Lantau’s haunted houses and why they matter
If you’ve wondered where people have died suddenly on Lantau, wonder no more.
Real estate website Squarefoot hosts a ‘Haunted House Database’ that lists the homes where Hong Kong people have died by unnatural causes.
For Lantau, it records 23 deaths in Tung Chung since 2007 and eight in South Lantau* and Discovery Bay since 1999. It separately lists nine events in Mui Wo since 1999, though offers detail on only one of them.
Its brisk descriptions of past residents’ varied and untimely ends make for sombre reading,
But the database serves a practical purpose. As the website says, “one of the worst things that could happen” to a Hong Kong homebuyer is to buy a haunted apartment.
Chinese have strong sensitivities over death and sudden death in particular. Squarefoot blogger Juston Li points out that “hardly any local will move into a place where misfortunate [sic] has previously occurred — or to put it another way, a haunted house.”
Hong Kong has no legal definition of ‘haunted house,’ he writes.
“But most will see it as a residential unit where any events such as murders, suicides and accidental deaths have previously occurred. In some cases, adjoining units are seen as haunted too.
”Even up to now, Chinese tradition and culture is deeply rooted in our society. For example, “Worshipping the Corners” is still a common ritual before moving in. When it comes to haunted property, many see it bringing bad luck to occupiers. As a result, most haunted flats offer lower prices compared to nearby units.”
Those places identified as ‘haunted’ traditionally command a lower valuation, a smaller mortgage loan and lower resale price.
Li cites the case of a flat in Kornhill, Quarry Bay, which sold at 15% below market value in 2013 because of a gruesome murder: a man had been killed and cooked by his wife in a neighbouring apartment – in 1988.
Yet thanks to soaring home prices, attitudes are changing slightly. Some buyers are on the lookout for ‘haunted homes’ because of the lower prices. Certain buyers such as expats are less concerned about past events. But Li warns that even so, buyers need to be aware of the likely lower mortgages available from banks.
Squarefoot urges all would-be home buyers to be learn whether their home is ‘haunted’. Besides using the database, buyers can do a Google search, check with the agent and the bank or even seek a written guarantee from the owner.
Hermia Chan, senior PR and marketing manager for Squarefoot, said: “Buyers expect a certain level of discount for a haunted house. One of the reasons is that it will lower the chances of you obtaining a mortgage.” She says Squarefoot created the database information from media reports.
Squarefoot’s owner, iProperty, also publishes real estate sites in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia, but Hong Kong is the only one to list haunted houses.
* Yes, sharp-eyed readers – one of the ‘South Lantau’ incidents was in Fu Tung, Tung Chung.
[UPDATE: Corrected on May 4 to clarify that the haunted house database has been created from news reports, not from information supplied by realtors.]