Editor’s note: Forget the housing experts who’ve made our heads spin with real estate market forecasts. It’s time for a fresh set of eyes and a new set of skills to tell us whether this housing market is going to bust. In this three-part series, we sought out some alternative sources for predicting the housing market. We opted for a deck of tarot cards, the Taoist zodiac and a consumer focus group. (See Part 1: Tarot reader predicts slowing, but no crash and Part 3: The people’s forecast.)

Now that we’re in the new moon, the skies are clear again to start the paperwork on a real estate purchase or sale. Until Sept. 14, we were still under the influence of a Mercury retrograde cycle, a time when deals fall through.

Susan Levitt, an astrologer, tarot card reader and feng shui consultant in San Francisco, recently advised her clients to hold off on their home purchases and sales until the new moon began on the 14th. But now its buy, buy, buy.

Other than the three times a year when those short retrograde cycles occur, Levitt doesn’t foresee any astrological obstacles tripping up the housing market.

I visited Levitt’s home base in San Francisco’s hillside Mission District to see if the time was right for me to buy my first California bungalow, fixer-upper or the artist’s loft I’d always imagined. As I climbed the stairs of the orange-scented foyer that led to her door, I braced myself for either a shallow, enthusiastic, “yes, yes–buy now,” or a brutally honest, “no way, you’re not ready for this. Come back in five years.”

But what I ended up with fell somewhere in between.

Levitt’s astrological headquarters were nothing like I’d expected. Her orderly, light-filled living room could easily have doubled as a place for young couples to entertain dinner guests. There was no sign of the dark, incense-filled corners or witch-like, unmarked jars that I’d imagined sitting around.

Before Levitt could answer my home-ownership question, she asked me when I was born, and when the person who’d be buying the home with me was born.

Right about then is when she roped me in.

I’d known this woman for a total of two minutes when she started doling out a laundry list of my personality traits–and hitting bull’s eyes. My sign on the Taoist Zodiac is a Red Dragon, which means I have strong karma and a powerful presence, she said. My life experience is intense, full of fire and sparks and sometimes overwhelming. My main element is fire.

Right so far. And I was sweating from the hot weather and the six- or seven-block trek to her apartment.

“This is a good year for you because it’s the year of the Monkey,” she said. Dragons and Monkeys are buddies.

So far, things were looking good on the home-buying front, since great things are supposed to happen to Dragons in 2004.

Then she explained that my fiancé–or prospective co-homeowner–is a Hare, according to the Zodiac. Again, she threw near-perfect pitches when describing his mild-mannered, creative and gentle nature. He’s always calm and his main element is wood. He puts up with my wild, fiery disposition with swan-like grace.

“But he can be passive aggressive,” she said. A trait that drives a fire-toting Red Dragon insane. Right indeed.

So if we are thinking about buying a house, I will be the one who initiates the process, gathers all the information and pushes the deal forward, according to Levitt. My fiancé will be the one to finish the job and wrap up the loose ends since Dragons consider those details beneath them.

I can live with that. No problems, no complaints and no worries, since I spend most days talking and writing about real estate. And I trust my partner to finalize the deal more than I trust myself.

Then Levitt reached for the tarot cards to address my question of whether this is the right time for me to buy a house. She pulled three cards from the deck and placed them in a straight line in front of me.

The prognosis: two of the cards were bad in this context, but the third might be able to help.

The first card, the Seven of Cups, meant that I was indulging in wishful thinking, lacking focus and facing too many options. In other words, I’m indecisive about what type of home I really want. Narrowing down the roster from a condo in the city, artist’s loft near the bay or fixer-upper in the ‘burbs would be essential to making this home purchase work.

The second card, which was the Nine of Cups, showed promise. Levitt said this could be my support system, the key to overcoming the obstacles the other two cards showed.

The third card was the Five of Pentacles, which in my situation represents financial troubles or lack of money for the home purchase. Ok, well that’s obvious to anyone paying attention to home prices in the Bay Area.

“Basically, you have no idea what you want, you have good support and you’re all freaked out about finances,” Levitt said.

That’s all true. But it also sums up nearly every novice home buyer’s situation, not just my own.

Skepticism crept in once again.

She asked me to identify what the Nine of Cups support system could be–had anyone offered to help? Was there something promising that could thwart the doom and gloom of the Five of Pentacles?

After disclosing a few more personal details, she identified the two people in my fiance’s family who would be able to help overcome the financial crutch, and said I will need to drink from their nine cups. That’s the key to getting the house. The first move to get the home-buying ball rolling is to have a conversation with them.

“Do this now. I mean now. We’re out of the mercury, we’re in a new moon. And it’s a lucky year for the Dragon,” Levitt said. In other words, find the money, find the house and go for it.

Her enthusiasm almost lifted me off the white, overstuffed armchair.

My other questions for the cards were about home prices and using caution in the housing market. Should I be worried about a bubble, is there anything in the astrology cycles that indicates a significant event is approaching?

Nothing in the stars or tarot cards indicates an impending bust in home prices or sales. And Levitt’s thriving feng shui business is one indicator the market here is still hot as ever. She’s been racing around the Bay Area consulting for feng shui on home sales, purchases and rentals.

Starting the home purchase plan sounded good to me. I admit I’m not convinced I’ll be a homeowner at this time next year. But for a few hours that afternoon, I felt like I had a plan. My homeowner’s thinking cap was on and my renter’s shoes sat unlaced by the door.

Now I must seek out the nine cups and drink, drink, drink.


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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