- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

MONMOUTH JUNCTION, N.J. - The old Victorian home sat on the market for six months before its anxious owners decided to ask for some help — from a pair of feng shui consultants.

Mary Jane Kasliner and Shelley Mengo couldn’t do much to change the size of the tiny master bedroom, but they had other advice for the owners. Move the “For Sale” sign to a different spot, remove extra furniture and strategically place items like candles and plants around the house to create balance between “yin and yang,” they instructed.

Their goal: a more serene home with better chi, or energy.

“Feng shui is really not about investing a lot of money, because most of the time our clients have the proper things — they’re just in different spaces. They’re in the wrong places, feng shui-wise,” said Miss Mengo, who runs a feng shui consulting business with Miss Kasliner called Harmonious Living.

A growing number of real estate agents and people selling their own homes are turning to feng shui — the ancient Chinese art of designing structures and arranging objects to create harmonious energy flow — as a way to attract buyers.

Once restricted to areas with large Asian-American populations, real estate agents and consultants with training in feng shui (pronounced fung-SHWAY) in other areas are becoming more common.

While the National Association of Realtors does not track how many real estate agents use feng shui practitioners or have undergone training, there are signs its appeal is broadening. Seminars on its principles are taught at trade-group meetings nationwide.

“There are a lot more Realtors knowledgeable about feng shui today than there were three years ago,” said Holly Ziegler, a California real estate broker and feng shui instructor. “I would say in the next three years, there will be a huge number of Realtors who are paying attention to this information because it only helps serve them and their clients.”

Gail Lyons, a real estate broker in Boulder, Colo., said as many as 30 percent of her clients are interested in buying a home with good feng shui.

“They’ll say, ‘I want to be sure the hallway doesn’t go all the way from the front door to the back door. The good energy, the chi, can just go right through the house.’ If I know this is something that’s important to them, I start looking specifically for it,” said Miss Lyons, the National Association of Realtors’ regional coordinator for Asia.

Literally translated, “feng” means wind and “shui” water, the two most important elements in the traditional Chinese art of placement.

Many of its principles overlap with the practical suggestions real estate agents already make to people looking to sell their homes. It encourages a balance of color, size and shape, and emphasizes simplicity.

A practitioner’s tools, though, are somewhat less familiar: They can include a “luo pan” (a compass), crystals or a “bagua” map used to locate areas of a home that correspond to different aspects of a person’s life, such as wealth or knowledge.

Some falsely associate feng shui with magic, referring to it as “that science where you move the couch and you’re wealthy,” Miss Kasliner said. But practitioners think the main benefit of feng shui in real estate is a simple one.

“When houses have good feng shui, the buyers want to stay,” said Miss Ziegler, author of “Sell Your Home Faster With Feng Shui.” “They bond with the house more quickly and they end up being happier in that house. It’s just a happy house to stay in, and feng shui is really all about feelings and how you feel in a space.”

Traditional feng shui includes the orientation of a home, something that isn’t easy or cheap to fix when someone wants to move. Still, anyone can “raise the chi” of their home, and its value, by packing up their clutter and making use of natural sunlight, according to experts.

“People can then focus on the house itself,” Miss Ziegler said. “Instead of remembering your spoon collection, they’ll remember what the home really looked like.”

For many, though, feng shui-ing a home for sale has more to do with improving its overall appeal and less with major renovations.

Homeowners or real estate agents seeking the help of a licensed feng shui practitioner can expect to pay a fee. Miss Mengo and Miss Kasliner say a person could have a room in their home “feng shui-ed” starting around $170.

The subtle changes that result are all about creating ambiance.

“Feng shui itself — if you look at it in the mainstream — is just a harmony, just a good feeling,” said Fanny Chu of Prudential California Realty, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We always say when you walk in, if you feel good about a home, it’s your intuition. Feng shui is just that.”

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