Illustration: Joanna Neborsky
Before Trish Arcaro, a Maine-based real estate agent, starts a new work week, she pulls cards from her tarot deck, lights a candle, recites a series of affirmations and holds her sunstone crystal, which helps to foster abundance and joy. She will occasionally burn palo santo around a new house for a client to clear the space of bad energy before moving in. And when she announces a successful deal on Instagram, she doesn’t put SOLD or BUY on the list – she puts MANIFESTED!
In Minnesota, an agent and trainer called Commission Queen sells a mug that reads WAKE UP. MANIFEST. SELL REAL ESTATE. REPEAT. The Intuitive Realtor-Healer, an agent from Wisconsin, offers to unblock your chakras and create home altars to manifest in addition to a 40-acre lot in Prairie du Sac for $1.6 million. An article on national brokerage site Redfin explains how to “make the energy leap from tenant to landlord”: create a vision board; imagine the house of your dreams in your head before you fall asleep every night; light a white or green candle and “anoint” it with rosemary oil and a pinch of salt. A 20-year-old TikTok real estate agent suggests sticking your claim on your steering wheel as a “protest hack”.
They are the woo-woo agents of real estate, brokers navigating an extremely unpredictable housing market, not just with vast datasets or detailed trend forecasts, but with a finger on the pulse of the universe him -same. As the country faces unprecedented pricing, bidding wars and all-cash deals, they are tuned into energies as well as interest rates – proof both of how people have become desperate for housing and how they are coping with the madness of the market.
For Arcaro, who works through Holistic Real Estate Pro, when his clients manage to buy a home, it’s not just at the right price or in the right neighborhood; it is “aligned”, meaning that the universe intended the customer to receive that particular good. She works in the idyllic Bangor area, often with young families who have come to the state from the big cities (she moved from Los Angeles eight years ago, her own “quantum leap,” in New Age parlance).
“The energy they displayed is what helped them attract the house,” says Arcaro. “It’s not just because they had good credit and they had good timing and all that,” although she concedes that buying a home requires a “mixture” of business strategy and of spiritual practice. If she works with buyers who are worried about what they can afford, she helps them adopt a financial “mindset.” “How do you know until you try?” Have you reviewed your finances? ” she asks. “Have you spoken to a lender to see why you are pre-approved? If you come from a place of lack and scarcity, the universe is going to put you there all the time.
This approach to real estate is a niche, but not entirely new one – a version of the prosperity gospel aimed at the audience of Sell sunset. From the 1937 book by failed businessman Napoleon Hill, You have to think to become rich – one of the first self-help bestsellers – to Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 Oprah-fueled phenomenon The secret, there is a long tradition of American business mystics who marry the accumulation of wealth and success with spirituality.
Byrne pushed the notion of the “law of attraction” into the mainstream. As one practitioner put it, LOA insists, “Whatever we believe, we will manifest… If we believe we are going to be poor, we are going to stay poor. The secret has sold over 35 million copies, and a film adaptation starring Katie Holmes was released in 2020. (In the film, one of Holmes’ character’s daughters is able to manifest both pizza and a Poney.) The secret has since spawned a cottage industry of business-specific LOA coaching, including books for real estate selling and investing.
An agent named Penelope Whichello, based in South Carolina, worked in the spa industry before she began selling property and coaching other agents with her company Mindfulness in Real Estate. Those looking to attract more customers can become a member with access for $19 per month or join a Circle of Conscious Agents for $2,749 for a full year. Whichello explains alignment as “your divine connection to the creativity within yourself” and his work as “helping to move people from one sacred space to another”.
Cary Tamura, a New York-based Corcoran agent, has taught shamatha-vipashyana, or mindfulness meditation, to other real estate agents. “The benefits of this in your business, whether it’s dealing with difficult customers or negotiating, are built into the elements between the words,” says Tamura. “The more present you are, the more clearly you can see this stuff.” He says this is especially true for his tenant clients, who face a market where the vacancy rate is below 5%: “It’s very difficult to get a rental, whether you’re a broker or not. Whatever it is, it’s very likely that there are multiple applications for any rental going on right now. So the ability not to get upset is very important.
“I had a venture capitalist guy who moved to this area from California, and he was all in his head” about starting a short-term vacation rental business, Whichello tells me. “I told him to go back on his intention: ‘Just go back to what you intended to do when you bought this, and that was to make this a profitable business. And then, you know what? The next step appears. ”
Unfortunately, the next step has yet to materialize for millions of potential owners who find themselves shut out of the market. While the woo-woos may not offer anything new, their outlook seems particularly rosy in our current economic climate, amid rising interest rates and a looming recession, if one is to believe Larry Summers. As the government, private consultants, journalists and aspiring homeowners attempt to answer the question “Why is our housing market so crazy?” a group of people simply respond, “What is meant to be will be.”
Or the problem is you. If you can’t find housing, you’re not showing up hard enough. If the market craters, well, it’s because of the negative energy you’re putting out into the cosmos – so-called “self-limiting beliefs”. On the darker side of manifestation is a kind of wishful thinking that eschews structural explanation, and it’s not that different from age-old concepts like “creative destruction” or the “invisible hand of the market” or “the robust individualism” – concepts that have been used to drive unnecessary brutalities out of our economic system. It follows that Mayor Eric Adams, who believes that crystals buried in the earth give New York a “special energy”, recently published a housing project without any target measurement.
“I had a client who was crying on the phone because she hadn’t received an offer for her house,” Arcaro tells me. The Maine market in which she works has seen prices decline slightly over the past year, especially from the depths of the pandemic, when sellers would routinely see cash offers from buyers. She suggested that the client had an emotional block about the move she had to give up in order to free the house from the universe and attract a buyer. “The universe is supporting you a thousand percent of the time,” she says. “There are things going on behind the scenes that you have to trust even if you can’t see them.” Arcaro says its client “has demonstrated a cash buyer” and the deal closes on July 11. That’s unless the universe has other plans.