FOR some New Yorkers on the hunt for an apartment, the must-have item in the search is nothing as prosaic as a walk-in closet or a second bathroom. It is a number — a lucky number.
It could be the number of the apartment or the floor, or the closing date, or the precise amount of the final bid. And these buyers are happy to pay a premium or forgo a better apartment just to get that number.
The numerology of real estate seems to depend on cultural background and belief systems. Jewish buyers may favor the number 18, because it is the numerical equivalent for chai, or life. But for Chinese buyers, the number eight may rule, because it is a homophone for the word for prosperity. And Indians who follow Vedic astrology have a personal lucky number based on birth date.
Willis and Emily Loughhead, who are in contract to buy a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side, based their lucky number on a system of their own invention.
“It’s nondenominational,” said Mr. Loughhead, who is the executive chef at the Plaza Hotel, “and it has nothing to do with anything. It’s just good luck to us.” Their number is 19, because Mr. Loughhead was born on April 19; Mrs. Loughhead, who is a pastry assistant at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, was born on Feb. 19; they unintentionally had their first date on Aug. 19, 2006; and then intentionally married on Sept. 19, 2009.
They also see the number in unexpected ways. When they went to get a cat from an animal shelter, the one they chose happened to come out of Box 19, and when they went to a baseball game this summer, they ended up in Section 19. “It’s amazing how much it shows up in our lives,” Mr. Loughhead said. “If there are so many coincidences, it’s not a coincidence anymore. This is a lucky number, and it’s important to us.”
Mrs. Loughhead said that because she is Chinese-American, she has always been aware of the luck of numbers. When they started their apartment search, they were not bound by the number eight, but she wanted to avoid the fourth floor, because the Chinese word for four sounds like the word for death. Still, their main objective was to find a one-bedroom that they could afford and that had good light.
Their agent, Stephanie Rappoport-Wahlgren of Brown Harris Stevens, and other brokers say that numeric requests can sometimes add to their workload but that for the most part it is easy enough to get all parties to go along with a numerical imperative. “It all falls under ‘The things we do to sell real estate,’ ” she said.
Mrs. Loughhead was the first to see the apartment they are now in contract for. It is smaller than they had hoped for, but because it is on the top floor, “you look out and get pure sky and light,” she said. “When I walked in, it just felt right.”
Mrs. Loughhead’s parents gave the apartment their approval, because it is on the sixth floor and the number six sounds like the Chinese word for wealth. Then Mr. Loughhead took charge of the bidding process, which went through several rounds and involved two other potential buyers. Each bid he submitted included the number 19.
Their final bid, which they declined to share, included a 19, as well as a 9, for the year they were married; a 4, for his birth month; and a 2, for her birth month. When Ms. Rappoport-Wahlgren relayed the tale of the numbers to the sellers, they told her that, like Mr. Loughhead, their twins had been born on April 19.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Ms. Rappoport-Wahlgren said. “Then the sellers felt like this was meant to be, and it was a happy moment for both sides.”
Mr. Loughhead feels certain that their lucky number helped them get the apartment. “They had a cash bid that was higher than ours,” he said. “If we hadn’t told them about the number, there wouldn’t have been that connection with the owners.”
Jennifer Roberts, an agent at Halstead Property, also focused on numbers in her bid for the one-bedroom apartment she bought on the Upper West Side in 2002. The unit was listed at $495,000, and there were multiple bidders.
Ms. Roberts, who is Jewish, said that whenever she made a donation she always gave a multiple of 18 because of the number’s association with chai. So if a minimum suggested donation is $25, for example, she will write a check for $36.
She considered bidding $513,000, which was $18,000 above the asking price, but she ultimately bid $518,000 and got the apartment. “I met the owner and I raved about the way he had redone the kitchen,” she said. “So in the end, I don’t know if I was the best qualified, or if he took a liking to me because I liked his kitchen, or if it was the number 18. Whatever it was, it worked.”
For some buyers of Indian ancestry, Vedic astrology, which is based on ancient texts and the lunar calendar, helps dictate real estate decisions. Using a person’s birth date, Vedic astrologers create charts to determine a lucky number and provide propitious dates for major events.
Mary Lou Currier, an agent with Century 21 NY Metro, said a client who bought a one-bedroom condo on the East Side last month was adamant that the deal close on Sept. 16, “because his parents are Hindu and very religious, and they were quite set on that date.”
At the time, Sept. 16 was just a few days away, Ms. Currier recalled, and the seller and the lawyers were happy to comply, but the management company said it would need an extra $500 to expedite the closing. The number was important enough, she said, that her client paid the fee.
Danica Cordell-Reeh, an agent with Halstead Property, said an Indian couple from New Jersey had introduced her to both Vedic astrology and Vastu, a design code similar to feng shui that guides the shape and orientation of buildings and rooms.
The couple, Aaditi and Avinash Lele, are looking to buy a one-bedroom apartment as an investment and potential pied-à-terre. Vastu dictates that a front door face either east or north but not south. What’s more, Aaditi Lele said, an astrologer has determined that as a couple she and her husband have seven as a lucky number and eight as an unlucky number.
The unit number is the focus of their numerical goal: If an apartment has both a number and a letter, then the letter must be added to the number, so 3D would become 3 plus 4 (D being the fourth letter of the alphabet), or 7.
Ms. Cordell-Reeh says that since the Leles explained these requirements to her, she screens every potential apartment for its number, using a chart that she created assigning a number to every letter in the alphabet, and then she scrutinizes floor plans to make sure front doors don’t face south. “It really doesn’t take that much extra work,” she said, “because most of the information is there and available.”
Mrs. Lele said that Vedic astrology had not guided her past real estate decisions. “I didn’t get involved with it because there are so many dos and don’ts,” she said. “But my current house has the number eight, and I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but my husband has had some tough times at work since we have lived here.”
There is perhaps no better testament to the melting pot that is New York City than a couple whom Silvette Julian, a vice president of Nest Seekers International, recently helped place in a high-rise in Long Island City, Queens.
The couple, Abhishek and Sugandh Agrawal, are Indian and follow certain aspects of Vastu, but also decided to be guided by Chinese numerology. Sugandh Agrawal said she researched online and decided that she wanted an apartment number that added up to either six or eight.
“Even though we have something similar in Hindu, we followed that instead,” Abhishek Agrawal said. “We felt that if we were going to go for something that will be our own, we should look at all the aspects.”
Ms. Julian said the couple initially fell in love with a three-bedroom apartment with the number 1705. But those digits add up to the number 13, which in turn adds up to the number 4. “Either as the number 13 or the number 4, that was an absolute no,” Ms. Agrawal said. “Four is considered inauspicious in Chinese and Indian culture as well.”
The only other unit available with the same layout was seven floors lower — Apartment 1005, which the Agrawals bought and moved into two months ago, because 1005 adds up to six. “It was definitely a better view on the 17th floor,” Ms. Agrawal said. “But I feel better, mentally more at peace here, because when you have even a little bit of doubt in your mind, then you might keep thinking that the house is not right for you.”
The developer of the building, TF Cornerstone, makes it a practice not to give anything it builds a 13th floor, something that is common in countries where the number is considered unlucky. Instead, many residential and commercial buildings skip from the 12th to the 14th floor.
“We do our own construction,” said Sofia Estevez, an executive vice president of TF Cornerstone, “and when we’re building, we have a 13th floor so that workers don’t get confused. But that changes when the building is done. Why borrow trouble? If people are going to feel uncomfortable about it, we don’t need to deal with it.”
For similar reasons, she said, in the Agrawals’ building the company recently decided to change Unit 911 to 912. “Every time I saw 911, I thought of Sept. 11,” Ms. Estevez said. “So I felt we should retire the number out of respect for the victims of Sept. 11.”
Sally Faubion, a numerologist in San Francisco who also works with clients here in New York City, said she advised people not to obsess about house or apartment numbers. “If you get in a place that feels right and the numbers work too, that’s great,” she said. “But if the numbers don’t work perfectly, it can still be a good experience.”
Even so, she has written a newsletter that addresses the importance of house and apartment numbers. “There are some numbers that are very beneficial on a house or apartment,” she said. “So whether you believe it or not, why not stack the cards in your favor?”
Friday, October 22, 2010