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Even in a seller’s market, selling a house can be a lengthy ordeal. From catching up on those repairs you’ve put off for years, to staging, showings and longing to get competitive offers, the process can leave you wanting assistance. The commonality of the experience gave rise to a tradition that has become part of home-selling folklore — the act of burying a St. Joseph statue in the yard to help a house get sold.
In many ways it’s understandable that faith would enter into the process. Afterall, finding a buyer who loves your home enough to pay top dollar within a relatively short period of time does seem to involve the element of chance. So, instead of leaving things up to the lottery of life, some sellers invoke the help of a higher power.
As it turns out, while there are aspects of the home selling process that are out of your control, there are many things that you can control, and excellent resources to help you all along the way. However, faith could play a role too, especially with the right intentions.
For those who are interested in trying their hand at this long-held tradition, here’s everything you need to know about burying a statue of St. Joseph to get your home sold.
What is a St. Joseph Statue?
Venerated as a saint by several Christian traditions, St. Joseph is a biblical figure that many recognize as a figurine in Christmas nativity scenes — the strong, silent type keeping protective watch over his wife Mary and the cherished newborn in the manger.
As the patron saint of carpenters — who happen to build houses — as well as families and working people, St. Joseph also came to be considered the patron saint of home sellers. Many religiously devout people have statues of various sizes to honor the saint, and sometimes the statues are buried as part of a practice considered helpful when selling a home. This is likely because Joseph had to uproot his family several times and make a home in strange new lands, as the story goes.
What is the history of burying a St. Joseph statue to sell a house?
There tends to be an abundance of lore around the figure of St. Joseph who is said to often appear in the nick of time to help the faithful when they run into carpentry challenges, for example.
In one version of how people came to start burying his effigy, St. Teresa of Avila, a nun in the 1500s was having trouble finding land for a new convent and started praying to St. Joseph and burying blessed medals of him, and encouraged other nuns to follow suit. Shortly thereafter, the right parcel was found, and the practice was more widely adopted, which eventually morphed into statue burial.
Fast forward to modern times, people with even loose religious ties believe that burying a St. Joseph statue can help them with a home sale. It’s hard to say how widespread the practice is, but it became trendy in the 1990s and there’s still ample demand for the statues from sellers who often purchase them from online retailers.
However, there’s mixed sentiment among Catholics about the tradition. For some, as long as the statue burial is done as a kind of prayer to St. Joseph, it’s a legitimate application of faith. But to others, it’s an expression of a superstition like carrying around a rabbit’s foot for good luck that’s against the Church’s teachings.
Regardless of your view on the matter, be forewarned that some may find the idea of burning statues of saints (especially upside down as we’ll explain below) to be offensive.
What’s the proper way to bury a St. Joseph statue to sell a house?
Since the ritual isn’t an official religious tradition, there’s no one way to go about burial. But according to online sources, it needn’t be complicated.
Step 1: Purchase and prepare the statue
Buying a small — mere inches in height — statue is advisable, because the last thing you want is to be digging a giant hole in your yard when you’re trying to sell it. Afterall, buyers may take notice and either think the disturbed section of ground is unsightly or suspicious, and explaining may be a tad uncomfortable.
You can purchase one from a Catholic supply store or online retailer, and some even come with a burial kit. Protect the statue by wrapping it in a towel or plastic bag to show reverence, and choose a place in your yard to bury it.
Step 2: Bury the statue
Here are some popular places or positions according to the tradition:
- Bury him next to the for sale sign. (Makes sense)
- Bury him near the road with the statue facing away from the house to symbolize leaving.
- Some bury him upside down, suggesting he’ll free himself by getting the house sold.
- Bury him right-side up but lying on his back, facing or pointing toward the house.
- Choose a spot three feet away from the rear of the house or near a flower bed. (Soil may be looser)
- If you’re selling a condo, burying the statue in a flower pot is an option.
Pro tip: If you opt for a larger statue, remember to call your local utility companies before you dig to make sure there aren’t any underground power, water or telecommunications lines that could be damaged in the process.
Step 2 option: Display the statue
If you’re especially devout or just concerned about potentially disrespecting someone else’s faith, consider just keeping the statue unburied in your home. You can even select a spot near the front door to signify that you’ll be leaving the home soon, or by a window looking out at the for sale sign.
Step 3: Pray or recite
Now for the part that was likely St. Teresa’s primary intention in the first place: Pray.
If you bought a kit it may have come with a prayer card you can recite. If not, and you can’t think of any pious words on your own, a quick internet search will yield some prayers you can say to invoke the saint’s intercession.
Some people reportedly say threatening prayers demanding that the saint get their home sold, but ordinary humble prayers are more standard practice (and less foolish).
Repeat daily until the house sells. Alternatively, you can also recite a nine-day novena, which is a set of different prayers recited over a nine-day period. There are also prayers to St. Joseph specifically imploring for help selling a house that have sprung up. Again, not all of the prayers might be official in any religious capacity but if you find yourself drawn to one — go for it.
Step 4: Retrieve the statue
When your home does sell, remember to retrieve the statue before departure, out of respect, and so the house doesn’t potentially get stuck in an endless sale-and-purchase loop, as the lore suggests. You also can say a prayer of thanks and take the statue with you to your new home, if you’re so inclined.
Although the proper course of action is to retrieve the statue from the ground once the house is sold, the exact timing of this is up to interpretation. One source recommends digging it up as soon as “the contract is signed and the final details are in order.”
How common is it for home sellers to bury a St. Joseph statue?
While there aren’t any scientific studies to determine the frequency of the practice, it’s anecdotally been relatively common over the past three decades, with some real estate agents even buying statues in bulk to give to their sellers.
The results of the practice are, however, varied. One St. Joseph statue kit sold online got 85% five-star ratings out of a total of nearly 9,000 reviews, with many people excitedly reporting that their home sold soon after employing the tradition, and for above asking at that.
For the more moderate ratings, some people’s experiences were less indicative of the statue contributing to a positive outcome, while a smaller share of negative reviews said the tradition had failed them. Many expressed shock and awe at how well it worked and expressed prayerful gratitude. One reviewer (who likely wasn’t a purchaser) was offended by the whole thing.
In one mixed review from an online retailer, a man got frustrated waiting on St. Joseph’s intervention, dug up the statue and threw it in the trash. Shortly after, the local dump where the statue ended up, got sold!
Is burying a St. Joseph statue right for you?
Whether or not to bury a St. Joseph statue to help you sell your home is an entirely personal decision, even if your agent offers you a complimentary one. Anyone can opt to carry out the tradition regardless of religious affiliation, though cultivating some feeling of connection to the saint would make sense.
The good news for those who want to try it is that the statues are inexpensive to come by, costing as little as a few dollars for a small plastic one. Larger, more intricate craftsmanship can run hundreds.
While the steps to following the tradition are relatively simple, religiously devout individuals might want to get their statues blessed by a priest or spiritual advisor before burial. If you plan on keeping the statue following the sale, displaying it in your home, consider spending a bit more on a statue that’s professionally crafted.
For those who opt not to bury, but still want to honor St. Joseph in some way during the home selling process, there are other methods:
- Since the color red is associated with St. Joseph’s spiritual power, you can plant red flowers or add a splash of red on a door or mailbox.
- Add red elements to your staging — even if it’s just red flowers in a vase.
- Get a red for sale sign.
- Plant some lilies in a flower bed, since they too are associated with the saint.
- St. Joseph pastries also known as Zeppole di San Giuseppe are traditional Italian cream-filled pastries from the Campagna region typically eaten on March 19 — St. Joseph’s feast day. Making some to share with your agent would be a nice touch.
Partner with a top agent to add selling power to your prayers
While burying a St. Joseph statue to help sell your home is an optional move based on personal beliefs and preferences, getting the help of a top selling agent is essential.
A professional, seasoned agent can lend their expertise on the whole process — from what maintenance or remodeling items to prioritize to staging, pricing, showing and more. In short, a great real estate agent is one of the best guarantees your house will get sold.
HomeLight can assist you in finding a great agent with tools backed by data on millions of housing transactions nationwide. Using HomeLight’s Agent Match gives you a powerful tool in your journey toward a fast and lucrative sale. Just don’t forget your St. Joseph’s statue on moving day!
Header Image Source: (Michael O’Sullivan / Unsplash)