Land developers near cemeteries making a killing
If a property sits close to a cemetery, would its value go down six feet under?
The Philippine Daily Inquirer asked this question to real estate experts and their surprising answer: On the contrary, properties near cemeteries are making a killing.
Enrique Soriano, Ateneo program director for real estate and senior adviser for Wong+Bernstein Business Advisory, said at least seven near-completion, high-rise developments belonging to the Philippines’ top tier developers were either located beside or within 500 meters of the South Cemetery in Makati City. All these developments have a fairly unobstructed view of the public cemetery.
“The closest is SM Jazz Residences (Jupiter Street), then Alveo Land’s Lerato (Barangay Bel-air, Malugay Street), Alphaland Makati Place (Ayala Avenue corner Malugay Street), Shang Properties’ Shang Salcedo Place (Sen. Gil Puyat, Tordesillas and HV de la Costa Streets), Picar Place (in Kalayaan Avenue), Century City (former International School) and so on, and surprisingly they have managed to sell their inventories well,” said Soriano.
Claro dG. Cordero Jr., Jones Lang LaSalle Leechiu’s head of research, consulting and valuation, said there had been a persistent notion that properties sitting beside or near a cemetery would be difficult to sell.
Lately, however, Cordero noted that “there seems to be a growing preference to locate beside a cemetery, and whether this actually brings good feng shui still needs to be validated.”
He cited the Starmall-Metropolis development in Alabang, Muntinlupa, right across the Alabang viaduct, which sat on a former public cemetery.
National Real Estate Association chair Alejandro Mañalac explained that from a marketing perspective, the size and concept of the project—and the target market—can also “neutralize” the negative impression of its location near a cemetery.
“For example, there are projects just along the perimeter of American Memorial at (Bonifacio Global City) which sold well. However, it is presented more as a beautiful park and an attraction than a regular cemetery. The projects beside Makati South Cemetery—their size, number of towers, the number of units overwhelm that concern. The opportunity of having an affordable unit in Makati has made the target market not mind being near the cemetery.”
Julius Guevara, Colliers International’s associate director, advisory service and head of consultancy and research, said that historically, investors have avoided areas near cemeteries because of the perception that restless souls roam these areas, and as a result any property near these areas suffers lower valuation.
“The success of the developments around Manila South Cemetery flies in the face of these superstitious beliefs. Three of the four towers of Jazz Residences are almost sold out. Other projects that are nearby, such as Ayala Land’s Lerato and Alphaland’s Makati Place, are also doing very well. In this case, the conveniences of living near centers of work and leisure coupled with the scarcity of land in the metropolis eclipse the fear of the paranormal,” said Guevara.
Soriano pointed out that start-up developers attending his lectures at Ateneo preferred not to risk investing on properties near cemeteries and would just follow what their feng shui consultant recommends.
Good feng shui
Feng shui is Chinese geomancy, which uses the laws of both heaven (Chinese astronomy) and earth to help people improve their life by receiving positive qi, or life force.
Citing feng shui principles, Soriano said that home sites near a cemetery are highly undesirable.
“A cemetery has strong yin or dark energies of death. To a lesser degree, but still considered unfavorable, are former hospital and prison sites. So, how far is a safe distance from a cemetery? According to Dr. Jes T.Y. Lim, founder of Qi-Mag Feng Shui & Geobiology Institute, homes should not be built within 500 meters of a cemetery. Although some real estate agents say that many Chinese will not live within 5 miles of a cemetery,” said Soriano.
Apparently, the titans of real estate see no problem violating feng shui principles, said Soriano.
Mañalac said that in other countries, the haunts of famous dead people are used as come-ons for an establishment’s added revenue.
He cited Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California, and another hotel on the East Coast, which actually boasted of a “Sinatra Suite” where the ghost of the singer reportedly made his presence felt.
Soriano said paranormal tourism could be a revenue-earning extension of tourism programs.
“This type of tourism market is growing, as it offers interesting stories. It can be a powerful and unique differentiator among other ‘typical’ tourism offerings as it can add intrigue and appeal for more eccentric buyers. Such a reputation will certainly bring in visitors. There is a market for haunted houses in other countries, particularly in North America, and dedicated offices will assist you in locating one that is truly authentic. Various hotels and inns often gain publicity and add business by advertising that their establishments are haunted.”
Cordero explained that to be able to embrace such a practice would entail going beyond the scare factor and to dwell more on the probable goodwill and historical value of the property, which would add premium value to the property.
“However, in the case of the Philippines, ‘unseen beings’ are still not regarded as a premium for a piece of property, especially if it involves stories on high-profile crimes and events,” he said.
Guevara pointed out that paranormal tourism was taken seriously in the United States, with presidential candidate Mitt Romney visiting a haunted hotel in Ohio in the course of his campaign.
“Television shows such as ‘Ghost Hunters’ have also made these properties more popular. This could be replicated in the Philippines given the novelty of the idea. But of course, proper respect for the dead should be given,” Guevara said.
Indeed, in the future, the term “dead investment” may take on a completely different meaning.