Home owners turn to St. Joseph for luck

HOUSTON It's a beautiful home, completely remodeled, ready for a new owner, but it's been on the market for six months and its price reduced. And Realtor Cheryl Ford with Martha Turner Properties is determined to sell the home, so she's asking for some outside help -- from above, you might say.

"I have not used St. Joseph in probably about 10 years because the market has been very good," Ford said. "Now we feel like we need to fall back on him, even though he's been with us all those years."

Laugh if you will, but St. Joseph statues are as hard to find as a pre-approved buyer these days. Sacco's Church Supplies on San Jacinto carries several lines tailored to motivated home sellers. Thousands of the self-described home sale kits have been sold at the store and on its web catalog.

"It came over from Italy," explained store owner Andrew Sacco. "It's an old Italian custom to bury St. Joseph to sell property.

In the old days, St. Joseph medals would be buried in the yard. These days they're plastic statuettes.

Some suggest the figure be placed in the ground feet up, preferably by a 'for sale' sign. But how did St. Joseph suddenly become the "underground real estate agent?"

Joseph was the husband of Mary and, Christianity holds the earthly father figure to Jesus. Among other causes, he is the patron saint of fathers who provide for families. Though for a professor at Saint Mary's seminary in Houston, the co-opting of a saint into a real estate closer troubles him.

Dr. Jeremy Wilkins said, "At some point it becomes a kind of fetish or a good luck charm rather than an act of devotion, and it seems to me there's a lot of instances in which that line has been crossed."

"St. Joseph, guardian of household needs, we bury you now to help us in the sale of our property," prayed home seller Kimberly Zare.

Still a prayer is said before St. Joseph is placed in the ground. Zare is the owner who wants to sell the house and move on.

She said, "I think it's a wonderful thing. It's a nice idea to think that St. Joseph, you can pray to it, it'll help. Great, I'm game."

There's no sales data to suggest how many homes St. Joseph has moved in the market. But if the house sells soon, the agent will get the commission, a saint, though, will get much of the credit.

Last month, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, more than 5,300 homes were sold in the Houston area. That's up about 26 percent from April the year before.

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