Several years ago, after many months of house-hunting, I finally found my winner. When I was on the premises for the home inspection, I chatted with the seller. She surprised me by explaining that she'd gotten a little help in her attempt to sell the house: from St. Joseph.
Maybe if I'd been a Catholic, I'd have known what she was talking about. But I'm not, and I didn't, so I asked. It seems that there's a not-so-uncommon practice among Catholics who are selling their homes: They bury a small statue of St. Joseph in their yard.
You don't just bury him, though. He needs to be facing the street, and ideally, he should be buried upside down.
I looked up this practice at Snopes.com, the repository for urban legends, and learned that this practice is actually gaining in popularity and that many real-estate agents are even recommending it to their clients.
The site offered an amusing anecdote:
Many who have experienced difficulty selling their homes have reported seemingly miraculous sales shortly after burying a statue of St. Joseph on their property. Stephen Binz's 2003 book, Saint Joseph, My Real Estate Agent, is replete with many such examples. However, one tale included in the book -- which might well be apocryphal -- points out that everything doesn't always go as planned. One impatient man moved his statue from the front yard to the back yard to the side of the house and finally threw it in the trash. A few days later the frustrated seller opened the newspaper and saw the headline "Local Dump Has Been Sold."
It also noted that:
Prudent agents also recommend the following advice in addition to burying Joe: "For this practice to be fully effective, the seller must, of course, first do such practical yet all important chores as completing all necessary fix-up, properly staging the home and finally, adjusting the price so as to exactly reflect market value."
I was happy to see this sensible additional advice. It's important, especially in the current real-estate environment, with many regions experiencing a tapering off or decline in home prices and the overall market turning from one for sellers to one for buyers.
More selling tips
Here are a few more tips for sellers:
- When you're sprucing up your home for sale, consider painting rooms with bland, neutral colors, such as white or beige. A deep red might look stunning to you, but it might not help prospective buyers imagine themselves and their belongings living in the house. For not too much money, you can dress up your kitchen cabinets with new handles. You might also install new faucets and perhaps some inexpensive new lights, too, if the old ones look ... old. Clean grout in the shower and replace any moldy caulking. Make the house sparkle.
- Spruce up your home's exterior, too. If it doesn't look inviting from the outside, prospective buyers may not even give the inside a chance.
- Transform the interior. Remove personalizing details, such as lots of family photos. These can get in the way of prospective buyers' attempts to picture themselves living in the space. Remove clutter, too, even if you have to rent a local storage unit to do so. It can be even more effective if you go so far as to remove most or all of the books in your bookcases, and much of what's in cabinets and closets. Empty kitchen and bathroom counters, too. You want them to seem roomy. The house needn't be depressing, though. Consider some bouquets of fresh flowers to dress it up.
Some other tactics that many sellers or agents use include baking cookies on days when the house will be shown, so that the lingering aroma will evoke good, homey feelings. A more drastic tactic in a strong buyer's market is offering an enticement with the home, such as a new car.
If you're interested in home-buying and -selling issues, visit our Home Center, which features lots of money-saving tips and even some special mortgage rates. Our Buying or Selling a Home discussion board should also be of interest.
You might also want to check out these articles:
- Buying a House Is Easy!
- So You Want to Be a Landlord?
- A Mover's Survival Kit
- 10 Things to Know About Mortgages
- 10 Home Enhancement Tips
And finally, if you're thinking about buying real estate as an investment, consider an alternative that you can get into and out of much more easily: real-estate-focused mutual funds. Champion Funds recommendation Third Avenue Real Estate Fund
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any company mentioned. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.