Hong Kong's home prices are so scary, people will live with ghosts to get a discount

By Pearl Liu pearl.liu@scmp.com / SCMP | June 24, 2019 10:00 AM SGT
Which is more frightening: a haunted house or one that takes a lifetime to save up for? For most people Hong Kong's sky-high property prices are a more terrifying prospect than the thought of living with ghosts, if a recent survey is anything to go by.
More than half of the respondents quizzed by Squarefoot, an online property portal in Hong Kong, said they would consider living in a home which hides a tragic past " if the price was right.
In Hong Kong, flats linked with grisly, untimely deaths " murders, suicides and the like " usually sell at huge discounts. Not only is the possibility of sharing a home with the spirits of the departed an unpalatable thought for many, it is also bad for Feng shui, the ancient Chinese belief that the external environment affects the fortunes of people inside.
On June 10, a three-bedroom flat in Taikoo Shing from which a man jumped to his death five years ago sold for a little over HK$18,000 (US$2,300) per square foot. That is almost a third less than a flat the same size that sold a couple of weeks earlier in the same building of the mass residential site, which is popular with families.
"If you asked these buyers whether they are afraid of ghosts, they probably are, more or less. But they are more afraid of sleeping on the street," said Alvin Cheung, associate director at Prudential Brokerage.
"Before people think it is unlucky to stay in a haunted home, they think how lucky they are to find a home " whether it's haunted or not is not the problem. Whether you have enough money to buy one is the key issue."

Of the 1,001 Hongkongers aged 18 to 65 surveyed by Squarefoot in early May, 54 per cent said they would be willing to buy a property where a murder, suicide or other untimely death had occurred, with price being the motivator.

On average, respondents felt that a 37 per cent discount would be appropriate for a haunted flat. A small handful were braver; some 3 per cent of respondents said they would consider sharing a flat with spirits of the deceased for as little as a 10 per cent discount. The survey also found that haunted flats are relatively more appealing to those aged below 40.
"Normally people would not choose a haunted home, but the city's housing prices are not in a normal range right now. Young people who would like to get a home have no choice when they do not have much savings," said Derek Chan, head of research at Ricacorp Properties.
Hong Kong " which has been the world's most expensive city for nine straight years, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Study " saw its home prices increase 8.7 per cent in the first four months of this year.
The study showed that a family would on average need to save up for 21 years without spending a single dollar to afford a home in the city. In comparison, a family in Singapore needs to save for 4.6 years to buy a home.
This may explain the attraction of so-called haunted houses ("Xiong Zhai" in Chinese).
In Hong Kong, estate agents are legally obliged to tell a prospective buyer about a property's sinister past.
As prices have crept up to record-breaking levels, enquiries about discounted "haunted homes" have increased, according to Asif Ghafoor, founder and CEO of online property portal Spacious.
The company's mobile application has a function enabling users to point their phone at a building for on-the-spot information, which includes whether it falls into the "haunted" category.
"It is one of the most used functions," said Ghafoor. "Unnatural death in a home is a very serious issue when people in the city consider buying or renting the place, because those who believe in it would feel horrible staying nearby a ghost."
"Home seekers now have to go for whatever they can afford. It does not matter whether it is private homes, government subsidised ones, or even haunted ones," said Cheung.
For those who do not want to move in with ghosts, living with other living beings is another way of mitigating exorbitant house prices. Co-living spaces have become increasingly sought after in Hong Kong .
"Co-living is more flexible. Couples, particularly married ones, are usually about to make big decisions about where to live together and whether they are going to buy a unit. They can end the monthly-based lease easily and move out at any time," said Alex Bent, co-founder and managing partner at District15, developer of The Nate, a co-living space in Tsim Sha Tsui.