January 2017 has seen the first Friday the Thirteenth of this year. The next one’s coming in October, so if you’re of a superstitious turn, you might want to plan your wedding, sea voyage or house purchase accordingly.
There are many ideas about why thirteen is an unlucky number. Some think it’s a reference to the Last Supper, which had thirteen people round the table. This idea has continued down the centuries and is now found in Western culture as a symbol for bad luck. Films such as Friday 13th and world events like the Apollo 13 mission have all played their part in reinforcing this idea.
This superstition has led Zoopla to conduct a survey of how the number thirteen affects the London property market and the rest of the UK. The survey revealed that a quarter of people would not exchange or complete contracts, or move into their new home, on Friday 13th.
Buying a flat or house numbered thirteen can also affect the price. The average difference between a house numbered 13 and any of its neighbours is £9,000.
At the other end of the scale, it seems that buyers are also prepared to pay more for a number they perceive to be lucky. In the UK, Zoopla observed that houses numbered 1 and 100 usually commanded a higher price than other numbers.
Overseas, we can see other trends based in different superstitions but which have similar results. Chinese people believe that numbers 6, 8 and 9 are lucky. Some believe that 4 represents death as the words “four” and “death” sound almost identical to each other in both Cantonese and Mandarin.
“People have a strong awareness of the power of numbers, even if they’re not superstitious themselves,” explains Raymond Sim, Henry Wiltshire’s property expert in Singapore. “A buyer might not care what number is on the door of the flat where he lives, but he knows that in the future, a flat numbered four will be much harder to sell than one numbered eight. For this reason, we see buyers steering clear of the number four altogether.”
Many tower blocks and skyscrapers don’t have a thirteenth floor, with the fourteenth immediately following the twelfth. Lift manufacturers Otis report that about 85% of the elevators they make worldwide have no button for 13. Those that do have a thirteenth floor often choose not to rent it out, but to use it for service and mechanics. A tower block in Hong Kong has no floor 4, 13 or 14 at all – a combination of the Chinese superstition about 4 and death, and Western triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13).
Attracting good luck
The superstition doesn’t just seem to be about appealing to buyers. Taipei 101, a tower block in Taiwan, shows a commitment to symbolism that crosses buyers, sellers, developers, user groups and the city as a whole. Form must follow function…but one of those functions is that the building be lucky. Built in eight sections to represent wealth, it also has 101 floors, symbolising the taking of a step beyond perfection. Besides the numerology, its shape, layout and motifs are all heavy with symbolism, and while many Westerners chuckle at the site of Chinese take-out boxes stacked on top of one another, one must remember the stackable shape of such boxes is likewise derived from that of ancient money boxes.
Even if a seller does own property with an unlucky number in a building with an unlucky number of floors, all is not lost. “People are definitely becoming less superstitious,” says Raymond. “Not only that, but it is possible to present “unlucky” property in a better light to ensure a sale goes through. 04-04, for example, can be a message of good luck – it’s amazing what a difference a zero can make.”
Our expert teams in London, Hong Kong or Singapore can help you sell your property on the international market. To find out more, contact your local branch of Henry Wiltshire.