Ghosts Create Bargains in Hong Kong Housing Market
Have an apartment to sell in Hong Kong that may be haunted? Prepare to lower your price according to Business Week.
There’s a grim phenomenon in Hong Kong’s real estate market: discounts of as much as 50 percent for home seekers willing to live in an apartment where a murder has occurred. Unnatural deaths typically result in rental discounts of 10 percent to 20 percent and can be more than double that for killings, says Sammy Po, head of the residential department of realtor Midland Holdings. Chinese believe such places, known as hung jaak, the Cantonese term for haunted apartments, are unlucky, he says, adding that “the Chinese really do care” about living in these places.
This year, Hong Kong had almost 190 apartments or homes where an unnatural death took place, including murders and suicides, according to a database compiled by Square Foot. The website lists the date of the incident, the address, the district, and a brief description of the death. Among recent listings were an apartment where an 18-year-old male student slipped a plastic bag over his head last month and jumped to his death; one where a middle-age couple, plagued by financial troubles, committed suicide by inhaling burning coal smoke; and another where a mother was hacked to death by a mentally unstable neighbor while protecting her two daughters.
Superstition and geomancy beliefs run deep in Hong Kong, where people also shun sites close to cemeteries, hospitals, and churches, which can be considered unlucky. Buildings typically omit the fourth floor because the number is a homonym for the Chinese word for death—much as many U.S. buildings don’t have a 13th floor. Property developers rely on feng shui, the Chinese practice of arranging the physical environment in harmony according to beliefs about energy and design. “For those growing up in Hong Kong, feng shui is hammered into your mind, even if you don’t believe or understand it,” says Ng Wai-pok, a former lecturer in feng shui at the University of Hong Kong. “A large part of it is psychological, but there is also the metaphysical.”