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Distressed Homes Get a Feng Shui Makeover

Sellers in financial distress require something extra from real estate practitioners. Facing a short time to sell before foreclosure and sometimes prickly negotiations with lenders, some listing agents are turning to the growing cadre of stagers who employ the ancient Chinese technique of feng shui to dissipate the negativity of financial woes.

Proponents say feng shui can remove the disquieting vibes that overwhelm such homes by balancing the negative energy emitted by the property’s objects, places, colors, circumstances, and even residents.

Buyers may not recognize this spiritual housecleaning beyond the subconscious level, but it still has a positive effect, say Katrine Karley and Pandora Seibert, co-owners of Professional Staging with Feng Shui & Design, in Sarasota, Fla. Sellers who aren’t financially stressed themselves but who live in a neighborhood studded with foreclosures can also benefit from an energy or chi realignment, the pair explains.

“I’m a believer,” says Wendy Kay Foldes, broker-associate with Cityscapes International Realty Group in Sarasota. “The first time I worked with Karley to add feng shui to a difficult listing, it sold to the very next person who looked at it.”

The two-bedroom condo had been on the market for two years without an offer. Karley immediately shifted the furniture to create a configuration “with better flow,” she says, and added red flowers and place mats that energized the black and white decor. It sold the next day.

Feng shui has a place in every facet of real estate marketing, says Karley. Yard signs should be placed at eye level (rather than close to the ground) on the right side of the yard as you face the property. This positioning will help draw in buyers. Attaching a 3-inch round mirror to the sign brings two additional benefits: By facing out toward the street, the mirror brings more energy to the property. By catching the eye, it holds a potential buyer’s attention to the property longer.

For sellers facing severe financial woes, she advises that 27, yes 27, items “from couches to ceramic figurines” be rearranged within the home. “The digits add up to nine, which is considered powerful. Doing this should help money flow toward a house,” says Karley.

In homes that are still occupied, feng shui stagers remove physical clutter and perform what they call a spiritual ‘space clearing’ using bells, chimes, incense, chanting, and sometimes rice to purify a space and change the chi from negative to positive vibration.

“Blessing or chanting removes negative energy and is a form of clearing out the old ‘stuff’ we sometimes call ‘hungry ghosts,'” explains Karley. “The chanting is to move good energy around the property.”

If all that sounds a little too ‘new age’ to you, Karley tells of one Florida builder who had nine homes on the market for about nine months and was getting desperate. The bank was closing in on him, so he figured he’d try feng shui in an attempt to salvage his subdivision.

“Time was of the essence because the bank wasn’t willing to wait any longer,” explains Karley. She made numerous visits to the properties for blessings to remove the fear and misfortune that had befallen them. She used a technique called ‘tracing the nine stars,’ in which feng shui practitioners place nine small round mirrors in the nine power places on the property. “We also concluded that the entrance to the subdivision needed a water element, so the developer installed one,” recalls Karley. Water is synonymous with power and money, according to feng shui principles.

The various measures seemed to help. Within 45 days of Karley’s arrival, seven of the nine homes were sold. Other than the feng shui actions, nothing else was done to enhance the subdivision’s appeal.

“The buyers got ‘positive’ homes that felt great to them, and the developer survived,” says Karley. Hiring a feng shui expert may cost several hundred dollars for a preliminary consultation or $1 per square foot for a total energy overhaul, but improving a home’s inner harmony may well be worth the price. By Charimaine Engleman-Robins, a sales associate with Hunt Real Estate of Florida in Sarasota, Fla.

Questions to Ask Your Feng Shui Practitioner

* What type of feng shui do you practice? (Some forms focus on issues of energy and direction, while others rely more on Chinese astrology and numerology.)

* How long did you study? (Most certification programs take two years.)
* How much experience do you have?
* What kind of projects have you completed?
* What references can you provide?

Also, ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the person. Your own instincts about the practitioner count for a lot.