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Some Realtors, homeowners turn to St. Joseph for an extra edge

Tue., Aug. 29, 2006

Home-sellers tired of waiting for the right offer are relying on a saint and a prayer to help the process along.

Statues of St. Joseph, the patron saint of family and household needs, are gaining popularity among Catholics and non-Catholics alike as people look for an edge to shorten the gap between when the For Sale sign goes up and the check is delivered.

According to a modern take on an ancient church tradition, burying a St. Joseph statue upside down and facing a property that’s for sale will attract buyers and lately, sales of home-selling kits featuring miniature St. Joseph statues are picking up, said Ed Sinclair, owner and manager of The Kaufer Co. Christian Supplies in Spokane.

“There are some Realtors who are regulars and come in. They shall remain nameless,” Sinclair said.

“When people come in it’s so funny. Half of them are sheepish about the whole thing.”

The store averages one sale a day of any of four different kits. They range in price from $4.99 to about $15 and feature three- to five-inch saint statues, prayer cards and sometimes a written history of the tradition.

Using St. Joseph to help with real estate sales in nothing new. According to the Catholics United for the Faith Web site, the tradition began hundreds of years ago when St. Teresa of Avila invoked St. Joseph’s intercession to get land for new convents. She encouraged her companions to bury St. Joseph medals as a symbol of devotion, the Web site said. More recent tradition has homeowners burying the statue upside down so St. Joseph works hard to get out of the ground and onto a mantle, where home sellers are supposed to install the figure after the transaction is complete.

Officially, the church has no problem with calling on a saint to sell a home, as long as the act relies on faith and not superstition.

Although the saintly real estate tradition has been going strong nationally for more than a decade, and there is even a Web site devoted solely to sales of the statues (, Sinclair said it has only been in the past four years that the statues have really caught on in Spokane.

Now the kits are one of the store’s top-selling items. Sales have increased annually, with the exception of last year, when homes in the region were selling quickly.

Local Realtor Barb Litchfield of Windermere City Group once swore by the statues and used them to help sell homes for three years, she said. But she traded in the saint for a professional stager, who visits for-sale homes and advises homeowners on paint colors and furniture arrangements to give homes a more desirable look.

The cosmetic changes usually do the trick, Litchfield said, adding, “That’s the reason for no St. Joseph.”

While some Realtors admit the saint may have potential when it comes to speeding up sales, others think it’s pure superstition.

“I didn’t know that our real estate market was so bad that we have to enlist the help of a saint to sell homes,” said Ralph Krueger, a Realtor for Century 21 Advanta. “What’s next, numerology?”

Barbara Altmaier, a Realtor with John L. Scott Real Estate in Spokane Valley, hasn’t heard of widespread statue use here. But she said her sister turned to St. Joseph to help sell a home in Albuquerque after her husband was transferred to another city.

“We’re not even Catholic, so that made it even funnier,” Altmaier said.

After her sister buried the statue, she immediately received an offer – albeit much lower than she’d envisioned, Altmaier said. The Realtor joked with her sis that she should have gotten a bigger statue.

While Altmaier isn’t sure if she’d ever enlist the help of St. Joseph herself, she’s keeping an open mind.

“I know our market is changing and sometimes you just have to try everything. I know it couldn’t hurt.”


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