If your home is languishing on the market, there are many tips
that promise to help bring about a sale. But there's only one that requires a prayer and a spade. The solution to your selling woes? Bury a St. Joseph statue in your yard, head down.
Joseph may have been a carpenter who couldn't find a real roof to put over Baby Jesus' head that fateful night in Bethlehem, but apparently he can help you move on to your new home if you just have a little faith -- and you needn't be Catholic!
Whether for superstition or faith, a growing number of people have turned to the "Patron Saint of Real Estate" in the hopes that he'll deliver, reported the New York Times
. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. And could covering up a saint with a little dirt really hurt? Dubbed the "Underground Real Estate Agent," St. Joseph statues have been steadily flying off the shelves of retailers from Catholic Supply of St. Louis
and StJosephStatue.com LLC
, a company started on a whim by a mortgage broker.
Legend has it that if you bury a St. Joseph statue in your yard, head down, facing the direction you want to move, your home will sell more quickly. When possible, place it near the for sale sign -- mainly so that you can remember where you buried it and can dig it up after the sale. Then, it's recommended that you put old Joe on a mantle or other prominent place in your new home, as a gesture of thanks. Or, just pass it on to a friend.
No yard? No worries. Bury a small statue in a potted plant, suggests the website LuckyMojo
, which also offers a couple of prayers to recite on its site.
The statues are typically sold for less than $10 in kits, complete with an instruction booklet with burial prayer and a cloth carrying bag, such as the one pictured from StJosephStatue.com
, which also throws in a free real estate listing
on its site with every purchase (It currently boasts more than $2.4 billion in current listings.) Some people also obtain their St. Joe's from their Catholic church, as was the case with Joe D'Eramo, whose tale will give skeptics pause.
"We were selling a home in Taunton, MA. It was an older home with a dirt floor basement. Two buyers had come and gone, each finding something during inspection to pass on the deal," D'Eramo told HousingWatch. "I went to a local Catholic Church and asked where I could find a statue of St. Joseph. The receptionist had never heard the legend and brought me in to see the priest. He handed me a fairly large statue of St. Joseph and wished me well. By the end of that weekend, we had another buyer and this one closed."
"Before moving, we gave the statue to my brother-in-law," D'Eramo continued. "He, too, had been having difficulty selling his home, mainly because it had gone through some serious wear and tear. Lo' and behold, they, too, received an offer and sold their home."
So who exactly buys these statues? St. Joe's popularity has shifted recently, Phil Cates, the owner of StJosephStatue.com, told HousingWatch.
"Caifornia, Florida and Arizona have consistently held the number 1, 2, and 3 spots for the most sales since 2005," Cates said. However, over the last 60 days Florida took over the top spot, followed by Texas and New York. California moved to the fifth place after North Carolina.
Cates, a mortgage broker by day, speculates that California may have dropped on the list because more homes are being sold by the banks that foreclosed on the homeowners. "I'm not sure bean counters and spirituality have much in common," he jokes.
Trisha Haas, head blogger at MomDot
, has so much faith, she had her St. Joseph statue blessed by her brother-in-law priest before she buried it last month and caught it all on video
for her readers. It's been about 30 days and we are still waiting to hear if she's had any offers.
In another case, it took just one weekend for a vacation home to sell after a burial. After close to two years on the market and a 20 percent price reduction on his Boulder ski home, Bob Webster of Webster Investment Advisers
recalls, "I had now become desperate, as it had been 18 months and not a single offer...not even an embarrassing low-ball salvo. So casting my pragmatism aside, but still holding onto a sense of skepticism ... I ordered [a statue]." The St. Joseph statue was buried on a Friday and on that next Monday night, he says his Realtor called with a full-cash, 30-day offer. The sale closed Christmas Eve 2009.
"To quote the classic band of the 70's, The Monkeys, 'Now I'm a Believer'," says Webster, who grew up a Catholic kid in Brooklyn.
Stories like these have helped build a diverse following for Joseph.
"Maybe half of our clients are Catholic," says Cates of StJosephStatue.com. "The rest are Jewish, Hindi, atheist, Baptist. This cuts across all lines of thought. Some people look at it as 'eh, what the heck do I have to lose.' And others look at it as very holy."
Cates started selling the statues 20 years ago after using them as a gimmick for marketing his mortgage business to real estate agents. He adds that some agents use statues to help gain their own business. About 40 percent of his sales are to real estate professionals.
Still, Cates doesn't have his own head buried in the sand beneath the for sale sign. "While many people consider St. Joseph the silver bullet of real estate, I think we should leave the shiny ammo to 'The Lone Ranger' and magic to David Copperfield," he concedes.
Sheree R. Curry is an award-winning business journalist who resides in a Minneapolis suburb.