Tip: House hunters competing with Chinese buyers should study Feng Shui so they can do the opposite.
We all know the Chinese have a large presence on the Australian property scene today. Chinese buyers snap up nearly one in five new properties in Sydney, and one in seven in Melbourne, according to research by Credit Suisse. Sometimes they pay very high prices for seemingly average places, like the unremarkable house in Eastwood, a Sydney suburb with a large Chinese community, that sold for a million dollars over its reserve in 2013.
Chinese areas have also experienced strong growth in recent years, with popular areas like Chatswood and Epping outpacing the Sydney median price growth rate. We have the stability, land, convenience and time zone that many Chinese buyers crave. This situation is pretty scary for a buyer. You could pay for building inspections, get a solicitor and then be trumped by more money than you'll ever earn in your life.
Luckily there's a whole selection criteria for homes that means nothing to many Australians. That discipline is known as Feng Shui and it's something that buyers in Chinese influenced markets should know about, simply so they can do the opposite. Studies by the Asian Real Estate Association of America have found that 79 per cent of Chinese investors there will pay more for a house with good Feng Shui, so avoiding this premium is critical in finding a bargain.
Reverse Feng Shui is actually quite zen. It's a science of disbelief – it's the yang to the Chinese yin. It is to hold knowledge without accepting its truth and, in actual fact, do the exact opposite. It's about harnessing negative energy to get more home for your money.
1. Make for the curves
The bendy, winding roads that are so popular in modern suburban developments are said to bring bad health. The same is true for T intersections and cul de sacs. In general, if headlights are flashing in the front room, you can feel that negative energy coming through in the form of downward price pressure.
2. Street lights shine on a bargain
Homes just above street lights might make those final steps to the front door safer, but to Feng Shui masters that's a no-no, even if your windows are not made of paper. A quick look at Google Street View can reveal these "bargain beacons".
3. Follow the pointers
Anything pointing at your home, from building corners to TV antennas are said to bring a pointy stabby vibe to your house. So although they also provide a slight risk to running children and drunk homecomers, embrace the apex and let these objects point you to your new bargain home.
4. Good things come in fours
The number eight is very auspicious, associated with good fortune, so steer clear of the eighth floor, and head to the fourth floor, where the number four sounds like "death" and is very bad luck. If the views are no good from the fourth floor, the 14th or 24th will work just as well. Same applies for four as a street number.
5. Go with the flow
The main door should never be aligned with the back door, say the Feng Shui masters. This is a particularly good one for buyers, as no amount of strategic arrangement of plants and waterfalls can compensate for this fundamental floor plan flaw. Find a place with the front and back doors aligned and you can rest easy knowing that the only thing flowing out will be competing buyers.
6. Be open minded to open plan
The kitchen should not be visible from the front door, nor should the entrance to the bathroom. This leaves most open plan layouts wide open to practitioners of reverse Feng Shui.
7. Embrace your inclination
Ground sloping steeply away from the house is a big no-no for Feng Shui and is another hard fact that can't be overcome with decorating or renovations. Sloped blocks are actually a bargain when it comes to square metres of yard space though, and can offer some terrific vistas.
8. Take all necessary steps
A staircase leading down to the entrance is said to carry all good fortune down from upstairs and out the front door. This is a very common feature, though, of the grand Victorian terraces that crowd the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. A conveniently located staircase could be the feature you need to bring a chic urban townhouse within your grasp.
Luke Metcalfe is the founder of Microburbs, a data start-up that provides detailed information on demographics and amenities for nearly every property in Australia.