Some digits stand out in home listings

Why do houses in Vancouver neighborhoods with a high percentage of Chinese residents tend to sell for more when the house number ends in eight? And why do they sell for less when the house number ends in four?

According to a study from the University of British Columbia, when the number on the house ended in four, houses sold at a 2.2% discount. The reason, according to the study: In Mandarin, Cantonese and several other Chinese dialects, the pronunciation of the number four sounds very similar to the word for "death."


There's even a name for the fear of the number four: tetraphobia. And it's why Richmond Hill, Ontario, passed a bylaw this summer outlawing the number four in all new street numbers.

At the same time, when the number above the door ends in eight, which is phonetically similar to the word for "prosperity" or "wealth" in many Asian tongues, the house tended to sell for a 2.5% premium.

Gamblers are often superstitious, which is why you'd be hard-pressed to find a decent-sized casino hotel in Las Vegas with floor numbers four, 14, 24, 34 and 40 to 49. And, of course, numerous office buildings throughout the country do not have a 13th floor.

Home sellers may not be afraid of certain numbers, at least not all of them. But according to real estate search engine Trulia, setting a price and "lucky" numbers go hand in hand.

"Setting the right asking price for your home isn't all science and it isn't all art," says Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist. "Sellers and agents pick numbers to signal their strategy and to appeal to the traditions and superstitions of local buyers."

After studying the asking prices of all the homes for sale on the Trulia site for about a year starting in October 2011, Kolko discovered that after zero, as in $200,000, the number nine was the most popular, as in $199,999.

That is, of the non-zero ending digits in list prices, a whopping 53% of all prices ended in nine. The next most common number was five. "No other digit comes close to nine and five," Kolko says.

As it turns out, nine, in the vernacular of home buyers and sellers, is less than zero.

And when house prices are reduced, according to the Trulia study, the lower price is more likely to have nine as the final non-zero digit than it was in the original price. In other words, the economist reports, when sellers are more eager to sell, they are more likely to price with a nine than, say, a one or two.

But apparently it's only sellers of lower-cost homes who subscribe to this pricing theory. When houses are priced over $1 million, buyers can't be fooled into thinking they have nailed a bargain with just one digit. Which is why only 1 in 4 homes listed for seven figures or more had a nine as the last number.

At the same time, it appears that nine is popular only in some markets. In upstate New York, for example, nine was the last non-zero digit in more than two-thirds of the listings. But nine was in less than a third of the listings in El Paso; Tacoma, Wash.; Seattle; and Honolulu.

Triskaidekaphobia — fear of the number 13 — is much more widespread. It appeared in the asking price of just 13% of Trulia's listings. That's not just at the end of the asking price but anywhere in it.

Then, of course, there's lucky number seven. House prices in Nevada are more likely to have a seven in the list price than anywhere else in the country. And whereas prices with triple sevens were found in just eight out of every 10,000 listings in the Trulia study, such a combination is three times more likely in the Silver State.

The numbers three and six represent both the good and bad in Christian numerology. And as you may have guessed, they resonate most in the Bible Belt, which covers most of the South.


The number 316, as in John 3:16, was 27% more likely to appear somewhere in a Bible Belt home's asking price than in houses elsewhere.

And good wins out over evil, at least when pricing a house, for the number 666 showed up in less than one out of every 10,000 listings. But 666 was still more common in Bible Belt houses than anywhere else.

Back to the number eight: It's so important in Chinese culture that the Beijing Olympics officially began at 8:08:08 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2008 (8/8/08), and that the United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Beijing is numbered 888.

Same thing for house prices. In neighborhoods without a large Asian population, Trulia found that the number eight was the last non-zero numeral in just 4% of the listings. But in neighborhoods with a preponderance of Asian residents, eight was the last non-zero digit in 20% of the listings.

Distributed by Universal Uclick for United Feature Syndicate.