Faith in Real Estate: Using Divine Intervention to Sell Homes

St. Joseph sells homesPeople have tried crazy things to sell a house: throwing in a $1,000 bar tab with the home purchase, filming YouTube spoofs of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and advertising a cheating husband's affair.

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.'"

Heavenly Homes: Churches Turned Houses
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Faith in Real Estate: Using Divine Intervention to Sell Homes

There are a lot of offbeat conversions out there, but churches? Those might take the cake. (Except for maybe a nuclear plant turned amusement park.)

This tidy, repurposed church in Louviers, Colo., a bedroom community just outside Denver, looks almost like a cottage, with its white picket fence and well-kept yard.

The home's highlight may be its expansive living room, flooded by natural light from arched windows.

Get this: the reason the interior is so snappy is because the former owners, who originally used the place as a wedding chapel, spent $500,000 over four years to convert it into a home.

Read Zillow's profile on the home to learn more

Check out this piece of heavenly real estate: The First Church of Christ Scientist in Seattle, which was built in 1917, has been converted into a luxury townhouse building, aptly named The Sanctuary.

Featuring an ethereal stained-glass dome in the central part of the building, the church-turned-luxury residence has been landmarked by the city, which ensures that -- unlike other abandoned places of worship -- it cannot be torn down.

The residence has been fashioned into amazingly sleek, contemporary living spaces that pay homage to the structure's spiritual past, including stained glass windows in lush bedrooms.

The stunning units range in size from 1,600 to 3,000 square feet and all boast original pilasters, reclaimed pew stair risers and exposed brick.

This striking former church in Bellevue, Ky., was once listed for $219,500. The building houses loft condos and has an enormous stained-glass window.

Many of the interior flourishes, such as this stained-glass window, are 100 years old but still appear to be in good condition.

In an unlikely design trope, the home's interior is, well, hip. The most notable detail to earn that designation? An iPod in-wall music system.

This 8,000-square-foot Chicago mansion is known as the place where R&B singer R. Kelly was accused of making a child porn video -- but it also used to be a church. Built in 1885, the space has been remodeled at least three times since then.

The heavenly home has an indoor swimming pool, which the living room overlooks through a glass wall.

Ilene Greenblatt, the person who bought the home after Kelly left, purchased it in 2008 for $1 million and promptly rehabbed it, including ridding the home of Kelly's one-of-a-kind Looney Tunes-themed bar that used to stand in his home barbershop. (It was put up for sale on Craigslist).

The upgraded kitchen with granite and marble countertops has a wet bar that seats 12 people. One hallway has 65 feet of skylights with remote-controlled shades, according to the listing details.

You know what's divine? This former synagogue turned townhouse in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood in New York City.

The re-purposed structure isn't exactly shy about its spiritual past: It boasts a huge custom-made stained-glass window, with a Star of David.

The property features three sprawling bedrooms, three terraces (one with security cameras!), a private roof deck, a hot tub and a humidity-controlled wine cooler. A floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed hallway will lead you to one of the home's 2½ luxury baths, where you'll find a sumptuous rain shower.

OK, so this home isn't a former church like the rest in this gallery. But you could call it a house of God -- because it was built for Jesus to live in during the Second Coming.

The exquisite mansion in Riverdale, N.Y., was constructed by the New York Theological Society, and those guys didn't pull any stops. The marble floors were imported from the Vatican. The Vatican.

Dubbed the Chapel Hill Mansion, the 15,000-square-foot estate boasts limestone walls, ceilings adorned in gold and silver leaf, imported French walnut detailing throughout and hand-carved marble fireplaces. Oh, and chandeliers designed by the artisans of The Plaza.

If that still doesn't impress you, then this surely will: The mansion sits on the highest point in all of New York City. Forget the Empire State Building, the Chapel Hill Mansion will get you the best view of the city that one can possibly buy.


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."

See also:
Neighbors From Hell: What You Can Do to Stop the Bullies Next Door

Advice From America's 'Top Real Estate Photographer'

The Best and Worst Home Transformations

Realtors Who Need a Reality Check
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Faith in Real Estate: Using Divine Intervention to Sell Homes

Cruella, is that you? You've changed your hair! Someone please tell Realtor Anna Duncan to turn that frown upside down. Homes, sweet homes, don't sell when you look like your mom just died, girlfriend!

(Ad courtesy of Realadtors.)

We're just trying to figure out what's meant by "connected." Who are these guys? Is it just us or does Tony seem to be going for a "Sopranos" vibe? ("I know a guy..." you can just picture him saying.) If so, do you really want these good fellas handling your "contract"?

Maybe we've just seen "The Godfather" too many times.

(Ad courtesy of Realadtors.)

Like most things in life, when it comes to Realtors, you may have to kiss many frogs before you find a "Printz." 

(Ad courtesy of Keeping It Realtor.)

It's not polite to discuss politics at the dinner table -- or in your real estate ad. But clearly, the Theisens aren't afraid to mix business with their defense of Second Amendment rights. Wouldn't wanna mess with them.

(Ad courtesy of Keeping It Realtor.)

Cheesy, we know. Corny, even. But, hey, you'll never forget her name!

(Ad courtesy of -- where you can find numerous variations of the above picture.)

Although, staring at this ad for too long might make you nauseous. An upside-down mugshot flanked by sideways text, a right-side-up RE/MAX balloon logo and a call to action? Here's a tip, Realtors. When it comes to ads, keep it simple.

(Ad courtesy of Realadtors.)

If this doesn't get homebuyers excited, nothing will.

(Ad courtesy of Cheezburger.)

You can't not sell your home when you have Eliza Marie Eugune (rocking a serious "this-means-business" pose) and God on your side! 

(Ad courtesy of Realadtors.)

All we can say is BURN.

(Ad courtesy of Billboardom.)


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