[photopress:St_Joe.jpg,thumb,alignright]Dustin, Glenn Roberts and I received an email yesterday from Bill over at The Real Estate Cafe, about an Inman News article on the use of St. Joseph statues to sell real estate, and a comment I made on it. Dustin didn’t know about the practice, which is fairly well known around the Country, so I thought I’d shed some light on why, how and when the statue is used in the real estate business, from my personal perspective.
Many years a go I had a wonderful client who was losing her home. She had started her own business and had used her home as collateral for the business start up expenses. Her husband had a good job, they were doing well financially. She was not behind on her mortgage payments. They had lived in their home for a very long time with their now grown daughter and little poodle. But the lien against the house for the business bankruptcy was causing them to lose it.
The woman was so beside herserlf, because she caused it. She was a dynamic person. So when she approached me rather sheepishly one day with a request, I was a little surprised at her quietness and hesitancy. She said, “I really need your help with this and I don’t know how to ask you to do this. Someone told me to plant a St. Joseph statue in my back yard upside down and all will be OK. I wouldn’t have any idea where to get one, since I’m Jewish, and I thought you might be able to do that for me. I know it’s a lot to ask of a real estate professional, but since you’re Italian…I thought…”
While Bill over at The Real Estate Cafe, and many Catholics, are up in arms over using St. Joseph in this manner, I didn’t hesitate to jump into my car and find the little plastic statue shown here. I didn’t know there were actually “St. Joseph kits” designed for this purpose. I just went to the same place I might buy rosary beads and they knew right away what I needed. I went back to the house. It was one of those houses that appraised at $185,000 but the owner “had to have $205,000”. When I first listed it I didn’t know why they were selling it, or let’s say I wasn’t buying their story that they were just downsizing. I didn’t know why they HAD to have a certain price.
The owner wasn’t present when I performed my little ritual for the first time of “planting St. Joseph on his head in the yard”. Needless to say it worked. The owners received the price they had to have from a buyer who loved the house. It was one of my favorite sales, as the woman came home every day at lunch to vacuum. This was in the days when agents called the office for an appointment and no one in my office would speak with her. They thought she was difficult, I knew she was distressed. I asked her to remove the blue tablecloth in the kitchen and replace it with a white one. An hour later there was not one white table cloth, but two, so that if it got dirty she could quickly lift off the top one. She worked like a dog to get top dollar, I came up with the spiffiest flyer anyone had ever seen and she and I, together with St. Joseph, accomplished the objective that seemed near impossible.
The bankruptcy attorney cut the commission down at the last second and my office manager was freaking out. She even went to the closing where the bankruptcy attorney, she and the other agent were duking it out. I stayed outside with my clients while they where fighting, and assured them that it was one of my favorite sales, regardless of what happened in there. It was truly a pleasure to have known them and to have helped them in their dark hour. I never contacted them again because I knew I was part of a memory they should never have to revisit. “Follow up postcards” from me would have been painful reminders of a time they wanted to put behind them.
While Bill is upset over the fact that there are some agents who order St. Joseph statues in bulk like business cards, the custom of burying St. Joseph to assist in the quest of real estate pursuits goes back to at least the 1500s, when St. Theresa of Avila buried a St. Joseph medal. They needed some land for a Church and St. Theresa buried a St. Joseph medal in a plot of ground that was perfect, but they could not afford, and of course they did eventually raise enough money to buy the land with St. Joseph’s assitance.
St. Joseph is “the worker”. He’s the symbol that any pursuit backed by one’s sincere desire and hard work is achieveable. For many years after he helped my clients, I had this little statue (right side up) where ever I worked. When I had too many closings all at the same time, I would lay him down and put a little felt blanket over him and tell him it was time to rest. St. Joseph and I performed some great miracles together and he was my guiding force my first few years in the real estate business.
We haven’t heard about this custom for quite awhile because it has been a seller’s market. But based on Inman News giving the custom some attention recently, it looks like St. Joseph may be making a comeback. To Bill Wendell at The Real Estate Cafe, try not to think of all of the agents buying 100 statues at a time and using it as a “gimmick”. Think of my lovely story, and how St. Joseph, while standing on his head, brought some comfort to some very nice people in need of his gentle touch.