The Intersection of Feng Shui & Real Estate

After working on my Ph.D. thesis for three years and having the epiphany that I should not finish my dissertation (the subject of a future blog, no doubt), I decided to train to become a Feng Shui consultant. I have a natural love of metaphysics, architecture & design, and thought my complete skill set and personality would be well suited to this art.

I also live in a progressive community and believed that I would have no problem attracting clients.

I flew to the temperate rain forest of Indiana (which henceforth, I had never even known existed) for the first part of my training. It was a one week intensive, and it was just that. Having studied transpersonal psychology in graduate school, and having attended many workshops and intensives (from Holotropic Breathwork to Process Oriened Psychology to Psychosynthesis to you-name-it, I had distinct opinions about what constituted good training and I thought this was extremely valuable.

I came home raring to go. Despite my previous career in marketing, I somehow “forgot” that it might take more than a few months and a few dollars to get the word out that I was in business. I became discouraged and decided to segway into real estate. I had a handfull of Feng Shui clients, and fully enjoyed Feng Shui-ing, but was not sure if the area would support another consultant (there are several who have worked very hard to get their names out there). My father was sick at the time, and I didn’t have the burning desire to gamble everything on a career that seemed untested and uncertain.

When I first got into real estate, I had the notion that my Feng Shui training could be an asset to my clients. I quickly found out that most people I have come in contact with do not appreciate unsolicited Feng Shui advice.

One client had an enormous collection of dried flowers and stuffed animals (both Feng Shui no-no’s – the former because it attracts dust, and the latter because it is clutter). I suggested the home might sell faster with these items put in storage and the response was incredibly negative. It was as if I had insulted the client’s children! The client unwillingly complied and the house sold and I learned a valuable lesson about people’s sensitivity to their “stuff.”

Subsequently, I have used my Feng Shui knowledge to support my intuition about a property. I trust bad feelings I get when touring a house – some houses I cannot even go into because “the vibes” are so bad.

I can also see what needs to be done to sell a house, or what modifications could make significant improvements in the property. It’s the most fun for me when clients “get it,” and intuitively understand my perceptions and suggestions.

I showed a property a couple of weeks ago to a couple I was working with. One of the homes we toured was a complete mess. It had very interesting architectural features, but the husband told me the messy house made him so uncomfortable, he just wanted to leave.

I had initially thought that since Feng Shui and real estate were married to one another that the application of the art of Feng Shui to the real estate marketplace would be a natural, and valuable asset to my clients. What I have found instead is that most people I meet are not so interested in what they can’t see, so I have taken my Feng Shui awareness underground. I use my knowledge of Feng Shui to inform everything I might bring to the table in real estate, but I don’t hit people over the head with my observations unless there is an obvious interest on the part of the client.


Nostalgia Rides Again

I just became aware of the fact that a “significant” high school reunion will be occurring for me later this year. I graduated during the “Summer of Love,” so do the math if you are so inclined (and are up-to-date on your Baby Boomer trivia).

It seems like just yesterday that my friends and I were wreaking harmless havoc in the stomping ground of our youth. Drive-in movies, beach parties, house parties, weekly dances at “Brasada” (the summer teen venue the school hosted – long a relic of the past, no doubt due to paranoia related to modern day insurance liability concerns, but I digress . . . )

There were also dance clubs that we frequented that featured local bands or “records,” but DJ’s were not as evolved as they are today. The Continental Ballroom, The Elk’s Club, The Moose Lodge, The Town and Country Lodge in Ben Lomond and The Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz Mountains . . . Lots of innocent fun, laughter (and not all that much drama considering the maturity level of the participants).

Yes, the prospect of this reunion has triggered loads of good memories. High school was a carefree, fun time for me. It’s after high school when my particular life challenges set in. In reviewing the reunion web site, I was surprised to see that to the question, “Would you do it all over again?” most people answered some version of “yes.” In contrast, I would do almost everything differently, starting with simple awareness.

One of my deepest life regrets is that I was so busy living and responding to life that I took little time to actually notice and appreciate my life as it was unfolding. I imagine being on autopilot is more typical than not, but in retrospect, I wish I would have savored every moment. I also would like to have paid more attention to friendships and to cultivating reciprocity.

These realizations seem to have come through reflection and perhaps a dose of maturity (debatable). As a result of being so oblivious to what was happening and the context in which it was taking place, I simply don’t have as many memories as I would have if I were paying attention! Who knew this would be important?

All of this musing got me to thinking about the many people who moved away from home base . . . I am curious as to what causes people to stay or to go. I “went,” but then I came right back. I really didn’t like being land-locked. I love being close to the beach.

Some people seem to use logic in making relocation decisions. Some people are more emotional responders (I put myself in this category). I can’t imagine moving somewhere solely for a job – it would have to be some job to compensate for an area that might be less than desirable to me. By the same token, rumor has it that people move to less desirable areas where you can get much more house for your money than you can in Santa Cruz.

For me, the trade-off of an extra-great house, for a less-than-great (from my perspective) area, would never work. I would much rather have a modest cottage in a great place, than a great house in a not-so-wonderful place. It’s a total quality of life experience that matters to me. I settled on Santa Cruz because it had natural beauty combined with spunk and personality, along with the intellectual rub-off from the University. I have not been disappointed with my choice. Can you tell I feel very lucky to live in Santa Cruz?

In School I Hated History, But Now I am Reformed

I hated the subject of history as a kid because it was all about memorizing dates and learning about the mechanations of various wars.

Much later I realized I learned nothing about women in any of the war stories, and even later I realized the curriculum through high school did not include complete world history, only history from the Western World, European perspective (and I attended top rated schools in the country). Not a word about ancient history.

What does this have to do with real estate, you say? Well, my ignorance continued through much of my young adulthood because I lived in Suburbia, where there was not a trace of history to be found, anywhere. Everything was white-washed, sidewalks, paved parking lots, cookie-cutter, ticky-tacky houses.

In graduate school I began to get a real education of the world, and the timing dove-tailed with my move to Santa Cruz.

As a Realtor, I  was fascinated by all of the amazing local architecture in Santa Cruz. I began exploring, interviewing people, and eventually writing about local history. In Santa Cruz, compared to Suburbia, you can actually see the history because a lot of it has been preserved. There are tons of old buildings, historical houses, and stories about key local history makers and characters.

I love it when I have a client whose taste runs in the “interesting architecture” category. I do special property searches for such properties and it is so much fun to tour these special homes.

Now I gobble up every historical morsel I see, hear, or read about. I have made some wonderful older friends in Santa Cruz, people who have lived the history and have told me amazing stories. I cherish these connections and feel so grateful to have been the recipient of these first-hand accounts. It makes it all come alive for me. I have the idea that I can actually see through their eyes, while hearing the details of the stories. It makes me notice neighborhood nuances and makes life so much richer for me. I hope by sharing some of these stories, that others can also be enriched or are able to relate on some level.

You Can’t Live in a Mutual Fund . . .

I don’t know if it is obvious, but you can’t live in a mutual fund, or a regular stock, for that matter. But you can, and likely do, live in your real estate investment.

When reading the Sunday paper, I always get a chuckle from the “expert” investment advise articles that warn against the dangers of investing in real estate. I always fast-forward to the byline usually at the bottom of the article, and find contact information for an investment counselor. Big surprise!

I have heard, but haven’t been able to substantiate, that in the United States there have only been two times in history when real estate values in aggregate, dipped, and that the graph shows a steady increase over time.

Of course there are particular markets that fare better than others, but overall, real estate has always been a good to great investment, depending upon where you live.

Where I live, in Santa Cruz County, the cliche is that they are not making beach front real estate like this anymore . . . well, at least not until something like the earthquake that was predicted  in the late sixties that the book The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California, (Curt Gentry) said would split California off from the rest of the U.S., and would give the Central Valley some nice, new beaches.

Real estate is the only investment that can provide shelter and comfort, as well as phenomenal returns on investment!

What could be better than that?

What is Your Ideal Community?

Before I moved to Santa Cruz County in 1997, I dabbled with the idea of moving to Half Moon Bay. At that time, I was working in Foster City and was just beginning to think about what would be a perfect community for me. Every chance I got, I would truck on over to Half Moon Bay, exploring beaches, neighborhoods, and the charming downtown area. What I liked about the area was it was historical – the downtown was charming, and the community had been preserved, not overdeveloped. The beaches were spectacular (Moss Beach, Mavericks, etc.) I spent a memorable birthday lying on Moss Beach – sun beating down, not a soul in site, waves rhytimically crashing – such peace!

I would say that I spent a year or so exploring the area before I decided it was too windy for my taste and it didn’t have the mental stimulation that I thought a university town might provide. So it was on to Santa Cruz.

I had spent much of my childhood and teen years in the Santa Cruz area, so I was already familiar with it, but as I began to explore it again, it was like discovering it anew.

It’s hard to say exactly what drew me to Santa Cruz, but it would have to be the combination of fun (via the Boardwalk, specifically the roller coaster), intellectual stimulation (bookstores, events, the influence of the university), the amazing natural beauty of beaches, hills, mountains and redwoods all converging in one geographic area, the vitality of the downtown (actually bustling with people, street artists, restaurants, funky shops and the basics: movies, bookstores, cafes). I was sold.

Now all that was left was finding a house. I called a few agents, and looking back, I wonder what their problem was – not many followed up. I finally found one fantastic agent who made it all happen for me and the rest is history.

I understand from my own experience that the buying curve can be quite long. It takes as long as it takes to know in your bones what is right for you and the timing has to be right, as well. I trusted my instincts and couldn’t be happier with where I ended up.

I love to play a part in other people’s journey to this magical place.

Escrow: It’s Not Over ‘Till . . .

Before I became a Realtor, I had no idea how mindboggling an escrow can be. Once an offer has been accepted, the work for agents has just begun. There are dozens of things that have to be done, and hundreds of things that can go wrong.

Properties fall out of escrow every day, for a myriad of reasons (funds not deposited, the “approved loan” had some lender requirements that couldn’t be met, the inspections turned up nightmares and the buyer backed out, the seller refused to pay $25.00 to fix something and the buyer backed out, etc., etc., ad naseaum).

As a Realtor it is unethical of me to trash other agents, so suffice it to say that in every profession there are human beings who are nice, decent, ethical, competent, people with integrity, then there are people who aren’t so nice or any of the rest of it. Working with the latter is just no fun and can cause all kinds of stress for the “nice” agent, but more to the point, unless there are two agents working in good faith to bring the transaction to a successful closure, it might not get there.

If most people are like me, they thankfully have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, once they have signed on the dotted line. In fact, what goes on behind the scenes is one of the key reasons agents are so valuable – showing properties and negotiating contracts are one thing, but making sure the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed in escrow is another matter altogether.

If you had no idea this was the case, you have benefitted from the services of good agents.


What’s Your Architectural Style?

I love architecture and design. As a Girl Scout in 6th grade, I did interior design research (an exercise in career preparation). I was amazed (and at the time, overwhelmed) at all of the various and sundry historical influences.

As a Realtor, I find that as I engage with people about their dream homes, if I dig a little bit, virtually everyone has specific ideas about what they like and don’t like – some people crave open floor plans with elaborate kitchens with morning sunlight – others love Craftsman style details – some must be “steps to the sand,” others in the midst of old growth redwoods. It’s all about mood, lifestyle, identity, and every preference a person can have from paint color to flooring materials.

I bond most easily with buyers who appreciate “homes with character,” as that is a specific love of my own – but I have also come to appreciate styles I would not have thought I would like, through exposure to diverse style treatments and lifestyles.

I always appreciate thoughtful design, high-end materials, and innovation, but I wonder who doesn’t?

I have lived in ranch style homes (or ramblers, as they are referred to in other parts of the country), and even though this was the style in my formative teen years, it is not a favorite. But some people like the style and although it is difficult for me to fathom, I will do everything in my power to show the cream of the ranch style crop to people who crave a “ranch” home. Or, if representing sellers, I might suggest modest design changes that make the best of the design (for instance, if you happen to have a ranch home with a pink tiled bathroom, then my suggestion might be to vamp it up as much as possible – perhaps bright pink wall color complimented by a poodle motif toilet seat cover?) I like to insert humor into a home’s decor, especially when design elements are lacking.