Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Hardest-working saint in real estate

  • Story Highlights
  • With home sales falling, some sellers seek divine intervention
  • Tradition says burying St. Joseph statues will help sell houses
  • Sales of statues are brisk
  • Next Article in Living »
By Jen Haley
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- With home sales falling to five-year lows, homeowners desperate to sell their homes are looking for a little divine intervention.

Retailers report statues of St. Joseph are selling briskly.

Dawn Hoernemann of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had her one-bedroom home on the market for four months. Every weekend there was an open house. But there were no offers. That's until she took her mom's advice and buried a statue of St. Joseph upside down in her front yard.

The next week, she had three offers and her home was sold. "I couldn't believe it. I don't know what it is about it. It worked. It's some sort of a miracle," says Hoernemann.

This "miracle" has it roots in Catholicism. According to the tradition, burying St. Joseph began hundreds of years ago in Europe. St. Teresa of Avila, a nun in the 16th century, buried a medal of the saint and prayed to St. Joseph to help secure land for a convent. The ritual is said to have worked, and so the trend of burying St. Joseph has caught on.

Just ask Phil Cates of Modesto, California. His online retail site,, offers the "Underground Real Estate Agent" home-selling kits. For $9.95, the 4-inch statue comes with a burial bag and a burial instruction booklet. There's even an 8-inch version of the statue for larger homes.

Sales have increased 100 percent in the past two years, according to Cates.

Robert Malhame, who runs Malhame & Co -- a Catholic supply company on Long Island, says sales of the St. Joseph Statue spiked last year. And he expects the trend to last. "We're probably going to sell over 100,000 this year," he says. The biggest demand is coming from the Northeast and the Midwest, he says.

Jan Wheelehan, the store manager at a Catholic retail supply store in St. Louis, Missouri, says the statues have been one of the better sellers, with sales increasing 25 percent this year. "People seem more panicked and there is a hurried-ness to their expression when they come in," she says.

St. Joseph is even on the auction block. There are dozens of St. Joseph home-selling kits on Ebay. From glow in the dark St. Joseph statues to mini pocket shrines, St. Joseph has a whole new following.

Burying St. Joseph statues has its own set of rules, too, although they can vary.

Home sellers are instructed to dig a hole near the "For Sale" sign. The hole should be three inches taller than the statue itself. The saint should then be facing the direction of the street. Then prayers to St. Joseph should be said before the saint is covered with dirt.

Once the house is sold, St. Joseph should be dug up and put in a place of honor in the new home.

Some renters have even cashed in on St. Joseph's divine intervention in hopes of getting a break on rent or to have their application accepted. They buried St. Joseph statues in flowerpots. The statue's feet should either be facing the street or in the direction you want to move, according to Cates.

The whole statue-burying process was a bit hard to swallow for Joe Iannacone. His Dallas, Texas, home was on the market earlier this month. Iannacone first heard about the ritual from his godfather.

"I looked on the Web. It was less than $10. So, I said why not?" recalls Iannacone. Six hours later a young woman walked into the house and made a bid. "I'm not very religious," says Iannacone. "But that was pretty amazing. I was shocked."

St. Joseph may have made a believer out of some sellers, but for some real estate agents, selling a home isn't the work of a higher power.

"What a crock!" says Connecticut real estate agent David D'Ausilio. "As a Realtor I think it's ridiculous. The business has always been simple. If a house is properly priced and properly exposed, it'll attract buyers and it will sell -- St. Joseph or no St. Joseph."

Cates says the statue is more than just superstition. "It's the idea of getting beyond yourself. It's about hoping and praying for something that is bigger than you are," he says.

And these days, maybe just a little hope for home sellers isn't such a bad thing. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Real Estate Sales

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print