Location is everything, so double-check it
Richard Warren in London
There's poetic licence, artistic licence, and, most entertaining of all, marketing licence. In the mid-1990s a British developer's advertisements listed the attractions of London and the company's project, but without mentioning the scheme was in Peterborough, East Anglia, 133 kilometres from the British capital.
Dozens of British developments are being marketed in Hong Kong this year, and in some cases buyers are being treated to examples of what may be politely called sales flair.
For instance, sales material produced by Colliers International in Singapore and used in Hong Kong states that Dalston Square, a Barratt Homes development in Hackney, London, is in 'close proximity' to the Royal College of Art, even though it is 10 kilometres from the college in Kensington.
Google Maps says it takes 23 minutes to get there by car - not factoring in rush-hour - or two hours and seven minutes by foot. Does that sound like 'close proximity'?
The college's second location is 11 kilometres away in Battersea.
Doris Boo, marketing and communications associate director at Colliers International in Singapore, defended her company's brochure. 'The information was provided to us by the developer, Barratt Homes,' she said in an e-mail.
In response to our queries, Barratt issued the following statement: 'Barratt make strenuous efforts to ensure the accuracy of their sales literature and would view any suggestion of impropriety extremely seriously. Barratt have had no negative feedback and there is no reason to believe our homeowners are anything other than extremely satisfied.'
Nicholas King Developments, meanwhile, is promoting its west London scheme, Rylston Road, to Hong Kong buyers. Its sales literature says the project is 1.1 miles (just under 2 kilometres), from Roehampton University.
According to Google Maps, the nearest part of Roehampton University's campus to Rylston Road is 5.3 kilometres away in south London.
In marketing material for a separate development, Nicholas King's publicists have taken an economical approach to naming London Underground stations. A map included in sales literature for the developer's Shepherd's Bush Place project has Kensington (Olympia) station to the south of the project location, but it is labelled only as 'Kensington' station.
Anybody looking at that map might therefore be excused for thinking that the fashionable parts of the Kensington district lie just to the south of the development, because of the truncated name given to Kensington (Olympia) station by the developer's publicists. But in reality, Kensington Olympia is an area dominated by large exhibition centres.
Susan Jacquest, sales and marketing director at Nicholas King Homes, said there was no reason why the word 'Olympia' was left out of the station's name. 'Potentially, it (Olympia) should have been put in there,' she said, 'but it was not intended to be misleading.'
Robert Hadfield, managing director of London-based investment property management company Pineflat, criticised sales agents' and developers' marketing literature for overstating advantages and often failing to give important information, like service charge levels.
'We are presented with glossy pictures, often mocked up, and undiluted optimism,' he said. 'Never anything on risk factors as would be required in an equity investment prospectus.'
Estate agents' literature for secondary market properties can also be misleading, said Russell Hunt, managing director of buyers' agency Property Hunt. 'For example there may be a roof terrace or a flat roof that has a picture of it decked out with tables and chairs,' he said. 'But in fact the terrace is not transferred to said property and does not belong to the seller, even though they may have sole access.'