Dinah Eng is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.
Can Higher Powers Sell a Home?
Learn about four alternative approaches to attracting buyers.
August 1, 2006
Sellers are always are looking for new ways to entice buyers, particularly in a slow housing market. Some update their kitchens and bathrooms to make their home stand out from the rest; others offer creative incentives, such as a year of free maid service or pre-paid condo assessments.
But there are also those who favor a decidedly more spiritual approach, calling on higher forces for extra help finding buyers. One such practice involves burying a St. Joseph statue in the yard of a home. More complex are the ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui and the Indian practice of vaastu.
Although these methods are more common with certain cultures and religious groups, you can expect them to nudge closer to mainstream during a softer real estate market. To boost your familiarity with these alternative approaches, we spoke with real estate professionals who are experienced in harnessing higher powers.
St. Joseph Kit: Saintly Sales Assistance
Some say the ritual began centuries ago when a nun prayed to St. Joseph because her convent was in need of more land. However, no one’s exactly sure when or where the ritual began, and it’s not endorsed by any church.
First-hand experiences: Stephen J. Binz was having a rough time selling his home. His real estate practitioner asked if he’d heard about the belief some people have about St. Joseph statues. Binz first dismissed the idea as ridiculous, but after learning more about the practice he decided to give it a try.
“I’d been waiting to sell the house for seven months, and within a few days of burying the statue, it sold,” says Binz, who later wrote the book St. Joseph, My Real Estate Agent (Servant Publications, 2003). “Most people move during the most joyful or difficult times of their lives, and these are times when we all need the prayers and aid of others.”
Phyllis Staines, broker associate with RE/MAX Coastal Real Estate in Pointe Vedra Beach, Fla., keeps a generous supply of statues so she’s prepared when sellers say that they’d like to try it.
“People really believe in this, so what harm can it do?” says Staines, CRS®, GRI. “I usually have about two dozen statues on hand at any given time. As the market stabilizes and it takes longer to sell homes, I think people will look to more unusual things like this to help sell their home.”
Learn more: In a sign of the popularity of this ritual, there are dozens of online retailers that sell St. Joseph statues and kits. Prices range from around $5 to more than $20, depending on how large the statue is, what it’s made of (plastic is cheapest), and what the kit includes (some come with a burial bag, prayer book, and other accessories).
People argue over specifics: should the statue be buried in the front yard or the back yard? Must it be buried near the For Sale sign? Should it face away from the house or toward the house? Binz says these intricacies don’t really matter; the secret is to approach the ritual from a religious standpoint rather than as a superstitious act. If you don’t believe in the power of prayer, it might not work, he says in his book.
Feng Shui: Making the Home ‘Feel’ Right
How does it work? Feng shui, which literally means “wind water,” is an ancient Chinese design philosophy that centers on rearranging living spaces to enhance
“Feng shui isn’t about spending money to make something gorgeous with designer furnishings,” says Holly Ziegler, a feng shui expert and broker with Ziegler Properties in Arroyo Grande, Calif. “It’s about balance and harmony of energy in the home.”
The direction a home faces, its proximity to water, and the location of rooms within a home, also are factors in determining if a home has “good” feng shui. When selling a home, you must focus on the factors that you can control. That may call for rearranging furniture, adding plants, or introducing new colors or materials into a room.
First-hand experiences: “We’ve all been to properties we’d love to stay in, and places we can’t wait to get out of,” Ziegler says. “The goal is to make buyers want to stay in a space and call it home.”
Ziegler became interested in feng shui 16 years ago after visiting a friend who used feng shui principles in her home. Ziegler was so impressed that she took classes and traveled to China twice to learn from feng shui masters. She has since made feng shui part of her career; She wrote four books on the subject, including Sell Your Home Faster with Feng Shui (Dragon Chi Publications, 2001), she teaches classes, and she consults real estate clients — both buyer and sellers.
The first time she applied feng shui to a listing, she asked sellers to remove nearly a third of their furnishings and declutter their house, among other things. In short order, there were multiple offers and the house sold for $10,000 over the listing price, she says.
However, Ziegler doesn’t pretend feng shui is a cure-all. “No amount of feng shui is going to help an overpriced listing,” she says. “But given two equal listings, the feng shui house will sell faster and at a higher price.”
Learn more: Learn about feng shui by reading books and taking classes. Then, make an effort to be in touch with your intuition as you prepare a home for sale. Make sure that every room feels good, from the furniture layout to the lighting.
Other simple tips for good feng shui: Make sure the entrance to the home is unobstructed and clear of clutter, keep toilet seats down, enhance natural light, show off the home’s best views, and pepper healthy plants throughout the house.
“Eastern thinking looks at the big picture and the interconnectedness of all things,” says Kathleen MacKenzie, a salesperson with Winkler & Co. in Austin, Texas, who teaches feng shui to real estate practitioners. “Feng shui is just common sense. Things in the environment affect us, and there are ways to overcome the problems.”
MacKenzie includes feng shui consulting as part of her commission and says it has helped her grow her business. “If you’re a listing agent, applying feng shui can help you stage a home and sell it quickly for top dollar, usually without spending money,” she says in her self-published book, Feng Shui Basics for Real Estate Agents (2006).
Vaastu: In Tune with Nature
How does it work? Vaastu shastra, or simply vaastu, is very similar to feng shui in that its goal is to create a peaceful, balanced environment. Applied in architecture, site selection, and interior design, this ancient Indian science focuses
By following various guidelines that involve geography, topography, and even physics, home owners can achieve balance with nature. Prosperity, good health, and positive thinking are some of the desired results.
First-hand experiences: Bhaskar Alan Deva, a vaastu consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area, works with clients to evaluate potential home purchases and to create a more balanced living environment.
“The direction a house faces is important, as well as size and the materials of the house,” says Deva, who studied with Rev. Sri Swami Satchidananda and another vaastu master in India. “Sometimes problems can be fixed simply by changing a room’s purpose, like switching the master bedroom to another area of the home.”
Deva recommends that sellers do a ritual cleaning of the home to release any negative energy. It’s also good, he says, to have a separation ceremony so that members of the household can let go of their attachment to the house, which will send positive vibes to prospective buyers.
Learn more: Vaastu is less common and more complicated than feng shui, so it will be harder to find classes. But books on the subject are abundant.
According to Sampatti.com, an Indian real estate information Web site, these are ways to incorporate vaastu in a home: Don’t use bright paint colors, don’t display images that depict violence or sadness, and make sure that the stairs leading into the home are not damaged in any way.
Even if you don’t plan to practice vaastu, just knowing the basics will impress clients who use vaastu as a guide when buying or selling a home, says Donald Marcy, CRS®, a broker and sales representative with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Madison, N.J.
“It’s important to be aware of all ethnic and cultural differences that affect the way people shop for a house,” says Marcy, who has had clients select a home based on vaastu principles. “If you’re not, you’re missing out in a big way.”
Metaphysical Energy: Tap into the Soul of a Home
How does it work? By recognizing that everything emanates energy — including
First-hand experiences: Faith Ranoli, who holds a Ph.D. in metaphysical studies, has branched into the real estate market as a holistic home inspector, specializing in hard-to-sell properties. She helps her clients create a healthy environment and emotionally let go of the property. Once that happens, resistance from buyers disappears, she says.
Ranoli, who also has decades of experience in the construction industry, says anyone can intuitively discern why a house isn’t selling, but people don’t always listen to their intuition. For example, if one of the sellers loves the house and isn’t mentally prepared to move, buyers may sense it and back off. Although you can’t see it, the seller’s energy communicates the message: “Mine. Keep Out.”
“The mind knows the information it’s fed, so we want to be conscious of what we put into it to create exactly what we want,” says Ranoli, who gives workshops for REALTORS® on how to harness the energy of emotion to buy and sell properties quickly.
She encourages owners of difficult properties to literally speak to the house; ask why it’s not being receptive of a new owner and what you can do in order for the home to accept a new family. Then, listen to what the house says.
“Whether you believe in this or not, try it as an exercise of imagination and just see what happens,” Ranoli says in her book, The Mystical Guide to Home Inspection (Thornton Publishing Inc. 2005).
Learn more: Ranoli leads workshops for real estate practitioners in the Denver area. If you don’t live in that area, there are many books on metaphysical science that will teach you more on the topic.
A house is a “living breathing organism with a life consciousness of its own,” Ranoli says in her book. “You have to tap into that consciousness to see what’s going on.”