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Putting a little faith in your listing

Marketplace Staff Nov 28, 2006

BOB MOON: More bad news for homeowners from the National Association of Realtors: Last month, the median price for a home plunged by more than 3 percent from what it was a year ago, to around $221,000. That’s more than any other year-over-year price decline on record. Good news for buyers, downright agonizing for sellers.

Take Mike Hickcox. He was offered a job in Nashville, so he put his New Hampshire house on the market. Six months later, his wife was still back home trying to sell the house. That’s when he tried something unconventional:

MIKE HICKOX: The market was bad, the buyers were few, and our patience was short. What could we possibly do to sell our house?

“Bury St. Joseph,” people said.

What? St. Joseph was the carpenter who walked to Nazareth with his betrothed, Mary, alongside on a donkey. It’s the only time we ever hear the word “betrothed” and it has nothing to do with real estate. And why would we bury St. Joseph in our front yard, anyway?

But, I was desperate. I went online to find a statue of St. Joseph. Lo and behold — as they said in his time — dozens of sites sell St. Joseph kits. For anywhere between 6 and 11 dollars, you get a complete kit with a little St. Joe plastic statue, instructions, and suggested prayers or statements to make at the interment.

Websites are full of testimonials. My favorite is the story of the man who, while trying to sell his home, was given a St. Joseph statue, but scoffing at the notion, threw it in the trash. It went to the dump.

Wasn’t he surprised a couple of weeks later when he saw in the paper that —lo and behold — the dump had been sold.

So I ordered a kit. Instructions on interment vary, but ours said to bury him vertically, head down, feet toward heaven.

The “feet toward heaven” part sounded somehow sacred, but the upside-down part, burying his head toward hell ’til the house sold, that sounded cruel.

But we dropped St. Joe into his basement sales office next to the For Sale sign on a Saturday morning anyway. Lo and behold, people viewed the house on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we got an offer.

I can’t say I’m a believer, but what can you do?

Our directions told us to dig up our very own Underground Real Estate Agent and take him with us when we moved. We did.

We’ve made an offer on a new house. The instructions tell us to put St. Joseph in a place of honor when we get there. We will.

BOB MOON: Rev. Mike Hickcox works for United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.

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