Developer goes too far with numbers game

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 2009, 12:00am

In a city where superstition is so keenly observed, it is not surprising that the property industry has tailored developments to meet demand. The assumption is that no one wants to live on a floor that includes the unlucky Chinese number four or its Western counterpart 13, but they are willing to pay top dollar for those with the auspicious number eight. Henderson Land has taken this thinking on board with its development at 39 Conduit Road in Mid-Levels, added a pinch of reasoning of its own and thrown in a dose of unfathomable logic. The result is a 46-storey block of flats with the one at the top marked in sales brochures as the 88th floor.

An ages-old mantra of the property industry is 'location, location, location'. Conduit Road is a fashionable address and therefore attracts equivalent prices. Floors with scenic views and 'lucky' numbers can garner a premium. Henderson's development takes the saying to a new level by avoiding designating floors four, 13, 14, 24, 34, 40 to 59, 62, 64, 65, 67 and 69 to 87. The absurdity was apparent on Wednesday when a five-bedroom duplex in the block sold for a world record HK$71,280 per square foot. Marked in the sales brochure as being on the 68th floor, it is on the 42nd and 43rd.

The numbering system may be considered lucky, but there is nothing auspicious about the timing of the units being put on sale. Amid an outcry that buyers were being hoodwinked by promotional material, the Real Estate Developers Association last week issued guidelines on what the publications should and should not show. The aim was to foster truthfulness in advertising, a matter that has been seriously lacking in artists' impressions and indications of flat sizes. Henderson's marketing strategy slaps regulators in the face.

Floors in buildings are numbered for identification. There is no law that says this has to be the case; apartments could instead have names rather than numbers. But multi-storey developments in Hong Kong, for the sake of convenience and in the name of convention, have stuck firmly to numbers. A degree of superstition has been factored in and tolerated. There can, however, be no tolerating the manner in which Henderson has abused this latitude.