Fantasy is over in the real world

Cityscape: The age of giant property billboards, and the fantasty they advertised, is long past, writes Sean Cronin.

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There's just one big property billboard left in Dubai these days. Visitors to Cityscape this week will drive past it. It's a throwback to the heady days of the boom.

The Pearl hoarding extends for hundreds of metres along Sheikh Zayed Road.

It urges potential investors to "Live a bespoke lifestyle".

I don't know what a bespoke lifestyle is, but I'm pretty sure I'm not living one.

The hoarding shows a series of giant pictures depicting a life of luxury. The best one has an elderly butler in evening dress dusting a chandelier in a swanky penthouse, all minimal and chrome. This is vintage stuff.

It says to the passing motorist: "That penthouse could be yours. You too could own the bloke with the duster."

It represents the cosy and aspirational dream of property ownership. These days it looks out of place - a bit like Cityscape.

It is advertising at its corniest and most unbelievable.

A more representative advertisement would show a half-built apartment with exposed walls and live wires hanging from the ceiling where the chandelier should be.

Underneath would be an electrocuted butler clutching a charred duster.

The real value of Cityscape is the forum it represents for the industry to get together and talk about the stuff of reality - not fantasy.

I hope this week is all about real projects, home finance, visa rules, service charges, bounced cheques, bricks and mortar.

The butlers should stay below stairs.