Buying your new home is intensely personal and you bring to it all of your past experiences, your dreams, and your likes and dislikes. Some of these are rational, but lots of your reactions during the home buying process are extremely subtle.  One of these almost intuitive responses for many people are their reactions to house numbers or condo numbers.

How do you feel about the number 13? or the number 4? Many reactions are cultural. Some cultures see the number 13 as one to be avoided while others see the number 4 as bad luck.  It certainly keeps me on my toes as a Realtor who tries to appreciate each buyer’s wants, needs, and dreams!

As a realtor who enjoys working with people of diverse backgrounds, I started noticing how the real estate industry is quite sensitive to people’s superstitions. Recently, I was showing a relatively new condominium high rise in the downtown Bethesda where my clients and I immediately noticed that the building not only didn’t have the 13th floor, but also floors 4 and 14.

Some Europeans and North Americans fear or try to simply avoid the so-called unlucky number 13, so this was understandable and I actually am used to seeing houses without the number 13 or 13th floors by now. To satisfy Asian buyers the builders have started constructing buildings with floors without number 4 in them. The number 4 prounces in the same way as the word “dead” and number 14 or 40 means “sure dead” or “dead for sure.” And the number 1624 “all the way easy to be dead.” Moreover, number 58 means “not prosperous” and the number 7 means “evil related.”

On the other hand, some buyers will avoid condos and houses with the 666. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia means fear of the number 666. In the Bible’s apocalyptic Book of Revelation, John the Apostle refers to 666 as “the number of the beast.” Thus the number is a sign of the devil.

Reactions to numbers are not limited to Chinese and North American buyers.

In Japan, the number 4 is read as “shi”, which also means death, and 9 is “ku”, is the word for suffering. For those about to give birth, make sure your hospital room number isn’t 43—“shi san” means still birth.

In Italian culture, the number 17 is considered unlucky. When viewed as the Roman numeral, XVII, it is then changed anagramtically to VIXI, which in the Latin language it translates to “I have lived”, the perfect tense implying “My life is over.” (c.f. “Vixerunt”, Cicero’s famous announcement of an execution.) In Italy, it is not uncommon to notice that buildings do not have 17th floor, hotels do not have a room 17. The Italian airline carrier, Alitalia, does not have a seat 17. Renault sold its “R17” model in Italy as “R177.”

According to the National Geographic and NPR, the number 39 gets a bad rap in Afghanistan. “Many Afghans say that the number 39 translates into morda-gow, which literally means ‘dead cow’ but is also a well-known slang term for a procurer of prostitutes.” So when Afghans see a car with number 39 on the license plate, they head the other way.


To me, it’s wonderful that we still carry these quirks with us.

If you are looking for a home in Bethesda, please give the Lise Howe Group a call at 240-401-5577 or email us at