"Seeking a murder house for residence." This is not a prank but an Internet ad posted by office assistant David Hsieh, who hopes to strike a bargain in Taipei's booming property market.
Taiwanese buyers normally shun so-called "murder houses" where people have been killed, fearing their spirits could linger to torment the dwellers and bring them bad luck.
Advertisement"For me the structure of a house and a convenient location matter the most. I don't mind if a house is labelled 'murder house' because I don't believe in such things," said 30-year-old Hsieh.
When Taiwan property owners put homes up for sale, they are required by law to disclose if a homicide or a suicide has taken place within its walls.
Although sellers can face fines or even jail for ignoring the rule, failure on their part to provide information about unnatural deaths is a common cause of real estate disputes on the island.
However, a small but growing number of bargain hunters are defying the belief that murder houses are haunted or associated with bad luck.
Some of them are forced by money concerns, as property prices are now again rising on the back of Taiwan's recovery from the global recession, observers said.
"A murder house is about 20 to 50 percent off the market price so it can attract some buyers who don't care too much about religion, charity groups and speculators," said Wesker Hu, founder of unluckyhouse.com.
Hu's website aims at sharing information for potential buyers to avoid murder houses.
But more and more members are also using it to buy or sell such dwellings, with some ads attracting more than 10,000 hits.
For Hsieh, a murder house may be the fastest answer to his dream of owning a three-room apartment in the greater Taipei area with a budget of about five million Taiwan dollars (156,000 US).
In Taipei city, one ping (3.3 square feet) of a new house costs an average 430,000 to 1.1 million Taiwan dollars.
At this price, it would take about 20 years for a young couple to buy a 25-ping residence even if they were to save every penny of their salaries, according to Myhousing.com, an online real estate magazine.
Interior decorator James Lin said he took an interest in murder houses after purchasing and settling down in a house in Taipei county where the previous tenant committed suicide.
"I have lived in that house for three years without anything bad happening. I think such houses are habitable once we've held proper ceremonies to appease the spirits."
Lin, who has sold 20 murder houses in four years, mostly to young professionals in their 30s, gets an average four new such cases each month.
"It seems inevitable that the number of murder houses will rise with more people cracking under pressure and ending their lives as a result of the economic downturn," he said.
In another indication that old beliefs are becoming less important for the Taiwanese, a majority is ignoring a taboo against buying new homes during the seventh lunar month, or "Ghost Month", which started on August 10 this year.
A recent survey by Chinatrust Real Estate Co. found only 25.6 percent of home buyers said they would stick to the taboo during the month, when spirits are believed to return to the human world to feast.
"Ghost month is the traditional low season so many consumers believe that it's easier to strike a cheaper deal," said Pei-lan Hu, a spokeswoman for the company.
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