Thursday, October 5, 2017


Dear Home Owners,
          A new French law stipulates that publications with digitally altered pictures of models have to make this clear in a warning. This, it is hoped, will avoid false ideals of beauty in a country with 600 000 people with eating disorders.
          The penalty for those that ignore this is huge with a minimum fine of R597 000 in our money.
          South Africa should do something similar to stamp out the subterfuge in estate agency advertising.
          I recently took Greeff Properties, a Christies International Real Estate affiliate in Cape Town, to task for misleading advertising (advertising). Its newspaper advertisements contained ON SHOW pictures of homes in new developments that had not yet been built. The illustrations were very realistic computer generated ones.
The next time this was advertise Artist's Impression appeared in
very small letters below this same picture of the complex
          Mike Greeff, the CEO and founder, told me initially that his firm was doing nothing wrong as the pictures were obviously an artist’s impression. Then he had second thoughts and when the same properties appeared again in the Cape Times the advertisements had Artist’s Impression in the smallest of letters in the one corner.
          He thanked me “for my input in this regard.”
          But if a South Africa law was to make this compulsory it should require the truth warning to be a certain size in relation to the advertisement so that agencies could not get away with something that is so small as to be almost meaningless.
          As I have already told Mike I can’t understand why he doesn’t openly admit in these advertisements that building has not yet begun because anybody who is interested will soon find this out when they go to the vacant site.
Mike Greeff

          Since he changed his newspaper advertisements his firm’s “Top 21 Property SHOWCASE – CHRISTIE’S International Real Estate” for the Kommetjie and Scarborough suburbs of Cape Town has been circulated. It’s in the Spring 2017 Village Post, a local news flyer originated by Village Homes before it was absorbed into Greeff Properties. This is delivered to people in those areas.
          The entire one side of it is taken up with pictures of what appear to be 18 existing homes with the three others being clearly vacant plots.
          So in an email I told Mike that it would make an interesting competition to ask the people who had the flyer dropped in their letter boxes if they could spot any fictitious buildings.
          “There is not a single picture there in which the building shown clearly looks like an artist’s impression. So if people know that one of them doesn’t exist, doesn’t it make the whole lot suspect?” I asked him.  
            I attached pictures of some of the 18 featured including the one of the building not yet built. I only know about this one because I live nearby. I have no idea if the others are fact or fiction.
          The one spotlighted is The Aviary.
          It is described too grandly as an “Exclusive Estate” when it is a small development of seven semi-detached units of just over 200 square meters being shoehorned into a tiny piece of land.
          Construction has not even started on any of the dwellings.
The empty Aviary site
           I wonder what Christies International Real Estate (christies) that is in 46 countries and prides itself on picking the right affiliates which are by invitation only, thinks about this unreal promotion.
          To give Mike the benefit of the doubt perhaps the honesty remedy that appeared in his later newspaper advertisements had not yet been formulated when the flyer was printed. So we’ll have to see what happens with the next one.            
          I once again asked him about his “Greeff Developments” claims for developments that had been advertised in his firm’s various newspaper supplements. He made no comment when I had previously suggested that this was misleading.
          I told him that people I had spoken to interpreted this as meaning that his firm had a financial interest in the developments mentioned and was not just the selling agent.
          “If you are merely the selling agents I think that most people would say that it is misleading to describe them as ‘Greeff Developments,’” I pointed out to Mike.
          Chapman’s Bay Estate was one of them and when I checked with one of the developers mentioned on its website I was told that Greeff Properties was the selling agent but not part of the development consortium.
          A lot of houses have already been erected on what can clearly be called an estate because it's huge and is for 145 well spaced homes.
Mike evidently read my email but did not reply.
          I have no knowledge of the property business so I don’t believe it should have been up to me to teach the likes of Mike Greeff what is or isn’t misleading in his advertisements.
          He should have known that already.
          The law I suggested would let me off the hook.
          Happy house hunting and watch out for those ads that are “clearly artist’s impressions” that could fool anybody they are so realistic. In the French case at least the models ON SHOW do actually exist.
          Jon, a model Consumer Watchdog.

P.S. The South African Government’s Estate Agency Affairs 
Board(real estate) is supposed to keep estate agents in line, 
but its efficiency leaves much to be desired.

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