Got a lucky number? Like, a really lucky, Powerball-deciding, superstition-fueling, wedding date–determining number you evoke like an enchanted incantation? For surprisingly large numbers of Americans, that magic number is 7. But that’s not the case with the Chinese. In Chinese culture, 8, or ba, is considered the luckiest number because its pronunciation is similar to fa, which means to make a fortune.
With the surge of Chinese buyers in the U.S. property market—the National Association of Realtors estimates that Chinese buyers will purchase $27.3 billion in residential properties by the end of 2016—we’ve seen increasing numbers of homes priced at $888,888 to lure buyers.
But could the pursuit of good luck really be driving unusual real estate sales? We asked our numerology-loving data team to help us find out.
8 is the luckiest
So far this year, there have been 178 homes on realtor.com priced at either $888,888 or $8,888,888. Those homes are concentrated in New York City (34), San Francisco (27), Los Angeles (25), and San Jose (23). The first three cities are among the top markets viewed by Chinese buyers, according to Juwai.com, a website for Chinese people searching for real estate properties abroad.
“It’s an eye-catching strategy. [Chinese] buyers would see the price and be like, ‘why not check out the home?’” says Hao Yuan, an LG Fairmont real estate salesperson based in New York. “The important thing is that it makes them feel lucky.”
“It’s not so much that a lucky number helps sell your home,” explains Tina Ying, a broker with New Century Real Estate in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Buyers can always counteroffer, so the final price is hardly ever the original list price.” But many sellers set such a price in hopes of getting a smooth sale, she adds.
The real luck (and price premium) lies in the street number. A street number is gold among the Chinese if it’s crammed with as many 8’s as possible, and especially if it ends with an 8.
A Bel Air, CA, home with the address of 10888 Chalon Road was recently sold for $4,175,000—which was 36% higher than similar-size homes in the same neighborhood. We couldn’t confirm whether the deep-pocketed buyer was indeed of Chinese descent, because the home was bought by a limited liability company—a common practice for buyers to hide their identities.
4 is unlucky
Chinese people often have a visceral negative reaction to the numeral 4, which is pronounced the same as “death” in Chinese. For properties with a 4 in the street number, a Chinese home buyer might ask for a discount of 5% or even 10% on the asking price, according to Ying.
Ying cites a Fremont, CA, home that has not only one, but two 4’s in its street number. The seller slashed $200,000 off its $2 million asking price before the buyer finally agreed to the sale. Both the seller and the buyer were Chinese.
Rearranging a home according to feng shui
It’s more than just a numbers game—other superstitions come into play, too. So far this year, 355 homes on the market tout feng shui in their listing description, a 57% increase in just three years. Feng shui is the ancient practice of placing things within a living environment to affect the flow of energy, and therefore to influence the fortune of the people who live there.
The most frequently mentioned feng shui attribute is “south-facing,” which is thought to maximize luck. Kevin Zheng, a Re/Max Realtor in Los Angeles, says that in his experience, it’s the one thing Chinese buyers simply won’t compromise on. (South-facing homes also get the advantage of all-day sunlight without too much glare or heat, so they have a practical appeal as well.)
Other common practices include mindfully positioning a fountain in the yard (which is supposed to bring fortune) and designing the entryway to prevent fortune from flowing out the front door. Depending on the buyer, the importance of feng shui ranges from high to extremely high.
Zheng says he had a client who walked away from a deal because of bad feng shui. The client took great interest in a $1 million–plus home in Orange County, but wanted to know the direction rainwater flows on the ground. The seller’s agent confirmed that water flows from left to right—unfortunately, that’s the so-called “backward water,” an ominous sign.
The most dreaded 13
But Chinese people are not the only superstitious ones—many buildings don’t have a 13th floor because in much of the Western world, 13 is associated with bad luck. In Manhattan, out of 629 buildings high enough to have more than 13 floors, 91% of them relabeled the floor as 14, 12A, 12B, or M (the 13th letter in the English alphabet), according to CityRealty’s data released last year.