When it comes to death, the Chinese can be quite superstitious in their belief that one should die anywhere but in his or her own home.
There are perhaps more economic than cultural reasons behind this. The property value of a home where tragic events have happened such as a murder or suicide may go down for the homeowner and neighbors, who could have a hard time to cash out unless it is done at a significant discount. Worse still, the “curse effect” could last for long time.
But the “curse” for some could also be a blessing for others. Such was the case for a certain unit at Telford Gardens, which sold this week amid the rising residential market in Hong Kong.
A buyer snapped up a 517-square-foot two-bedroom unit for HK$4.63 million (US$591,646) – slightly below HK$9,000 per square foot, which is 25% under the market price. Agents said the price was the lowest for a two-bedroom unit this year.
Why the bargain? The unit was right opposite one of the most bizarre multiple murder cases in Hong Kong – nearly two decades ago.
A feng shui master, Li Yuhui, was convicted of poisoning five women, including two teenage girls, on the Kowloon Bay estate in July 1998 and stealing HK$1.3 million from them before fleeing to Wuhan. Li was later executed by firing squad on the mainland.
We checked the online transaction record of the said flat and noticed that the transaction volume was much less than for other units in the same building after the tragic incident.
The housing estate became infamous for the multiple-murder and suffered another blow during the outbreak of SARS along with its neighbor Amoy Gardens.
But not everyone was unlucky. The previous owner of the above unit bought it for HK$2.8 million in 2012 and leased the flat to expatriates (who apparently are not deterred). So, that is a 65% return in five years.
People who are superstitious about the impact of tragic incidents on property prices can check various “murder house” websites in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which give exact locations of unnatural deaths.
That information is a reference point for professionals such as agents, lawyers, mortgage bankers and feng shui masters in their daily routines.
But for bargain hunters, there is nothing better than getting back the pricing power caused by misfortune. After all, some figure perhaps it is much better to live in a horrible place, than no place at all.