Welcome to this month’s edition of Dear Urbaneer, where we share our knowledge of all things real estate to enlighten our clients.
This month's question is interesting and unusual, as it is in regards to the interplay between real estate and superstitions. What it underscores is the fact that when it comes to 'Housing' and 'Home', that are a vast number of different beliefs, traditions, and histories - especially in a multi-cultural metropolis like Toronto!
I was at a dinner party recently and the conversation turned to the topic of superstitions. It was really interesting to hear all the varying beliefs around the subject. With our house hunt always at the forefront of my mind, it got me to thinking, are there any superstitions that pertain to real estate? How might that affect our bids on properties? I’m curious.
Looking For Luck
Here's my reply:
Dear Looking for Luck:
Certainly, with the heated competition in Toronto real estate, you are not the first home hunter to hope for a little luck to be on your side. Sellers always hope for the stars to align for top dollar too after they’ve listed (click here to read my blog Seven Home Runs To Achieve Top Dollar!).
And truthfully, although success in real estate is rooted more steadily in strategy having a little luck on your side never hurts!
Whether or not you believe superstitions, it can be beneficial to consider their influence, both as a buyer and as a seller. Psychology factors into Buyer motivation, which I touch on here: The Psychology Of Real Estate, Housing & Home. Of course, superstitions have a psychological impact.
Real Estate Superstitions May Be More Important Than You Think
Many superstitions and customs have cultural roots and Toronto is very much a multi-cultural city. Toronto isn’t just a patchwork of neighbourhoods geographically speaking; it is a vibrant city with many different active ethnic groups contributing to its synergy. Toronto always has been and continues to be a major draw for immigrants because of its location, great employment prospects, sense of cultural communities and overall liveability.
I’ve studied this multi-cultural phenomenon in Toronto real estate extensively and it is fascinating. Here is my post summarizing some of my observations: Gentrification, Densification, And The History Of Toronto Real Estate.
According to this information from the Stats Canada 2016 census, 43.9% of Toronto residents have a mother tongue other than English or French in Toronto. According to the same census, Toronto is home to nearly 140 different languages. The top non-English languages spoken at home are Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Tamil.
As a Buyer, being aware of some of the aspects of different cultures is important because it helps you to have a better understanding of customs and beliefs that may be prevalent in certain neighbourhoods. Similarly, as a Seller, understanding that there are potentially multiple perceptions of a property can help you to position it best to get top dollar by connecting most directly with your market.
Whether it’s reciting, “knock on wood” to ward off bad luck or refusing to open an umbrella inside, we all have instinctual rituals ingrained in us from childhood - even in they've become automatic or subconscious!
Here are some of the most common spiritual belief systems and superstitions that pertain to real estate! For context, I've encountered all of these at least once - and many of them frequently!
*Note that some of these are not superstitions, but rather related to holistic approaches to life, spiritual belief systems, or various organized religions*
FOR BUYING OR SELLING A HOME
Superstition around numerology can factor into how people price their properties, what bids people enter, how developers number floors in condominium buildings and adds compelling features for a segment of buyers (address). Get the right number and you can expect health and prosperity; living with an address that is deemed unlucky will condemn you to bad luck while you live there. So let's take a look at which numbers are significant in certain cultures of belief:
• 13 is widely viewed as unlucky in North American culture. That’s why you don’t see the 13th floor often in hotels, apartments or condominiums. You generally don’t see the 13th row on a plane either, for the same reason. On the other side of the coin, 7 is considered lucky (how many slot machines are named ‘lucky 7’?).
• In Chinese culture, 8 is “the” lucky number. Its pronunciation in Chinese is similar to a word that means good fortune. The infinite lines of an 8 also suggest ongoing prosperity. The pronunciation of 6 in Chinese sounds like the word for flow, which helps to drive good energy. 9 is also sought after as it signifies “everlasting”.
• Alternatively, and for similar reasons, the number 4 is considered unlucky because its pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the word for death. Click here to read “Lucky Numbers That Can Drive Up Your Home’s Value”.
• In addition to impacting real estate through listing prices and bids, some developers are building according to these beliefs in order to appeal to the Chinese market. According to this article, “It's In the Numbers: Luck and Superstition Sell Luxury Real Estate” figure the number 8 in their construction (8-metre ceilings, 108 floors etc.) while leaving the number 4 out of unit numbers or floors altogether.
• In Jewish culture, 18 is the lucky number because it symbolizes chai- which is the Hebrew word for life. I actually experienced this myself in a bidding war recently, where among the top bids sums $2,018,000 and $2,054,000 as price. The realtor with the bid of $2,018,000 revealed that his buyers were Jewish.
• Here is a piece listing meaning associated with each number in Hindu culture: “Numerology in Real Estate – What numbers mean for your house?” For example, living in a home with 1 in the address can promote self-confidence. The number 3 is lucky and has meaning behind health and creativity. Number 6 indicates a place of nurturing. Hindu culture also favours the number 9, as it is viewed as sacred. It is the number of Brahma, the Creator. 9 has roots in Hindu spirituality, with the Fruits of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit each containing 9 graces (things like faith, love, knowledge, temperance, healing, etc.). It is also considered lucky because all multiples of 9 add up to 9.
For Muslims, 9 is lucky as well. The number though that figures most heavily in Islam is 786 because of this number’s meaning in the ancient system of Arabic numerology. It is a symbolic representation of Allah. Some Muslims use 786 in place of Bismillah, which means, “in the name of Allah”. Another lucky number for Muslims is 19 because of its prevalence in the Quran.
• Russian culture mirrors North American culture, with 7 being lucky and 13 being unlucky. One interesting side note on that is that they believe that if you are giving someone flowers, you should give them an odd number, as even-numbered bunches of flowers are used at funerals.
• In Italy on the other hand, the number 13 is considered lucky, whereas 17 is the one that you should be wary of. This is because of the way that it is written in Roman numerals, which can be construed as Latin for “I have lived”, which is seen to tempt death.
Burying St. Joseph
Although selling your home quickly and for top dollar is almost always the result of combining experience, expertise, and statistically-supported marketing strategies, there are those that believe burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard will provide you with just the divine intervention that you need to get the job done. The rules of the ritual of St. Joseph are as follows: bury him upside down, close to the house, and make sure he faces the house - otherwise, he might sell the wrong one! Pray to him daily, and once he works his magic, dig him up and place him in a position of honor in the new home.
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of configuring and decorating your home to channel positive energy (Chi) to bring health, luck, and prosperity. For example, in Feng Shui, it isn’t wise to have a staircase face the front door. It is believed that the energy on the ground floor will be poor, as the energy will go right down the staircase and out the front door. Spiral staircases may provide an interesting focal point in your décor, but they make a difficult path for positive energy to travel, according to this philosophy.
Similarly, it isn’t advisable to have the back door of a home in the same path as the front door; the energy simply enters one door and leaves through another. Your home’s entryway isn’t just about curb appeal or making a good impression. If you’ve got something blocking it (i.e. a tree) the positive energy won’t be able to enter your home. Ideally, if you should have an entrance on the left side of the home with a curved path leading up to it (negative energy prefers a straight line apparently. A red door is seen as a sign of strength.
So these are structural features that prospective buyers keep an eye on when househunting - if the subscribe to Feng shui. I've seen buyers walk away from a house purchase that they otherwise liked because the stairs weren't facing the door. Unfortunately, in Toronto, most of the older housing stock - Edwardian & Victorian - and semi-detached homes, in particular, have staircases directly in front of the entrance, or that face the front door.
Here's a neat article on how a developer used this holistic approach when building a Troonto condominium: The Art Of Feng Shui At Harmony Village In Toronto.
Location Location Location
Real estate success lies on the mantra of location, location, location-which means that buying a home located next to key amenities (like transit, green space, shopping, and schools) is the best way to grow your home’s value.
However, certain superstitions say home’s location could negatively affect your well-being as well. For instance, there are people who are uncomfortable living close to a cemetery or to a historical site, because they believe it is bad luck. Just think about how many movies and television shows cultivate the fear that bad things happen (ghostly or otherwise) when one lives beside a graveyard - across many cultures! The same applies to living across from, or beside, a funeral home.
Even a pie-shaped lot (larger at the front, tapering at the rear) is considered a bad omen as triangles are good for anchoring, or energy flow. This is said to affect relationships and luck. Also, as the triangle is associated with the symbol for fire, it's undesirable for housing.
FOR MOVING TO A NEW HOME
Leave Old Brooms Behind
Less superstitious and more ritual symbolism, it's very popular both in England and Canada to replace your brooms before you move. Purging your belongings when moving is good for practical reasons, but many believe bringing old brooms into a new home sweeps all of the negative energy and experiences from your previous home into your current home - so scrap that sweeper on your way out the door!
Timing Is Everything
Many Indians - and those who subscribe to Hinduism - believe it’s important to choose an 'auspicious day' to move into your new house - and you'd be wise to finish moving before sunset! So what constitutes an auspicious day? The first day of the Lunar calendar, a full moon, as well as any day that marks a major Hindu festival. If you ever wondered why all the U-Hauls seem to be already rented during Diwali, this could be why!
Keep Those Ghosts Out
Apparently, if you are keen on keeping ghosts out of your home, you are well-advised to paint your front door blue, as ghosts can’t travel across water. Same thing with porch ceiling. Word is though, that it might be enough to have something blue placed at your front door. Many cultures take salt and scatter it throughout the house, paying close attention to the windows and doors, as this is supposed to ward off evil spirits from entering the home.
And if you're eager to cleanse your new home of bad energy and/or spirits, Native American - as well as various spiritual communities - believe smudging will do the trick. First set an intention, then use sage, bells or smudge spray to clear the air. Finally, bring in new energy with a blessing, mantra or prayer.
Coins For Prosperity
In the Philippines, when you’re moving into a new place, you might place coins in the corner of every room to bring financial good fortune. Another important moving day tradition is to enter with rice and salt before bringing anything else into the home. Interestingly, this tradition exists in Scotland as well, but with bread and salt; across the world, the consensus seems to enter with a carb/starch + salt first. (If you're Russian, you may prefer to borrow a cat and have it enter the home first - no kidding!)
If you want to be a truly gracious guest, make sure that you don’t give someone a housewarming gift that sentences them to bad luck. A gift of a coin brings wealth. Salt and herbs ensure that the homeowner’s life will always have flavour. Wood demonstrates a wish for stability. Bringing a housewarming gift of knives, however, is a real no-no. Those sharp edges will sever your friendship.
Since - in most cultures and religions in the world - certain objects installed above or beside doors bring good luck, ward off spirits, or keep out negative energy, these "talismans" can make a unique housewarming gift. Traced back to 16th century English folklore, the horseshoe nailed to an entrance door or window shutter repelled evil (witches, once upon a time!) and brought good luck. For the Chinese - specifically followers of Feng Shui - The Ba Gua mirror placed above the entrance to your main door welcomes in harmony and brings good fortune to all who enter. In many sects of Judaism, the 'mezuzah' denies evil and destructive agents access to the house, and those who put up a mezuzah are protected all the time. The Nazar, also known as the 'evil-eye stone', is a Greek/Turkish amulet used for warding off the “evil eye”, known in Mediterranean cultures as “Mal de ojo”. In some Celtic beliefs, a cross made from the branches of the rowan tree and bound with a red thread was used as a protective charm above the doors of houses. Even wind chimes are thought to scare away bad spirits (a belief with origins in Indian wind bells). Plus, they sound lovely!
I Love Toronto Real Estate
My take on all of this? While some of these rituals can be comforting and even empowering, you can’t depend on superstitions to help you get lucky in real estate. Buyers should look for experienced real estate representatives - like the Urbaneer.com team - whose knowledge can help them better distill their wants and needs, help them focus, and eventually find the right home for them, at the right time.at the right time. If you’re a seller, ensure the realtor you choose has specific marketing strategies tailored to promote your property at its best, who also has the know-how to price your home right, and list it on the market at the opportune time. It’s these strategies — rather than specific numbers or burying a statue — that will ultimately serve you well in the end!
Here's some further reading about superstition in real estate that might be of interest:
Buying a home is about having shelter, but it is also about navigating market conditions to create wealth and happiness for you today and tomorrow.
If you enjoyed this piece, we encourage you to take a look at these blogs relating to home buying in Toronto!
Is your next home purchase or sale written in the stars? With over two decades of experience in the market and a vast knowledge of real estate from multiple vantage points, my team and I are here to help!
Thanks for reading!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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