Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Falling Housing Market Creates Superstition

These types of stories are one reason that a lot of people have no regard for journalism. Do Wall Street Journal readers really need to know about some silly superstition about St. Joseph statues helping to sell homes?
Cari Luna is Jewish by heritage and Buddhist by religion. She meditates regularly. Yet when she and her husband put their Brooklyn, N.Y., house on the market this year and offers kept falling through, Ms. Luna turned to an unlikely source for help: St. Joseph.

The Catholic saint has long been believed to help with home-related matters. And according to lore now spreading on the Internet and among desperate home-sellers, burying St. Joseph in the yard of a home for sale promises a prompt bid. After Ms. Luna and her husband held five open houses, even baking cookies for one of them, she ordered a St. Joseph "real estate kit" online and buried the three-inch white statue in her yard.

"I wasn't sure if it would be disrespectful for me, a Jewish Buddhist, to co-opt this saint for my real-estate purposes," says Ms. Luna, a writer. She figured, "Well, could it hurt?"

With the worst housing market in recent years, St. Joseph is enjoying a flurry of attention. Some vendors of religious supplies say St. Joseph statues are flying off the shelves as an increasing number of skeptics and non-Catholics look for some saintly intervention to help them sell their houses.

Some Realtors, too, swear by the practice. Ardell DellaLoggia, a Seattle-area Realtor, buried a statue beneath the "For Sale" sign on a property that she thought was overpriced. She didn't tell the owner until after it had sold. "He was an atheist," she explains. "But he thanked me."

Statues of St. Joseph sold online can be as tall as 12 inches. One, made of colored resin, portrays St. Joseph cradling the baby Jesus. Yet most home sellers favor the simpler three- or four- inch replicas -- most of which are made in China and often depict St. Joseph as a carpenter.

Most statues come in a "Home Sale Kit" that is priced at around $5 and includes burial instructions and a prayer. One site, Good Fortune Online, recently added another kit with a statue of St. Jude -- known as the patron saint of hopeless causes -- "to help those with a difficult property to sell," the site says.

There are several other superstitious people quoted in the piece. I have to wonder where Journal reporter Sara Schaefer Muñoz dug them up from, one hopes that there isn't an online forum catering to them.

I can understand the human interest angle here but at the very least, Muñoz ought to have held their silly beliefs up to just a little bit of scrutiny.