Even in a hot housing market like Tampa Bay's, a bit of divine intervention never hurts.
Sellers, meet St. Joseph.
Although Christmas is over and manger scenes will soon be packed away, Joseph — or his plastic and resin facsimiles -— remains in demand year 'round. Legend has it that burying a statue of St. Joseph near a home for sale can quickly attract a buyer. Hence, a banner business in "St. Joseph Home Selling Kits'' that contain a statue of Joseph and a prayer card that says:
'"St. Joseph, most holy guardian of Jesus and Mary, join us in a prayer for all our spiritual and earthly needs, especially in selling our house.''
Dozens of St. Joseph kits are listed on Amazon, at prices from $6.15 to more than $30. Most have glowing reviews, especially from buyers like one who was "EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL” but said her house went under contract soon after she planted Joseph in the backyard.
In the Tampa Bay area, St. Joseph is available at a few religious-themed stores like St. Anthony's Catholic Gift Shop in Tampa.
"All the time,'' owner Sylvia Sierra said when asked how often she gets calls about Joseph. Sellers usually buy the plastic statues for $2, while Realtors tend to go for the $9.95 version.
"It's just a nicer statue made out of resin,'' Sierra said.
The bookstore at the Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg has a bin full of plastic Josephs — "Made in the USA'' — right by the front door. For $3, buyers get both a statue and prayer card.
Manager Sue Clark is offended at the thought of burying Joseph. In fact, she said, sellers don't need a statue at all.
"We tell people that the statue is just a reminder to say the prayer,'' she said. "Prayer is the main thing; you are asking for Joseph to pray with you to the Lord.''
Nonetheless, the store sells hundreds of Joseph statues a year, many to Realtors like Denise Reilly, an active parishoner at St. Jude.
"I've done real estate for 17 years and I've had tons of clients ask me about it,'' she said of the Joseph custom. "Personally, I believe it helps and personally, I pray to him.''
Reilly said she once had a client who got an offer a week and a half after burying Joseph in the yard: The buyer "was somebody who had looked at it before and was not interested but all of a sudden came back and wanted the house,'' Reilly said.
Despite her own faith in Joseph, Reilley said she never "pushes'' him on clients. "We have to be very careful because as Realtors you cannot talk about religion and that kind of stuff,'' she said. "But most of my clients know I'm Catholic.''
How Joseph got involved in the real estate business remains a mystery. But Christian teaching considers him to have been Jesus' earthly father, making him the ideal patron saint of the home and family. As one story goes, an order of Spanish nuns headed by Teresa of Avila in the 1500s prayed to Joseph to help them find land for new convents. For good measure, they also buried their medals of Joseph.
Teresa opened 16 convents and soon other people began turning to Joseph when they had land transactions. Over time, the custom of burying medals gave way to burying statues.
Not everyone is high on Joseph. In October, one reviewer of a St. Joseph selling kit on Amazon gave it a single star out of a possible five.
"Coincidence at best. Don't waste your$. He didn't help sell my house so I threw St. Joseph out of my yard and told him not to come back or I'll call the authorities.''
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.