In Hong Kong's Tight Real Estate Market, Death Is a Selling Point

Hong KongCultural differences are often reflected in attitudes toward real estate. Take Hong Kong, where space is tight and people live densely in high-rise apartments that make the typical Manhattan abode look spacious and cheap. Still, most residents of notoriously superstitious Hong Kong would rather not live in a hongza -- an unlucky home.

According to a recent article by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, these homes have been beset by misfortune, as when some poor soul jumps from the top of one of the high-rises and lands, splat, in front of your first-floor window. As the article notes:
"The term "hongza" derives from the Chinese word 'xiong,' pronounced 'hong' in the Hong Kong dialect, which means 'calamity,' 'violence,' 'murder.' 'Za' means 'residence.' "
In other words, a murder house.

As HousingWatch has reported, these tainted homes can be hard to sell. The thing is, in Hong Kong's tight real estate market, hongza have become sought after investments, especially by less-superstitious westerners and corporate investors, says the German news agency.

Since these unlucky properties can have a purchase price some 40 percent lower than comparable houses in Hong Kong, investors are practically jumping out of windows to buy up these literal death traps.

And that's where Hong Kong real estate agents have gotten creative. They've dreamed up a four-tiered rating system for hongza houses and apartment buildings: one "death's head" indicates a fatal accident -- say, someone slipped on a banana and off the balcony; while four "death's heads" mean something really, really, really horrible took place (say, a murder involving dismemberment).

Here in the U.S., these so-called stigmatized properties and are a hard sell, as HousingWatch have reported. Although that's not always the case. The website Bankrate.com reports that an allegedly "haunted" house might actually "add value" to a property -- for some.

Take the Schaibles who were interested in a 111-year old Victorian. Told the house had ghosts in the attic (why is it ghosts are never in the kitchen? I mean, I know if they're dead and all, they can't eat food; but you'd think they'd want to maybe look at a nice steak or maybe a piece of cake every now and then, wouldn't you?), rather than run for the hills, they apparently reached for their checkbook. Mr. Schaible tells the Web site that while he wouldn't pay more for a "haunted" house, the idea that the one he bought might have some ghosts bunking with him and his wife "juiced it up" for him.

The Schaibles moved into their haunted house a few years back.

Since then, the entire family died in mysterious ways.

Nah--just kidding!


Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum