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. debryman.com creativeharmony.org

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Unprofessional “Professionals”

As a result of my nature, personality and upbringing (or maybe my diet, the stars, and the influence of my parents) I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist. I always thought being a perfectionist was a good thing (because it requires such strength and tenacity).  It is just recently that I realized I would have to “admit to it,” instead of brag about it. Something in me drives me to strive to “do the right thing,” do things “correctly” and attempt to provide superior service. It is a little OCD-ish, but I was always proud of it and flattered myself by thinking it was “character.”

When I encounter what for the sake of politeness I am calling “unprofessionalism” in others, I am always surprised by it (that’s another personality trait of mine: I am stubborn and don’t learn from experience until it hits me over the head one too many times). I truly expect people to have high moral values and ethics, and to treat others as they would like to be treated.

My training in psychology taught me that the expectation that others will act a certain way because it is my preference is projection. To me, it is just common sense in general and good business sense to try to do your work to your best ability and to treat your clients politely and respectfully. I have been accused of being idealistic, “over-achieving” (which I always thought was a bizarre backhanded “compliment” (i.e., insult – effectively saying “You’re really not that great, so no need to try so hard:).

This latest rant was prompted by a truly horrible experience with an educated “professional” who traditionally is busy in April (hint, hint). I had discovered several errors in the work performed and was told that the errors would not be corrected. This to me, was completely mind-blowing. There was no apology for making the errors, and no attempt at making the customer happy. Instead, the response was very curt and rude. I had dejavu’ of previous experiences when I have pointed out bad news of some kind to someone – the response is often “shoot the messenger.”

I always expect people to truly care about whatever has been reported as being a problem, but the truth is many people apparently do not. I find it particularly distressful when you hire someone to do a job for you and you pay them good money and the work is less than satisfactory. It’s like some people have entitlement issues, and truly believe that they are doing their customers or clients a favor by working for them, and that the client has to accept errors or less than professional work. This pheonomenon really boggles my mind. I think most people probably don’t do the level of proofing I do, otherwise they would also be livid at the errors that are made. I am guessing most people probably trust “professionals” to do a professional job and don’t second guess them.

I realized that I need to trust my instincts about the people I hire to do work for me. In each case where I was sorely disappointed in the service I received, there were subtle hints that the relationship might not be suitable for me, but I chose to ignore them (in this last case, the person talked fast and mumbled at the same time, which I thought was odd and a bit of a practical problem in that I could not understand a good deal of what was said, but I shrugged it off as my problem – not being able to understand – instead of a sign that the person might not be a good fit for me). At some point, you (I) just get sick of looking for the “perfect  professional,” knowing that no one is perfect. But I have to remind myself again that there are kind, honest, ethical, competent people out there and no matter how inconvenient, I should never settle for less! debryman.com

The Buying Cycle – What Does That Really Mean?

I recall reading statistics somewhere that there is a “buying cycle” that suggests how long it takes the “average” person to purchase a property once they have the inkling that they might want to move. My perspective is that I do not believe there is such a thing as an average person, I tend to think of people in terms of clusters of personality traits.

I have studied several personality systems – the one that is most easy to identify people with is the Enneagram. The system is not “supposed” to be used in such a way, but once you understand it, it is difficult not to group people into various slots. But, as usual, I digress. My main point is that from my experience and knowledge of various personality types or styles, I do not believe there could possibly be an average person who buys in “x” amount of days, from start to finish.

My personality style is such that I get an idea and pursue it, wholeheartedly, even doggedly, until resolution. What that meant for my last home search (the one that brought me to Santa Cruz, almost ten years ago), was a period of more than a year when I hung out in another beach town (Half Moon Bay) because at the time I was working in San Mateo, and thought I might like to relocate in that area.

I never seriously considered Santa Cruz, until one day, when out-of-the-blue, I called a real estate office and tried to find a Realtor who might show me property. Subsequently being in the business, I find it fascinating that the first company I called showed absolutely no interest in my pursuit (because, I am assuming, they labeled me as a “looky-loo,” and did not want to put energy into spending time with someone who might not buy). When I called the second office, I told the person on the other end of the phone that I wanted an “aggresive agent.” She smartly identified herself as such, and we were off on the great adventure that resulted in my home purchase.

We looked at several homes, but I knew the one I would end up buying, instantly, not through logic, but through a body-knowing. It is interesting to witness the process that happens to people when they find the right property. It is similar to falling in love – the face becomes flushed, there is actual physical excitement. It is literally thrilling to experience and to witness!

The house I became enamored of had “issues.” As I was running towards the house, my agent was pulling me away, but I could not be deterred in the end. I just felt a bond with the land and the house. I loved the brick walkway and the Craftsman-like built-ins, in particular, but the entire property captivated me.

My particular buying cycle, from the time I thought I might like to live in Half Moon Bay until I purchased my home in Santa Cruz was almost three years!

Once I found my home, I made an offer, contingent upon the home I was residing in selling. I didn’t even have it on the market before I found my new home. It sold in three months (which at the time seemed like an eternity) and my new house closed almost simultaneously. It really was “meant to be.”

So the process was driven partly by circumstances in my life (being ready for a move), and finding just the right house. Once those two factors converged, it felt like momentum just carried the entire process to fruition. It was a very exciting experience!

I am working with several people at the moment who are in various stages of their own, highly personal processes. Because the processes are so personal, I am not privvy to where they are in their own cycles, hence I have no idea when they are going to be ready to buy. The only thing I can do to assist them is to show them properties when they are ready, and look for the signs of “falling in love,” and then do everything in my power to help them move towards their end goal.

I was lucky that the seller of the home I purchased was willing to accept an offer with a contingency for me to sell my home before completing the purchase of theirs. In a “hot” seller’s market, that strategy would not be possible. In my case, an alternative would have been to put my home on the market and pray that the home I wanted would be avaiblable when I was ready to buy (in a hot market, it probably would not have been available by that point). I also could have taken out a home equity loan, and used the money to purchase the new home, but the risk is that the 1st home would not sell as quickly as desired (and as I have learned, the ONLY reason homes don’t sell, is price. Appropriate price, can remedy any home ailment, but that’s a blog for another day . . . )

When I meet people who are looking for a home, I wish they had descriptive stamps on their heads indicating where they are in the buying cycle. I know from experience the process can’t be rushed. If I get an inkling where people are, then I can appropriately assist with relevant resources. debryman.com

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? debryman.com

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. debryman.com

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? debryman.com

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. debryman.com