Would dodgy feng shui put you off buying a flat in the new Earl's Court development? We get a lot of press releases here at Londonist. Some are useful, some are guff, some are so ridiculous they make us cry with laughter. But occasionally with the latter category, someone more informed points out that, actually, there's a certain logic behind it.
That happened when we got a press release today from the Earl's Court Area Action Group (ECAAG), which is campaigning against the demolition of the famous venue and 760 homes and the building of 7,500 new homes, just 11% of which will be classed as 'affordable' (and none for social rent). The press release ran:
Eminent environmental psychologist and feng shui expert Jan Cisek (Msc) has assessed CAPCO’s multi-billion pound West London residential Development which will overlook Brompton Cemetery and will be built adjacent to 4 railway lines. Mr Cisek was not paid for his assessment.
His findings may shock some potential investors buying off-plan.
According to the principles of feng shui, a respected philosophy much admired in Asia, flats overlooking a cemetery to the east and four busy train lines that carry nuclear waste to the west do not augur well for owners’ and residents’ psychological stability and financial well-being reveals Cisek’s report.
The expert’s opinion on buying into CAPCO’S EARL’S COURT/ LILLIE SQUARE DEVELOPMENT?
"When it comes to investment, I would look somewhere else."
The first instinct was to relentlessly mock: is this really what campaigners are reduced to? But then our writer Joon Ian Wong pointed out that this release isn't aimed at us. It's aimed at the foreign investor market — people in Hong Kong and Singapore, markets much targeted by property developers, take feng shui extremely seriously. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on the phenomenon a few years ago. What ECAAG is doing is attempting to thwart the basic financing model that Capco relies on (Dave Hill reported in March that a Hong Kong office was due to open).
Foreign investment in London property is one of the things guaranteed to make Londoners see red; the image is of wealthy Asians and Russians parking their cash in homes, artificially inflating prices and forcing more of us into a rental market. In reality it's not quite as bad as we think — a report from the British Property Federation earlier this year said that foreign investors (meaning not resident here) bought 20% of inner London new builds and 7% in outer London, though they are snapping up around half of luxury central London pads.
Financing developments by getting up-front payments from overseas investors is a well-known tactic (many of the luxury flats in the first phase at Battersea Power Station were sold in Asia). Has ECAAG hit upon a novel method of scaring foreign money away from homes that could be / should be ours? And if so, how will the developers find the money to build at all? Though when it comes to Earl's Court, should it even be built at all...