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In desperate times, home sellers try wacky measures

Desperate times call for wacky measures. That is increasingly the case in the nation’s moribund real estate market, where frantic sellers are turning to voodoo dolls, exorcists, Native American cleansing rituals, feng shui and anything else they can think of to make a sale.

“It’s not a science, and you have to be a believer,” NBC real estate consultant Barbara Corcoran told TODAY’s David Gregory Friday in New York. “But if you are a believer and you try it, who the heck knows? Sometimes it works.”

Corcoran and Gregory had just watched a prerecorded report showing a woman with big eyes, a look of wonder and a love of the word “energy” working her magic on a home that was stuck on the stagnant market. She rearranged furniture — it’s about the energy, you understand — and carried a smoldering bowl of magic vegetable matter around the house, all for a mere $125 an hour.

Smudge factor
It’s a Native American ritual called smudging, and it gets rid of that nasty negative energy that’s keeping the buyers away. It works so well, professional smudgers claim, it makes you wonder why they don’t teach it in real estate school. 

Other desperate sellers turn to the Chinese art of feng shui, realigning furniture and walking around the house with a sparkling crystal on a string to create positive energy — and binding offers. There are those who swear by ringing bells and hand-clapping. Still others bury voodoo dolls or statues of St. Joseph in the yard, while some people call in real-life ghostbusters.

It makes you wonder why Hogwarts never thought to establish a real estate course.

A real estate broker in New York City, Corcoran called some of the measures sellers are resorting to as “a little way out there.” But she’s a believer in smudging.

“I had a big apartment on Park Avenue in New York City I could not sell after two years,” Corcoran told Gregory. “There was nothing wrong with it except the fact that the people who owned it argued constantly and had a vicious divorce. So I brought in a smudger to get rid of the energy, and the first customers that walked in sat on the bed. And that couple made a full-price offer. I’m a believer.”

Dolls and statues
Some of these magic real estate tools are available online. A Web site called venicevoodoo.com offers a kit that includes a statue of St. Joseph for Catholics and a West Indian voodoo doll for others. The St. Joseph statue gets buried as is in the yard, and that’s supposed to inspire the saint to get a buyer for your house. After the papers are signed, the grateful owner is supposed to dig up the statue and give it a place of honor in his or her new dwelling.

The voodoo doll requires a little more ritual. “Sprinkle that guy with a little seed, douse him with a little oil, bury him in your front yard, and your house is hopefully sold,” Corcoran explained. She didn’t offer any personal experience with the technique — possibly because there aren’t a lot of yards in New York City to bury things in.

Some other techniques that will supposedly make a house sell include hanging old Chinese gold coins on a ribbon or blowing good wishes into the premises through a Chinese Pi Yao dragon statue.

Those who look askance at incantations and think that positive energy is the stuff that comes out of the bumpy end of an AA battery might want to try buying a billboard for a month to sell their house.

Corcoran said that in rural areas, a roadside billboard can cost as little as $300 a month — just $50 more than two smudging treatments. She advised sellers to list the price of the house, its two best features, and to include a picture. “You should have a face on the billboard — your dogs, your cats, the homeowner, somebody — because that attracts the eye,” she explained.

You may also get a creative real estate broker. One upstate New York broker hosts open houses dressed as a drag queen. He’s reportedly the talk of the town. A woman broker in Illinois shows houses dressed up as Marilyn Monroe or Lucille Ball.

Corcoran told Gregory that it’s really all about attracting attention. “There’s so many houses out there, how do you catch attention?” she said.

For increasing numbers of sellers, you call Ghostbusters.

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