getting in the way of a good real estate story.

Whether they're punting property in Dubai or Cape Town, property publicists are pumping out positive real estate news. Now why don't we believe them?

The only way is up. Desperate times are calling for desperate measures. As the Dubai real estate market heads into a dark tunnel, the folks over at The First Group are still pumping out mountains of happy property news about the region.

Last month we were told that the Ukranian footballing "bullet", Andriy Shevchenko, had joined other "high profile sportstars who have invested with the The First Group; fellow footballer Michael Owen, cricketer Andrew Flintoff, former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance and Russian tennis ace Svetlana Kuznetsova" as the group's "ambassadors".

Shevchenko, gushed a marketing newsletter, had "chosen to invest with The First Group at the prestigious Metro Central Hotel Apartments - a stunning collection of 210 fully serviced suites located in Tecom, a thriving business zone in the heart of ‘New Dubai.'"

"With Dubai's hotel market currently topping the global charts when it comes to occupancy, room rates and revenues, investors in this exclusive project are set to benefit from lucrative rental returns."

Shevchenko is quoted as saying: "Dubai is such an exciting city, and with so many positive things taking place here, it made perfect sense for me to invest in the property market."

Da, da, Shevchenko. Dubai brings new meaning to the word "excitement", judging from recent headlines about its real estate sector.

Undaunted by all the panic, The First Group issued another teaser to potential investors this week, reminding us all that Q3 was an excellent period for returns in Dubai.

Maybe. But a lot happened in Q4, not least of all property prices plummeting by 30% and more within weeks, making real estate market conditions elsewhere look like a proverbial picnic. Shevchenko can bet his football boots a whole lot more excitement's happening in that silky stretch of the Middle East right now, and we don't mean illicit sex trysts on the beach.

Still, judging from the recent endorsements of investments by our own sports stars here in South Africa, brawn is easily interpreted as brain. Just ask one of the nation's most prominent property Bulls, Joost van der Westhuizen - who is in a blue funk over Realestateweb reports about his rejection as the face of a developer, among other things.

Even in South Africa, the only way is up. Tabloid Tuesday reckons Tim Cartwright PR must have an enthusiastic new copywriter in the ranks. The firm, normally cautious about releasing embarrassingly obvious spin, put out a tantalising angle on January 1.

"Big upturn in house sales in December, says Rawson Properties Chairman," went the headline.

"Erm, that was more enquiries," said Bill, sounding a little sheepish when a Realestateweb reporter called him for more information. Yup, said Bill, that headline was wrong.

Agents, he said, were expecting the calls in December to convert to sales but the activity hadn't translated to as much positive data on Bill's desktop as anticipated. Ouch!

The statement confidently opens with a: "Surprise, surprise: the Rawson Property Group not only has had more franchises operating over the Christmas holidays (read 21 new franchisees for Rawson) than ever before....but, equally noteworthy, the group's turnover in the three weeks to 24th December was significantly higher than that of December 2007 and higher than any of the preceding months".

The PR tells us that Mr Rawson "admit(s) that he himself had been surprised by this sudden upturn". And then, finishes off with this vignette from the property group chairman: "I do not want to be accused of trying to talk up the market in typical estate agency fashion, but it is noteworthy that not only are our sales figures up, but some of our residential investors are beginning to come back to us - and I am inclined to think that their timing is spot on."

Thankfully, Bill is man who likes to set a record straight. You can read his version of the current state of affairs by clicking on "Axe falls at Rawson Property Group". (For the PR version, read "Big upturn in house sales in December, says Rawson Properties Chairman").

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