Real estate agents get wise to superstitions

Catering to clients' unusual beliefs can be a lucrative niche

Are you superstitious? What about your clients? While it may seem odd, honoring the cultural beliefs and superstitions that others hold not only builds connection, but it can also help you close more deals.

A number of years ago I had some affluent clients from Thailand. We found a $1.3 million house in Santa Monica, Calif., that they wanted to purchase. Before writing the offer, however, they wanted their priest to look at the property.

Address image via Shutterstock.
Address image via Shutterstock.

The “priest” turned out be a Buddhist monk who spoke no English and was dressed only in a scant orange robe and sandals. When my clients decided they wanted to stop for coffee, I was at a loss about what to do with the priest: Do I stay in the car, go in with my clients to buy coffee, bring him some bottled water or do nothing? I decided to wait in the car. Needless to say, the whole situation seemed bizarre.

When we arrived at the property, the monk walked it completely and then stood across from one of the trees in the front yard. An animated discussion followed in Thai between my clients and the monk. I learned later that the monk had advised them not to buy the property because there was an evil spirit in the tree in the front yard. My first question was how to get rid of the evil spirit. The monk had already advised my clients on that issue: It wasn’t possible.

While this story may seem strange, have you ever bumped into any of the following with your clients?

1. In down markets, an agent who buries a statue of St. Joseph in the yard in order to sell the house more quickly?

2. An agent/client who refuses to look at a home where someone had died on the property?

Mercury retrograde ... is a time of muddled communications, a bad time to enter into contracts, and a time where your electronics are most likely to go on the fritz.

3. Clients who follow feng shui (the art or practice of siting buildings or objects to optimize energy and luck) who will not look at a house located at the foot of a cul-de-sac (a “poison arrow”)?

4. Clients who won’t take action during certain astrological time periods such as Mercury retrograde? (Mercury retrograde occurs when Mercury appears to back up in the sky. It is a time of muddled communications, a bad time to enter into contracts, and a time where your electronics are most likely to go on the fritz.)

5. An agent who smudges their listings to “clean” the energy in the home?

6. A client who insists on seeing houses only with certain numbered addresses. For example, the Chinese believe the number “4” is considered to be unlucky since it sounds like the Chinese word for death. On the other hand, the number “8” is considered to be very lucky.

7. Clients who use numerology to determine which properties they should buy?

For example, I was a listing agent on 83 lots in Beverly Hills, Calif. Several Hong Kong buyers visited the sales office. They were discussing — in Mandarin — which lots to purchase, but were also actively adding up numbers on their calculators.

Once I saw the offer, I first looked for a pattern that might have to do with the number “8.” I couldn’t find that pattern, but since they made an offer on six lots, I looked for that pattern. All the lots they offered on had addresses that added to the number “6.” I advised the developer to counter back with numbers that totaled to six. They accepted the counteroffer and we closed on six lots for $1.5 million.

The way to determine this is to take the address or price and add each number until you reduce the number to a single digit.

  • To illustrate, $1,500,000 = 1 + 5 = 6
  • 129 Elm Street would be 1 + 2 + 9 = 12; 1 + 2 = 3
  • 12785 Washington Blvd. would be 1 + 2 + 7 + 8 + 5 = 23; 2 + 3 = 5)

While you may believe these are examples from the lunatic fringe, most of my clients who had these beliefs were highly successful, intelligent people.

To illustrate, I once went on a “house clearing” with a client who was the founder of a high-profile medical startup and a very strong Christian. Weird things were happening at night that were frightening him and his family. They asked their priest to help them, and when that didn’t work they turned to a psychic who cleared out whatever was harassing their family. Part of the process included smudging the house (burning white sage and walking through each room allowing the smoke to “clean” each area.)

The question is how do you cope with client whose beliefs seem silly or that are diametrically opposed to your belief system? The steps that I have found that work are:

1. Even though you may think that your client’s belief is bizarre, keep your opinions to yourself.

2. Ask about their beliefs and learn from them. When you are curious and withhold judgment, you build a stronger connection with your clients.

3. When you identify an unusual belief that your clients hold, make a point of searching for properties that will not conflict with what they believe and, if the monk kills the deal, so be it. Your role is to be of service.

Oh, by the way, I’m glad there’s no Friday the 13th until September, and wasn’t that Mercury retrograde in July a doozy?

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.


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