Inman News and St. Joseph

[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.

20 thoughts on “Inman News and St. Joseph

  1. “We haven’t heard about this custom for quite awhile because it has been a seller’s market.” Hopefully those who are guided by their faith have said prayers of gratitude during this period. If Bill’s bubble maps are any indication of things to come, the practice will come in handy. This quote is indicative of how so many people seem to forget their faith until times of convenient circumstance or dire need. The whole process of the statues has never settled well with me and doing it only when the market is down seems to add to the creepy feeling I get every time I hear about agents and this ritual. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Bill recently and it wasn’t until the very end of my trip that the subjects of spirituality and faith came up. While we did not discuss it at great length, I sensed that it is an important part of his life. I can’t speak for him, and please don’t take offense, but I doubt anything in your story or history lesson is going to change his position on the issue. It didn’t mine. Well told though.

  2. Thanks Michael. Nice comment. We can never see into someone’s heart with regard to their reason for doing something,  So we have to leave that to a higher power to judge…or not.

    Personally, I thought it was pretty cool for St. Joseph to be getting some attention. He is an oft forgotten and not widely known Saint, and I think he might enjoy being remembered on occasion long, long after he’s gone.

  3. I do find it a little offensive for someone who’s Jewish to be using a Catholic saint as a “good luck charm of convienence”. As someone who’s Jewish, no matter how much people want to deny it, these symbols (Christmas tree, Saints, beads) have religious significance for many, and using them this way is at least in bad taste. And it’s one reason I wouldn’t do something like this (or have a Christmas tree, put a statue of St. Matthew on my dashboard, etc.)

    Now I recognize that many Catholics do the same thing (use these totems only when convienence strikes them), but at least they can claim they’re using an aspect of their own religion.

  4. Cricket,

    My Jewish Mom had all of her children in a Catholic Hospital (St. Joseph’s come to think of it).

    She was so desperately in pain that she prayed to St. Gerard, whose picture was in the foyer of the hospital. Apparently he was the patron saint of pregnant women. She was in labor for many days with my brother David back before doctors would “break the water” and she prayed to St. Gerard and then named him David Gerard in return.

    When people reach out in desperation to Saints, as my Jewish Mom and my Jewish client did, it is no different that recalling Moses at a time of a difficult journey or other Biblical people. Taking offense at what other people do, without recognizing that only God knows what is truly in their heart at the time, is a pastime left best to those who just happen to like to throw stones. Watch out for the ripples those stones make though.

    Best to figure out what is offensive about ourselves, than to worry about how to be offended by the actions of others.

  5. None of this is a new idea. The tradition of burying St. Joseph in the earth began hundreds of years ago in Europe. During those times, an order of nuns prayed to St. Joseph (the patron saint of the family and household needs) when they needed more lands for convents. The Sisters were encouraged to bury their St. Joseph medals in the ground to have their prayers answered. Years later, the modern day home seller has reinterpreted this practice to help with home sales.

  6. I’m staying out of it this time…Bill, I swear I didn’t start it! The “Madonna DellaLoggia” just happens to have been painted by Boticelli the same day the first medal was planted upside down in the ground. Pure coincidence!

  7. Pingback: Seattle’s Rain City Real Estate Guide » Have faith: St. Joseph

  8. Pingback: 360Digest » St. Joe is my homeboy

  9. This belief is again becoming ‘popular’ in the Detroit Michigan metropolitan area as our home sales are at a 18 month supply of inventory. I have found that belief, deep belief can cause a person to focus on not only the belief itself but, the end result. that is – to help remedy the problem / situation. They might even start looking for ‘a sign’ – such as their REALTOR advising them on agressive marketing strategies (like 5 – 10% price adjustments, staging, etc.). all said, belief in a positive direction can only do good, expecially if your belief is true & deep.

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