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Cultural Stigma of the Number 4 Lowers Home's Value

A young man pleads with City Council to allow him to change the numbers that make his address because it's costing his mother hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A young man and his mother pleaded with the during the public comments portion of the meeting Tuesday night, asking them to reconsider the recent decision not to allow residents to change their house addresses to remove the perceived stigma relating to the number four.

The young man made a passionate plea, explaining that his family recently experienced some financial issues, forcing them to sell their home. He said they have already reduced the price by a whopping $300,000 and are still unable to find a buyer as they grow ever more desperate.

Their home's street address number is 44.

The council was considering a request by Councilman Robert Harbicht to allow homeowners to change their numbers so long as they remained in numerical order with homes on each side of them and so long as they didn’t change more than the final digit.

One of Arcadia’s top real estate agents, Imy Dulake, is of Korean heritage and explained that because the word “four” sounds like the Chinese word for “death,” Chinese buyers will not buy homes that carry that number.

Regardless of their race or nationality, it creates a problem for everyone, from the homeowner to the realty agent to neighboring homeowners, whose home prices become devalued when an adjacent house with a “four” on it sells well below market value.

Dulake notes many instances of Americans changing numbers due to superstitions, such as hotels not having a 13th floor, and Ronald Reagan was famously granted approval to change his home number because he believed 666 was the Biblical mark of the devil.

In the case of the number “four,” it is not even a superstition, but rather a word that sounds like "death." I wonder how many Americans would be happy if there house was identified as “Death Death Death” or "One Death."

A check of Zillow.com shows that the mother and son's home is on the market for $1.425 million. The large 19,000 square-foot lot size is identical to the house next door, with a house address number of 52, which sold last month for $1.7 mil.

Both homes have three bedrooms and three baths, though the one at 52 is 2,700 square feet, compared to the smaller 2,200 square foot home belonging to the son and his mother.

Most likely, the size of the home is irrelevant, since homes of that size on a lot that large are typically torn down and replaced with mansions of 6,000 square feet or larger. 

Most proponents of allowing the change would happily accept whatever fee the city would impose to cover any and all costs to make the change. Numbers discussed were $600-$1,500 and could even be a premium charge of $5,000 for the service, the latter of which is not legal (cities cannot charge more than the actual costs for services.)

But the majority of the council rebuffed consideration of a change on the grounds that it sets a bad precedent and that home addresses should not be changed because of cultural issues.

I somewhat agree that this is probably not a good reason on its own. But in the case of the young man and his mother with houses on each side of their home numbered 52 and 36, all they are asking is to change their house number to 38 or 50, which would maintain the even numbers and consecutive home numbers on their side of the street. Heck, even losing one of the two “4’s” would be a little better–40, 42, 46 or 48.

Cultural issues aside, I have to agree with Harbicht that it’s hard to find a downside to simply allowing the change of a digit or two on a house–all costs paid by the homeowner–which would have the enormous upside benefit to the homeowners and their neighbors to retain the value of their homes.

Higher sale prices also mean higher property taxes, which is good for all of us in Arcadia.

Mayor Gary Kovacic told the young man and his mother that Harbicht can choose to raise the issue again, but it will require three votes from the five-member council to even reconsider it, three of whom were strongly opposed to it last time.

Something tells me this could become an election issue during the next City Council campaign of January-April 2012.

Read more by Scott Hetttrick at ArcadiasBest.com.

saralewis77 September 09, 2011 at 05:42 AM
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Jeffrey E. Davis September 09, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I agree with Sandy. C'mon....this is America and not China. An address is just that; a couple of numbers that represent and identify where you live and nothing more! This superstition stuff must stop and we all need to do the right thing and stand up to this nonsense.
Gene Glasco September 09, 2011 at 03:41 PM
"Most likely the size of the house is irrelevant since homes of that size on a lot that large are typically torn down and replaced with mansions of 6,000 + S.F. or larger". Real estate valuations are neither art or science, but stating that the size of a house is "irrelevant" is using maybe too broad a brush in the argument for permitting address number changes in Arcadia. The described house that sold for $1.7 million is 500 s.f. larger than the seller's house reportedly on the market for $1.425 million. Since ASF is an integral component in determining a property's value , the 500 foot variance in square footage is appreciable, and in this case, justifies perhaps--without having personally assessed it-- a lower asking price. Depending on the condition of the dwelling, and buyer's intention, one shouldn't arbitrarily assume that an existing structure will be demolished for a mansion 6,000 feet or more in size. Gene Glasco Realtor-Century 21 Ludecke, Inc.
Natalie Ragus (Editor) September 09, 2011 at 08:43 PM
I ask that people please be respectful with the comments. Those comments that disparage any race will be deleted. Be mindful that Patch is a space for all people.
Gene Glasco September 10, 2011 at 07:20 PM
@Scott- Thanks for your feedback. Depending on many variables such as location, property condition, amenities, etc. an additional 500 area square footage of living space could make a $300,000 difference in property valuation. Gene Glasco Century 21 Ludecke, Inc
Jean September 12, 2011 at 08:18 AM
This is not superstitious stuff. This is a real situation exists in our society right now as more and more Chinese immigrants move to Arcadia, the most favorite city because of the education system. This is not the only case and will not be the last one. A house with “44”or “444” has difficulty to sell. Even non-Chinese will not purchase it because they don’t want to face the same problem when they resale it years later. “Changing address number” is the only solution. Dear city councilmen please help them!
Stephanie September 12, 2011 at 08:26 AM
United States is a multicultural country, and each culture possesses its own beliefs and values. Since freedom, liberty and democracy are the three major American values, we should respect and face every cultural beliefs. The pronunciation of number "4" is the same as the pronunciation of "death" in Mandarin, which means this is not a superstitious factor, but cultural. If this is superstition, then why in American culture, number 13 symbolizes bad luck? Therefore, this is not a problem of superstition but about recognition and acceptance toward cultural diversity, which a significant part of this diversity is Chinese culture in the U.S. history. Furthermore, when this cultural belief affects an individual’s freedom and liberty to sale their properties, shouldn’t the city council supports the resident’s rights? Therefore the city should allow them to change the address number.
Ross S. Heckmann September 13, 2011 at 09:37 PM
They should be allowed the change only on condition that they pay any & all costs connected with the change, in advance, and that any & all relevant agencies that might need to find the new address in an emergency will be able to do so immediately, without any substantial possibility that they will accidentally be provided with the wrong, old, address, and that precious time might be lost.
Pattib September 15, 2011 at 05:33 AM
So we let this guy change his house number. House numbers are generally arranged in a systematic way so that each house, left or right to the house in question, has a number either 2 or 4 number higher or lower. This is what makes looking for a certain address possible. If this gentleman is allowed to change his address, what happens to the numbering system for the rest of the houses around him? I understand that this may be problematic for this man, but cannot bend to everyone's wishes, desires or whims. It makes for a chaotic society.
Scott Hettrick September 15, 2011 at 05:56 AM
Pattib, you express a valid concern but this was covered in the story in this sentence you probably overlooked: "...in the case of the young man and his mother with houses on each side of their home numbered 52 and 36, all they are asking is to change their house number to 38 or 50, which would maintain the even numbers and consecutive home numbers on their side of the street. Heck, even losing one of the two “4’s” would be a little better–40, 42, 46 or 48."
Paul Hayes September 16, 2011 at 08:54 PM
While I can understand how a homeowner might be upset at having to reduce an asking price by such a large amount, what I don't understand is: If they bought a house with "44" as an address, they knew what they were getting into. The Mandarin language has not changed where the number "4" now sounds like "death" in Mandarin. It's always been like that. So why are they complaining now? Maybe they bought the house in a time when it wasn't a big deal, but now it is. Times change, but why should City Council change a rule so a resident can save $300,000?
Scott Hettrick September 16, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Paul, in some recent cases the person trying to sell their home is a Caucasian who bought their house decades ago when the demographics of the town were quite different. Even someone who bought their home a couple years ago may not have been aware of the stigma of the number 4. I sure didn't. You're right, times change, and that's why we have a City Council to make any changes that need to be made to adjust to the ever-changing times and needs of all residents and taxpayers. In the case of the one specific resident who spoke at last City Council meeting, the father in the family recently died and the mother and son cannot afford the payments anymore, so they need to move and downsize and use money from sale of house to pay for college tuition for the son. They wonder who it will hurt if they pay all city costs to change their house number from 44 to 38 or 50.
Paul Hayes September 16, 2011 at 09:20 PM
To be honest, the city needs to change the rule where the city can't make a profit off of this change, unless that's a state law, and not a municipal law. It would be a win/win situation for the city and for the homeowner if they could change their address.
Danielle Corona September 20, 2011 at 04:27 AM
How horrible that the council members won't allow a simple change, that won't cost them anything, to allow a taxpaying citizen to maximize their investment. I don't give a hoot what the reason for the change, if it hurts the neighborhood, property values, tax revenue and the owners, AND it won't hurt anyone to make the change, then it is unconscionable they WON'T allow it.
Jean Tang September 24, 2011 at 08:48 AM
Danielle, you are right! Believe or not, there is no more address number "44" in these nearby cities such as;San Marino, Temple City, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead and Monrovia... Change number will not only benefit the owner but also the city. It's a win win situation. Other cities can change why not Arcadia??? Right!!!
Danielle Corona September 24, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Also, the City of Arcadia gets its power from the Citizens, not the other way around. This is truly an abuse of power by the city council. I just can't imagine a good reason for this to occur, and frankly, it smacks of discrimination. Well, come election time, I hope this issue is remembered.

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