Magical Thinking

“We do find premiums and penalties associated with numbers that are thought to be lucky or unlucky in the Chinese culture,” says lead author Nicole Fortin, a professor at UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics, in this report at the Financial Post. According to the report, a recent study has uncovered significant differences in property values attributed to “magical thinking” in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of Chinese residents. Researchers discovered that in areas whose share of Chinese residents exceeded the metro average, houses with address numbers ending in ‘4’ were sold at a discount while those with numbers ending in ‘8’ were sold at a premium. We’re told that the number four is associated with death in Chinese culture, and the number eight with prosperity. Perhaps that explains why here in Vancouver, ‘eights’ are also a prerequisite of any new listing price (eg. $8,888,888).

Today almost 30% of Vancouver’s inhabitants are of Chinese heritage, representing one of the highest concentrations of ethnic Chinese residents in North America.  At the same time, in Vancouver’s most expensive, historic west side neighborhoods of Kerrisdale and Shaughnessy, predominant household language averages closer to 35% Chinese (Source). As reported here, analysis by the Conference Board of Canada says China’s influence on Vancouver’s housing market trumps domestic factors such as mortgage rates, employment, and population growth. However, anyone in search of hard data is often reminded that “unlike most countries, cities, and jurisdictions around the world, neither Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, nor Canadian government agencies keep public records on foreign ownership of real estate”. At least one immigration lawyer noted recently here that “within the last six months, if a west side Vancouver property sold in the $2 to $2.5 million range, the odds are strong that the purchaser was Asian”.

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