The ancient Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui, which uses specific architectural and design elements to produce a harmonious flow of energy in homes, is an important influence on many homebuyers today.
“The term ‘Feng Shui’ literally translates to ‘wind and water,’” says Narcisa Laranjeira, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boston, who has studied the philosophy.
While both Asians and non-Asians study Feng Shui principles, a preponderance of Chinese-American homebuyers (86 percent) say Feng Shui will play a role in their future homebuying decisions, according to a 2015 study by the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. The study found that 79 percent of Chinese-Americans say they would pay more (up to 16 percent more) for a home that follows Feng Shui principles and 75 percent say a Feng Shui deal-breaker could keep them from buying a home. Those deal-breakers include structural issues such as having a direct alignment from the front door to the back door, having a staircase directly facing the front door or location issues such as being at the end of a dead-end street.
Realtors working with Chinese-American buyers, Asian buyers from overseas or any other buyers who adhere to Feng Shui principles can work with these buyers to incorporate the principles into their choices when buying a newly built home. Chinese buyers were the largest segment of international buyers in the United States between April 2014 and March 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, and purchased $28.6 billion in U.S. real estate during that period.
“Even buyers who don’t necessarily follow Feng Shui principles say their parents or grandparents won’t visit them if they break some of the Feng Shui rules in their homes,” says Heidi Hartmann, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Princeton, N.J., who works with many Chinese buyers. “For instance, it’s important that the home face east rather than north if possible. They won’t buy a home with the number four in the address because the Chinese word for four sounds like the word for death. On the flip side, their offers usually have the number eight in them because that’s considered a lucky number.”
Hartmann says some Realtors don’t pay attention to Feng Shui and think it’s just a superstition.
“It’s important to understand it because it’s a cultural difference and if you want to work with Asian buyers, you’ll need to be respectful of this,” she says.
The Better Homes and Gardens study found that 36 percent of Chinese-American buyers would avoid a real estate agent who had no knowledge of Feng Shui principles.
Feng Shui Principles and New Homes
Feng Shui can influence the optimal lot and floor plan choices for new homebuyers and even the community.
Laranjeira says believers in Feng Shui would not want to buy a home in a community built on reclaimed land because that would mean the energy under the house would be unstable. In addition, she says, it’s better to be in a community with meandering roads rather than straight roads because straight ones allow “fierce energy to move more quickly.” She says these buyers would also want to avoid living near a highway because of the rush of energy.
Jan Kwapniewski, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Coccia Realty in Madison, N.J., says many of the Asian buyers he has worked with show up with a compass because the direction the home faces is extremely important.
“Buyers don’t want to be at the end of a row of homes or at the end of cul-de-sac because that traps energy that’s coming at them,” says Laranjeira. “Sometimes you can get around issues like that with a berm or a fence to slow down the energy.”
She also says that balance and harmony are important elements of Feng Shui, so it’s best to purchase a lot that’s similar in size to adjacent lots.
“Architecturally, the term ‘poison arrows’ is used often to describe sharp corners,” says Laranjeira. “It’s important not to have those corners pointed at the owners or at their house. Even coffered or beamed ceilings can be a problem, but you can drape material over them to soften the corners.”
Laranjeira says the front door should be wood rather than glass to protect the residents from energy coming into the house. A portico or roof overhang can help protect the homeowners.
“The position of the kitchen is important,” says Kwapniewski. “The idea is that the kitchen is the part of the home that nourishes the family and sustains life, so you don’t want it near the front door or the back door because you don’t want the positive energy it generates to escape from the house.”
Optional Features and Feng Shui
The Better Homes and Gardens study found that 64 percent of Chinese-Americans want a clutter-free kitchen, so features such as built-in drawer organizers, recycling centers and appliance garages can be valuable for them. Ideally, the kitchen cabinets should extend to the ceiling to eliminate the possibility of clutter on the top of the cabinets.
The study also found that 32 percent of Chinese-American buyers want bright colors in the kitchen such as red or orange, which represent fire, passion, creativity and positive energy.
“In the kitchen, you don’t want the stove and the sink to be opposite each other because that causes clashing elements,” says Laranjeira. “You need them to be offset from each other or at least three feet apart.”
Laranjeira says that focusing on the kitchen layout can be the most important part of following Feng Shui because that’s where people spend the most time.
“A lot of Feng Shui is basic common sense and has to do with whether people feel good in a space or not,” she says. “An open floor plan works well for Feng Shui and for the way people live today. This is just a more-calculated way of creating the right space for you.”