Posted on January 20, 2018 by Charles Morris
Is the global real estate boom losing steam? Are developers so desperate to move units that they have to give away a luxury sedan to close a sale? Not likely. Then why are sellers of new homes in places like Dubai and Hong Kong offering a brand-new Tesla Model S with each purchase?
Above: Tesla Model S and X (Source: Tesla)
Offering some sort of prize or premium with a new home (sometimes a car, sometimes a luxury vacation) is a time-honored tradition in the real estate biz. Like so many similar sales pitches (“If we can’t sell your house, we’ll buy it!”), a little common sense will tell you that it’s a gimmick to make the phone ring, not a transaction that’s ever likely to take place. It’s safe to say that few, if any, of the buyers who respond to these offers will choose to take delivery of a new Tesla (simply negotiating a cash reduction in the sales price would be a much better deal for both buyer and seller).
However, if the recent spate of “free Tesla” come-ons reveals nothing about the real estate market, it reveals something very interesting about Tesla. The American electric car brand has become a universal global symbol for luxury, like gold and diamonds, Champagne and caviar. In the US for many years, the automotive embodiment of affluence was Cadillac. How many books, songs and popular sayings used “Cadillac” as a synonym for luxury? “I bought you a brand-new Ford. You said, ‘I want a Cadillac!’” sang BB King in his 1963 hit How Blue Can You Get?
Over the years, Cadillac evolved from a symbol of luxury into a symbol of 1950s America, and as pop culture became more international, Mercedes replaced it to a certain extent in its role as an automotive metaphor. Today, with high-tech modernity and rebellion against existing institutions in vogue, Tesla has taken over this linguistic function. A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times, lamenting the fact that grand plans for a replacement for the St Petersburg Pier were looking less grand due to shrinking funds, said, “We want a Tesla, not an Edsel.”
Above: Tesla Model X (Source: Tesla)
Real estate ads that offer a free car, or some other glittering object, simply aim to invoke a universally recognized symbol of wealth and glamor. The real point is not to close a sale, but to associate the property in question with the finer things in life. “The sort of people who live here drive Teslas.”
However, Tesla is not just a symbol of affluence, but of sustainability as well. The latest venture to use the free Tesla spiel to generate headlines is a planned eco-friendly development in Florida.
The Manatee County Commission recently approved plans for Hunters Point Resort and Marina, which will feature small “zero-energy ready” homes. “Hunters Point will be the first entirely ‘zero-energy-ready’ community in Manatee County, where each residence and lodge will produce as much if not more energy than it consumes,” said Marshall Gobuty, founder and principal of developer Pearl Homes.
Above: Pearl Homes' promotional Tesla Model S (Image: Builder via Pearl Homes)
According to planning documents, Hunters Point will include 86 residences with “500 square feet of living space under air, with 1,450 square feet of total usable space, including spectacular rooftop and exterior decks,” as well as “62 lodge-style properties designed for extended stay rental [with] 800 square feet of interior living space.”
“These are not tiny houses,” said Gobuty. “They are full houses designed for people who don’t want to have a big house and big yard and can be near their boat,” he said.
“Our design allows for natural breezes for cooling and ventilation throughout the residence. This approach further reduces the demands of energy to power air conditioning and fans,” said lead architect Beth McDougal.
Above: A look at the approved Hunters Point Resort and Marina development plans (Image: Amisun)
“Every home will have a solar array, with battery storage, enabling them to achieve zero energy consumption, with the ability to generate excess power,” said Gary Carmack, Pearl Homes’ Vice President.
Each unit will feature an electric car charging station and, so the company says, a brand-new Tesla in the driveway.
Of course, Florida has had many “eco-friendly” developments, and most are environmental abominations - huge houses in sprawling subdivisions, greened up with some extra insulation and perhaps a solar panel here and there. But it seems plain that Hunters Point will be in a different category. For one thing, no one has built a 500-square-foot house in Florida since the 1920s - most new houses being built are at least four times that size. For another, in 2015, Pearl Homes broke ground on Mirabella, a nearby community of 158 LEED Platinum certified homes, which repurposed an abandoned golf course, and has been recognized for its environmental bona fides.
Above: Sized at approximately 500 square feet, the Hunters Point cottages are also built to withstand 200 mph hurricane force winds (Image: Amisun)
The Hunters Point homes will also be constructed to meet LEED Platinum requirements. According to Builder magazine, there are currently only about 1,600 homes built to this level of energy efficiency in the country, and only 47 in Florida.
Only time will tell whether Hunters Point really will turn out to be an entire neighborhood of Tesla drivers (a nightmare for the parking attendants at the community center). However, unlike the energy-gobbling palaces of Dubai and Hong Kong, so far it does sound like something that Elon Musk might be willing to put his stamp of approval on.
Written by: Charles Morris