Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Burying Your Real Estate Woes With St. Joseph

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published December 30, 2010] © 2010

Looking for an appropriately warm fuzzy holiday topic for my column, it occurred to me that nothing says fuzzy like saints selling real estate. 

As anyone who lives in La Jolla knows, the real estate inventory in the million-plus range isn’t moving.  And since most of the inventory is, in fact, over a million dollars this has realtors in a serious funk.  On my block alone, some houses have languished on the market for two years.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised that everyone who is trying to get out from under a soggy mortgage isn’t aware of St. Joseph by now. 

I’m actually a big fan of Catholic saints who have been an integral part of my massively multi-religious Judeo-Catholic-Protestant family.  (No Muslims, alas, but we’d welcome some.)  If it looks like a saint can get the job done, well, we’re all for it.  Last year, I wrote about a hot tip I got about hanging my rosary beads on the clothes line (I had to sub in an orange tree since we’re zoned against clothes lines) to guarantee good weather for a family wedding.  And it worked!  I am not willing to concede for a millisecond that it was La Jolla’s statistically good weather and not the saints’ doing.

I first heard about St. Joe two years ago from a Jewish friend who said that her son had been transferred across the country and couldn’t sell his west coast home.  Two mortgages were eating him alive.  Finally his realtor advised him to buy a statue of St. Joseph, bury it upside down  in the back yard, and say a little prayer over it regarding the wish for a timely offer on the house.  For someone Jewish to buy a statue of St. Joseph was hard enough and he initially just put it in a closet hoping this would suffice.  Still no offers.  Desperate, he finally went out and buried the statue as instructed, and awkwardly mentioned to the little patch of bare earth below him that, if it were not too much trouble, it would be really nice if he could have an offer on his house.  An offer – and house sale – came hours later.

Well, maybe it was days later.  Or even weeks later.  Details schmeetails.  The house sold.

If you go on the internet and type “St. Joseph” you will find pages of hits, mostly from people who want to sell you some version of the official St. Joseph Real Estate Kit.  These generally include a plastic St. Joseph statue in either the four or eight inch size, along with instructions which are pretty much summed up in one paragraph but dragged out into booklet length with testimonials. 

Tales of miracles abound.  Unfortunately, variations on the instructions abound too.  Some insist he has to be buried in the back yard, others the front yard, yet others near the For Sale sign.  Along with property-value-crushing clothes lines, La Jolla is zoned against For Sale signs so this could be a problem locally.  There are those who insist St. Joe has to be buried exactly twelve inches deep.  A few even prefer him lying flat on his back, which would definitely be easier for those of us with clay-like soil, or anybody selling a house in winter faced with chiseling a plastic statue into the permafrost.

All of this raises burning questions.  Does the larger size St. Joe work faster?  Do you un-bury him if the house sells?  If you don’t, do the new owners find themselves inexplicably hounded by unsolicited offers? Inquiring minds want to know.

And why upside down?  One site maintains that by burying him upside down he works harder to get out.  Frankly, if I were St. Joe, I’d be working just as hard if I were right side up. 

What I like about St. Joe is that he appears to be an equal opportunity saint.  Unless, of course, you’re trying to unload a high rise condo.  For you it’s bubkes.  No soil, no sale.

But hey, if I were in Year Two of trying to sell a three million dollar La Jolla house, I might just order a St. Joseph statute and have the gardener bury him.  Or this being La Jolla, a truck load of St. Josephs and go for the carpet bombing, er burying approach.  Because at least one of those guys probably really wants to get out.

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