Chua Mui Hoong, Opinion Editor

Do “lucky 8” unit numbers make house owners luckier?

One of the nice things about my job is that sometimes, delightful things await me in my mailbox.

People from Abu Dubai to Delhi to Denmark send me commentaries to be considered for publication in The Straits Times. Most are of reasonable quality. Some are rather dull or plain drivel. Many are way too long, or way too abstract.

But sometimes, you get a piece that is a delight to read, has a strong point of view, and is based on empirical data.

All in one neat package, here, by National University of Singapore Business School Professor Sumit Agarwal

This piece looks at whether Chinese superstition on the numeral 8 and 4 have an impact on housing prices. (Eight sounds like prosper and is considered lucky. Four sounds like death and is shunned.)

Prof Agarwal and colleagues looked at data from almost 50,000 transactions between 2000 and 2009 on the private high-rise real estate market.

And yes, there’s a price discount on units ending with 4, of 1.1 per cent. Units located on the fourth floor were discounted by 0.5 per cent.

Units with numbers ending in eight commanded a 0.9 per cent premium.

The intrepid researchers went further to ask: “ So do these “lucky” residences pay off for their owners?”

Were they luckier as a result?

“Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, our data showed that living in a “lucky” apartment had zero effect on the likelihood of their residents being involved in a car accident.”

They got this insight from looking at insurance data.

In Singapore, such studies of large scale data on social or behavioural issues are hard to come by - at least in the public domain.

Can you imagine what else can be done with that data set of 50,000 transactions, especially when paired with spatial mapping tools?

Do homes near good public hospitals command a higher price? Near good schools? Any change in condo prices when it’s redrawn from an opposition constituency to a People’s Action Party ward?

Lucky 8s aside, the week’s news has been dominated by the referendum in Scotland on whether it’s Better Together or go it alone and say Yes to independence from the United Kingdom.

Straits Times Europe correspondent Jonathan Eyal warned of a new wave of “bloodless nationalist revolutions” that might sweep Europe.

That’s a sentiment echoed by George Friedman in this piece.

Sept 18, 2014, will go down in history as the day Scotland voted in its referendum.

But how many Singaporeans remember our own September referendum?

In 1962, on Sept 1, 561,559 people cast their votes on the terms for Singapore to merge with Malaysia. In our case, merger was short-lived in the end, and Singapore had independence thrust upon it, on Aug 9, 1965.

History was the theme of another interesting article, from Nominated MP and historian Tan Tai Yong. On the cusp of celebrating our 50th year of Independence, Prof Tan wants Singaporeans to reflect on the kind of national history we embrace.

“I argue that we must pluralise our history. We must show history in its full complexity. But plurality is not the same as duality, where there are only two sides to the argument: with one right and the other wrong.

“Historians are constantly pushing the boundaries of historical knowledge. In the process, they enhance our understanding of historical change through new interpretations. These can be brought about by fresh analyses or the use of new evidence. Such efforts at revising history should be welcomed.”

stopinion@sph.com.sg

Twitter @stopinion

Opinion Editor Chua Mui Hoong’s weekly blog highlights commentaries from the week’s Opinion pages.