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Home for sale, cleansed

What do bells and Bacardi have to do with marketing real estate? To a feng shui expert, everything.

Published October 20, 2006

SULPHUR SPRINGS -- The house on N 14th Street was built in 1924. Mark Nottingham bought it in 2005. Sometime in between, the house got ugly.

Plants grew over the front entrance. A tree shot through the upstairs bedroom. Junk cars cluttered the garage.

After a year of renovation, Nottingham was ready to sell, but the real estate market had slowed.

He needed help. A friend suggested a spiritual finishing touch: a woman who cleanses energy in homes using the Asian art of feng shui.

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Her name is Sara Urbina. She prefers to receive her $90 payment in a red envelope. Red, she said, is a lucky color.

Urbina arrived at the Sulphur Springs house on a recent Sunday afternoon, taking notes on a yellow legal pad during the tour. The feng shui consultant recommended that Nottingham place signs down the street with red arrows pointing toward the house.

She liked the red door. She also liked that the front door was part glass. "It invites the energy to come and to circulate," she said.

He needs to straighten the fence, make the mailbox numbers more visible and put down the toilet lids, she advised. Plants are good. Energy gravitates toward them.

Urbina lit some white sage and sweet grass inside a sea shell tray with American Indian-style beads hanging from it. Palms up, eyes closed, she said a quiet prayer.

As the smoke swirled, she raised the burning sage and said: "I call upon the father sky, the mother earth and the four corners of the wind, the north, the east, the south and the west."

With a black-tipped feather in her hand, she paced along every wall of every room, wafting the smoke under counters and cupboards, in closets and corners - even

in the space between the fridge and the wall.

"It will cleanse the negative energy that's here," Urbina said. Her assistant followed her with a bell and rang it in the smoke's trail.

"When we start, it's going to sound a little dull," Urbina said of the bell. "When we've finished, you're going to hear a little clarity." Urbina disappeared upstairs, and the ringing trailed off with her.

"That's pretty wild, man," Nottingham said to his friend. "Gotta give you that."

After the smoke ceremony, Urbina's assistant traced symbols on all the window sills with her finger, to protect the home's entry points. Urbina sprinkled holy water in every room.

Time for the outdoor cleansing, a ritual called "feeding the hungry ghosts," to chase away the negative energy. "We have to stir it up and get rid of it," Urbina said. She picked up a large clear bowl full of bird seed and nine capfuls of Bacardi Limon rum.

She told her assistant to toss three handfuls into the air and then three to the ground around the entire perimeter.

"Visualize the negative energy going away," Urbina said. "Three down to implant the positive energy."

Afterward, Urbina finished the ritual inside the house with a prayer: "May this cleaning also serve those who come to live here. Amen."

- - -

Urbina contacts real estate agents to offer her services. They will make prospective buyers feel comfortable and at home when they enter, she said.

"Every place that we go to has an emotional or energy imprint within the space," Urbina said.

All emotions and events experienced within the walls of homes contribute to that imprint, including divorce, illness and death, she said. Negative energy that stagnates in homes can even cause residents to become ill, she contends.

Urbina, 59, who lives in Lutz and works as a secretary at a real estate firm, told the story of Ariane Davenport, a friend who couldn't sell her house. Not once in seven months did she get an offer.

Then Urbina performed a cleansing. Davenport got an offer three days later.

In 1994, Urbina had just gone through a divorce and was buried in credit card debt. She was intrigued by a flier she spotted advertising feng shui classes and decided to enlist.

First, she performed a ceremony she found in a book to make sure she had a continuous flow of money. Shortly after, she received bonuses at work and was able to pay off all her debt, she said.

Urbina trained under international feng shui speaker and writer Janice Hunt and cleansed her first home in 1999. Since then, she has averaged four to five homes each year.

"I have never been left with my purse empty," she said, holding her change purse. It was lucky red.

- - -

Urbina is part of a nationwide movement that uses spiritual solutions to sell homes.

Apart from feng shui consultants, psychics conduct seances in homes to soothe spirits who may not want a house sold. Statues of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the family and household needs, are often buried in the yards of for-sale homes to invoke some heavenly help., an online database for urban legends, lists varying origins of the saint-burying ritual, from European nuns in the Middle Ages to German carpenters.

One real result of the legends is California-based Web site, which launched in 1990 to sell "Underground Real Estate Agent" kits that include a statue of the saint and instructions for burial.

- - -

Three days after Urbina cleansed Nottingham's Sulphur Springs home, he prepared to put it on the market. He was confident that the feng shui cleansing would work.

Sure, he'd like to get the $279,000 listed price. But he hopes the cleansing will have a longer lasting effect: "I really want the family to be happy here," he said.

Urbina says she thinks he'll sell his house within three months. Three, after all, is a powerful number.

[Last modified October 19, 2006, 08:17:16]

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