Faith in Real Estate: Using Divine Intervention to Sell Homes
But some use a much simpler tactic to get a home sold: They just have a little faith.
In a real estate market still slow to recover from a massive bust, turning to divine inspiration and calling on spiritual and religious cues to sell a home has actually gotten the transaction done much more quickly for some -- or so they say, anyway.
From the power of a religious figurine to home exorcisms and spiritual cleansing, we bring you three success stories of how heavenly guidance helped sell homes.
'How Can I Not Believe?'
Some say faith can move mountains. Joan Berkowitz will tell you that it can also sell a house.
After all, her quaint cottage in Accord, N.Y. (pictured below right), which she used as a weekend home, had lingered on the market for a year with no takers. But after a little divine intervention, she said, she snagged a buyer three weeks later.
"I have a dear friend -- she's a good Catholic," explained Berkowitz, who is Jewish. "She said, 'You need St. Joseph.'"
Her friend told her of a popular notion that if you bury a statue of St. Joseph -- who Christians believe was the earthly father of Jesus Christ -- in your yard, your home will sell faster. It's become such a widely recognized tradition that there are even St. Joseph home-selling kits being sold online.
"She believes in saints, so she bought me a 'saint in a box,' " Berkowitz said.
She took the palm-size St. Joseph figurine (pictured above) and followed the instructions: She buried it upside down, 6 feet from the back door, and read a prayer afterward. Three weeks later, an interested buyer made an offer on the house. The sale closed in December 2011.
"How can I not believe?" Berkowitz said.
She does feel a little guilty about participating in a Christian tradition. "I feel like a traitor because I'm Jewish," Berkowitz said with a laugh.
Of course, there's no way to prove that the St. Joseph statue had any effect on her home sale, but there is one reason to keep the faith. The national median number of days that a home sits on the market before being sold is 107, according to listing website Trulia. The National Association of Realtors pegged that number even lower in a recent survey: just 69 days. That's far less than the year that Berkowitz's home went unsold before she buried the statue. And the three weeks that it took to sell after the statue was buried is way ahead of the trend.
Berkowitz called the statue "a good omen" and even returned to the home after she moved out to retrieve it. She's now in the market for a new vacation house, and she hopes the statue will lead her to the perfect place.
"You never know," she said.
'A 'Rosemary's Baby'-Type Thing'
When Xonex Relocation, a company that helps CEOs move and works with real estate agents to sell the homes that they leave behind, was having trouble unloading a client's house in a small Michigan town 3½ years ago, company officials turned to a local church for assistance.
Someone had died in the home some time before, said Bill Humphrey, Xonex managing director.
"The general consensus of the town was that the house was haunted," Humphrey said. "One Realtor said that she could see her breath in one room."
The company would park new cars in the driveway -- anything to bring more appeal to the home. But nobody wanted to work with the listing, so Xonex reps called in a priest from a local church -- to perform an exorcism on the house.
"It was a 'Rosemary's Baby'-type thing," Humphrey said.
The company paid $1,500 for a two-hour session that involved the priest blessing the home and other rituals.
"We knew word-of-mouth about the exorcism would spread," Humphrey said. "Realtors felt so much better to represent the home."
Three weeks after the exorcism, the house sold, Humphrey said.
"We still laugh about it today," Humphrey said. "That's definitely the craziest thing we've ever done."
Clearing the Air
New York City-based Citi Habitats real estate agent Jason Saft often summons the spiritual world to wipe out the bad aura left behind in spaces where stressful situations have occurred.
Saft said that he sometimes gets listings that other agents couldn't sell or rent, places often vacated because of a divorce, a bad roommate situation and even death.
"When you get a listing, it's not always the best circumstances," Saft said. "In some odd way, you can often feel that tension when you walk into the space."
So he'll burn sage in those spaces to renew positive vibes. Burning sage is an ancient practice thought of as a way to bless homes and clear out negativity.
"The ones that I've done it in have been rented or sold quicker," Saft said. "After it's been done, the feedback [from prospective buyers and renters] is that the place feels better."
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