Feng Shui your Way to the Best Sales PriceJanuary 13, 2015
In Palo Alto and surrounding areas, a significant and growing portion of the buyers are Asian, most notably Chinese. In fact, a comparison of the 2000 and 2010 censuses reveals that the percentage of Asian households increased from 17.22% in 2000 to 27% in 2010, a remarkable increase. This growing trend mean that sellers should make sure their property gets exposure to these buyers and that any elements that may dissuade buyers from purchasing the home are eliminated or reduced to the greatest extent possible. Conversely, buyers should remain aware of factors that may impact their subsequent sale.
Many sellers (and listing agents) miss opportunities to maximize the value of homes out of a lack of understanding of the cultural concerns of growing demographic segments of the market or misunderstanding of rules that address steering of potential buyers towards or away from a particular property or area. Put simply, it is impermissible for a seller or listing agent to advise clients to purchase homes, or not to purchase homes, in particular neighborhoods on the basis of race, however, it is not only permissible, it prudent for sellers to remain cognizant of growing demographic trends and take steps to make sure that the home is appealing to that group.
Feng Shui’s origin dates back over 3,000 years ago to ancient China. Whether Feng Shui is an art or a science is oft debated, but the basic element of Feng Shui is a focus on how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the heath, wealth and happiness of the people inhabiting it. Put another way, a home’s positioning, design and location all contribute to balance or Chi of the environment.
Although there are some elements that can’t be changed without extensive and expensive structural modification to the home, there are other elements that can be changed through sensitive and informed use of staging.
Many Asian clients will shy away from homes located next to a cemetery. Given that there is no “easy” cure for an apprehension of ghosts, listing agents may find significant expenditures in Asian publications may be wasted. All buyers may want to be aware of this stigma when deciding whether to pursue a property near a cemetery.
Similarly, many Asian buyers will avoid homes facing a perpendicular street (i.e., a T-Intersection). A T-intersection occurs when a street dead ends and there is a house located straight ahead. This is considered a problem because there is too much energy coming directly at the house. However, this can be mitigated by constructing a barrier, such as a wall or fence, with appropriate landscaping to soften the look.
The location on the lot and the direction the house is facing may also have a significant impact on the desirability to some traditional home buyers. Similar to many Persian buyers, Chinese clients often carry a compass with them to determine the home’s orientation.
The layout of a home can also cause problems. One commonly cited Feng Shui faux paus is for an architect to position steps to terminate facing the front door. It is believed that the chi will accelerate and rush out the front door. However, this too can be mitigated by adopting a decorating style that will slow down the energy and redirect it around the main living floor. The strategic placement of art, plants or flowers can certainly help reduce the negative impact of this layout.
A similar loss of chi can occur when the front door lines up directly with the back door. Just as with the steps, the use of disruptive designer elements can reduce the negative aspects of this undesirable design.
Numerology and Feng Shui
Many Chinese buyers are superstitious when it comes to numbers; they choose telephone numbers, house number, business numbers, car number plates and anything that has numbers very carefully. An otherwise lovely house may be passed over if the address is wrong.
The number 4 is considered unlucky because the Mandarin word of 4 sounds like the word for death. To further complicate matters, numbers that add up to death such as 13 (1+3=4) may be undesirable as well.
On the other hand, numbers that end in 8 are considered good because if you say the 8 in Mandarin “ba” it sounds like "fa" which means "prosperity & abundance".
A good stager or interior designer with a strong working knowledge of the principals of Feng Shui can utilize strategically placed mirrors, water features and crystals to improve the chi of a house.
Whether you are a seller looking to maximize the value of a property in a community where Asian buyers make up a significant portion of the potential buyers or you are a buyer looking to purchase a home that can be resold without significant Feng Shui remediation, a basic understanding of the relevant principals is key.