Real estate agents pushing to keep homes moving in a slowing market are increasingly looking for divine intervention.
Local religious supply stores say sales are up for 4-inch-tall plastic figurines of St. Joseph. Some Catholics believe that burying the statues in a yard helps sell a house.
St. Joseph statues have always sold well, but they've moved even faster in recent months, said Beth Kuczkowski, president of the Village Dove Inc., with stores in Broad Ripple, Fishers and on the south side.
Village Dove says it's selling about 250 figurines a month. Kits, which include a figurine, a prayer card and a small shovel, are selling even faster.
Kuczkowski said she recently stocked 12 kits per store and sold them all within two weeks. Figurines are a couple of dollars, while kits run as high as $15.
"At certain times of year, you sell more, or when there are big company transfers announced" that spur a wave of home-selling, she said.
St. Joseph was the husband of Mary, Jesus' mother. The origin of the tradition is murky. Some trace it to centuries ago, when a nun encouraged her companions to pray to St. Joseph for help to get land for new convents. As the story goes, the IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad nuns buried their St. Joseph medals and got the land they needed.
Addison, Ill.-based Roman Inc., a national distributor of Catholic merchandise, said sales for its four St. Joseph styles are up 40 percent so far this year after climbing 50 percent a year earlier. At Krieg Brothers Catholic Supply House Inc.'s downtown store, clerk Becky Oaldom said the item has been popular for the 10 years she's worked there.
But lately she's seeing more newcomers, including some non-Catholics, pick up the practice.
Oaldom is pleased St. Joseph gets attention, especially since his feast day on March 19 often gets overshadowed by St. Patrick's Day. But she hopes buyers consider the sanctity of the act.
"Unless you say the prayer [when burying the statue], it's just superstition," she said.
That's exactly what Diane White, a Realtor with F.C. Tucker Co., does. White said she appreciates the chance to bring her spiritual beliefs to work.
White asks each homeowner if she can bury a figurine. If she receives permission, she says a prayer and buries it at the same corner outside each home. When a home sells, she digs up the figurine and gives it to the departing owners to display in their new home.
"I tell them they can put it on the mantel," she said. "It brings a spiritual component to their new home."