During Downturn Home Sellers Turn to St. Joseph

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There are lots of ways to measure the health of the housing market: New home sales, Existing home sales, Number of Days on the Market and of course Sale Prices. But there is another barometer with heavenly ties – Sales of St. Joseph Statues.

This story is 4 months, and a few sleepless nights in the making. First a little background. I put my house on the market this summer, or I should say I bought a new house then put my house on the market. Coping with too few square feet and too many passing cars on our street, my wife Mary and I decided to move. We found a nice house in our favorite neighborhood, so we bought it .without contingencies and then put our house up for sale. Then market really started to tank. When we told others of our situation the common reaction was .. ooooh.

We fixed up the house, cleared the clutter, lit the scented candle and made a trip to a religious supply shop Being good Catholics, we turned to St. Joseph.

St. Joseph – Jesus’s foster father – is the patron saint of the home. For years home sellers have been burying his statue and praying to him.

I bought the $6 St Joseph Home Selling kit. The 3 and a half inch plastic statue comes with complete with instructions.

My wife Mary and I with our two kids devoutly went out the backyard to bury the statue according to the rules – yes there are rules – in the back yard, three feet from the house. My wife dutifully told me exactly where and how deep to dig. I wonder if Joseph’s Mary micromanaged him?

My 9 year old daughter read the prayer. Then we waited for a long line of buyers.

Call it faith. Call it superstition. Sales of those little St Joseph statues have ascended as home sales have dropped. Phyllis Nentwich owns Generations Religious Gifts.

It’s always been one of my number one sellers but over the past year it’s just been skyrocketing, said Nentwich

In just the last 4 months – her shop has sold more than 2,000 St Joseph home sale kits.

But does St. Joseph work? Legend has it, the practice began in the middle ages when some European nuns buried a statue to help them find a convent.

Bernie Thomas’s family used it to sell family property in Canada.

.my bother was had a particularily hard time selling one of the properties. And I told him you have to get a statue of st joseph, plant him in the ground, Thomas said.

I told him how to do it..in the back yard, feet toward heaven, face down he laughed .. but I said you really got to do it.. you really do. And he did. And it worked !

Apparently he works for sellers of every faith. Columbus Real Estate Agent Lari Madosky Shaw keeps a few in her car to give to anxious sellers.

In this market it seems sellers want something that gives them a little more home than the current market can give them, so it’s kind of fun. But I’ve seen it work which is kind of strange, said Shaw.

Other stories were not as encouraging. A few weeks after my for sale sign went up, I told a friend that we buried St Joseph. The very sweet grandmother of our neighbors said, I did the same thing! And I ended selling my house at auction! But she noted the move went smoothly. Great.

Local Catholic Church officials are not too fond of using St. Joseph this way.

The Columbus Diocese owned Cathedral Book Shop sells St Joseph statues – it kind of has to – it’s St Joseph’s Cathedral. But the word is the shop manager frowns on selling them to home sellers. And the Diocese released a statement which said:

The burying of his statue alone as a means to quickly sell real estate, does not lend itself to any sort of reverence for St. Joseph. Such action can easily be perceived as a superstitious practice.

However Generations shop owner Phyllis Nentwich, a devout Catholic, says the sales are a good thing.

It’s not magic or anything like that. It’s your physical belief in prayer. It doesn’t matter where you place him. The most important thing is to pray, said Nentwich.

As for my house maybe it was St Joseph. Maybe it was the four price drops and the numerous concessions we made to the buyers. But we sold and are thankful we did. We dug up St. Joe and he now sits on the fireplace mantle of our new home.