New Real Estate Marketing Hot Button: Guilt-Quashing

Stephen Chung

Managing Director

Zeppelin Real Estate Analysis Limited

April 2010

The warmth of family, the prestige of owning a place, the vanity factor, and even sex appeal (e.g. a Miss Globe type appearing in a property ad campaign) are well known residential real estate hot buttons. When properly and timely pressed, a buyer will go (or fall) for any real estate deal without hiccups.

Your humble author feels another hot button is on the horizon: Guilt-Quashing, especially when super-sized homes are concerned.

What guilt? What quashing? You may ask. The simple answers are: 

a)      Guilt in owning and living in a mega home which means burning lots of fossil fuel, emitting lots of CO2, and thus feeling like some kind of anti-environmental jerk

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b)      Quashing involves making the owner and resident of a mega home to burn less fuel, to emit less CO2, and to thus not feel like an anti-environmental jerk

As to what makes your humble author thinks thus? Here are some of the reasons

1)      Global trend and fashion = almost no day goes by without the newspaper and web media touting something about a global warming conference, how to build LEED properties, or what new environmental gadgets have been invented. Proponents would obviously do their part and bidding while the less than enthusiasts would still go along and play their part in a (politically) correct manner. Gradually, people who do not exhibit at least some environmental practices may be stigmatized as being selfish.

 

2)      Generally rising temperatures = in addition to what the experts are saying, your humble author can attest to the fact that Hong Kong has gotten warmer over the decades. For instance, in the 1960s, it was usual to have a few days of around 5 degree Celsius during the Chinese New Year (January-February). Now, people scream freezing when it is only 13 or 14 degrees. Irrespective of whether this rising temperature is a natural phenomenon, in which case environmental practices would not prove useful, or a man-made phenomenon, in which case environmental practices may help, it does enhance a sense of urgency and guilt.

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3)      The younger generations are more endowed in environmental knowledge = when your humble author was in school, he had hardly heard of the term environmental protection, let alone attended any courses. Now, there are plenty of such curriculums in academia. Given time, future, if not current, real estate buyers may be more meticulous about environmental features in a property i.e. they would feel uneasy and guilty purchasing a not so environmentally friendly real asset.

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4)      Flight emission-reduction donation = some airlines have started to include a voluntary charge-donation intended to offset the proportionate carbon waste emission produced by the plane on which one is flying. While passengers can ignore it, passengers who do feel guilty could pay up and feel less so. Irrespective of whether such a donation can really offset carbon emission, a lighter pocket does mean less consumption which in turn may mean, yes, less pollution in the broadest sense. Wonder if these are just one-off exercises or represent an imminent trend.

People may say recent real estate projects have already incorporated some environmental features such as a balcony. True, yet some features appear to be cosmetic while others seem to remain on an abstract level. To be genuinely environmental, a real estate developer needs to elaborate with some certainty on how much energy-fuel (and thus presumably money) is saved as a whole with the design versus a traditional one.

IF this is done properly, then the developer may actually sell the project for higher prices as the right button, in this case the riddance of guilty feelings, of potential buyers has been pressed.

For instance, proving to an environmentally concerned buyer of a 4,000 ft2 new apartment that he or she would only be using the energy needed for an 800 ft2 traditional apartment and a sale is almost ensured.

Make no mistake: this article is not about the rights and wrongs of global warming or environmental practices. It simply offers a real estate marketing tip:

Guilt-Quashing sells!

Notes: The article and/or content contained herein are for general reference only and are not meant to substitute proper professional advice and/or due diligence. The author(s) and Zeppelin, including its staff, associates, consultants, executives and the like do not accept any responsibility or liability for losses, damages, claims and the like arising out of the use or reference to the content contained herein.    

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