YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Selling Homes to Superstitious Minds

June 06, 1992|PATRICK MOTT

Having Irish blood is a pretty good gig. You can hang just about anything in your life on it--credit it for your successes, blame it for your transgressions.

Diluted as mine is, I believe it has given me a certain facility with the language (good), a nasally tenor voice (bad), a taste for Guinness (good), a hair-trigger sentimentality (bad) and an inexplicable devotion to superstition.

I'm undecided on that last one. Why is it, for instance, that I have to draw a tick-tack-toe design in the dirt near first base with my spikes before I take up my position there, or my glove will turn to stone? Why do I inevitably lunge for the lucky penny in the parking lot, even if it's covered with old crankcase sludge? Why do I take fortune cookies seriously?

Why ask why? If you're Irish, even a little bit, you simply accept this stuff and weave it into your daily life. And if you're smart, you might even find a way to make a buck off it.

That's just what the people at the Rancho Los Cerritos Board of Realtors in Bellflower had in mind when they set up a recent panel titled "The Multicultural World of Real Estate." The members of the panel were realtors themselves, and represented several different ethnic populations. Addressing a gathering of other interested real estate professionals, they provided the answers on a range of subjects, from cultural history to manners to particular superstitions.

The reason: If you're in real estate, and you expect to work with an ethnically diverse clientele, you'd better know this stuff. Working in the heart of immigrant-rich Southern California, a realtor could be cutting deals with a Korean family over breakfast, negotiating with a Chinese couple at noon and sitting down to notarize loan documents with an engineer from India before the banks close. And a little specialized knowledge, say the Los Cerritos folks, may make the difference between a sale and a quick exit and, I imagine, a jittery client.

It was the part of the discussion devoted to particular superstitions relating to the home that gave me a feeling of true kinship with many ethnic home buyers. Here, I thought, were some superstitions with real teeth in them.

I learned, for instance, that the Chinese, depending on the depth of their cultural or religious ties, may be the reigning champs in the Home Superstition Olympics. That's the idea you get listening to panelist Nita Pichedvanichok of the Cerritos office of Coldwell Banker. If an agent is dealing with a firmly traditional Chinese family, any number of things could throw a wrench into a sale:

* Does the front door face the street? That's thought to open the door to evil and misfortune.

* Does the staircase face the front door? If so, it's considered to be not just a staircase, but a kind of cosmic slide down which will slip money, which will continue slipping straight out the door.

* Open the front door, then step back inside the house and take a look through the opening and into the world outside. What do you see? If a chimney, a tree or the corner of another house is in view, some Chinese will tell you that bad luck or illness will visit the house.

Some Filipino buyers have their particular preferences, too. The realtors were told by Imelda Mayhew of Baello Realty in Artesia that Filipinos may embrace many of the superstitions of the Chinese, with at least a couple of their own thrown in. Doors, again, are high on the list. For instance, if the front and back doors are aligned it can mean that one--possibly two--fairly rotten things are going to happen: money will walk out of the house or somebody in it will die.

Stairs also are big. And potentially scary. Many Filipinos count stairs in a sequence of three: gold, silver, death. And when you reach the top of the stairs, you'd better land on gold or silver. There have been instances, the realtors were told, when a step had to be added to close a sale.

And speaking of closing: It isn't essential, but many Philippine folks get pretty happy if their escrow closes during the time of a rising moon. A setting moon is bad luck, said Mayhew. And if you happen to be around on moving-in day, don't barge through the door with, say, a potted plant. The first items through the door are supposed to be salt, water and money.

People from Korea and India may put great stock in which way a house faces. Because Korean winter weather can be bitterly cold, said Howard Kim of ERA Real Estate Store in Artesia, a south-facing house is preferred, even if the family moves to Southern California. The habit, apparently, is hard to break.

Indians, who often shy away from dark houses, according to Shirish Gandhi of Manna Realty in Artesia, prefer one that faces the sunrise in the east, and not only because the rising sun floods the house with light. An east-facing house is thought to symbolize prosperity.

Los Angeles Times Articles