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Will St. Joseph Sell Your House?

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joseph patron saint of real estateWill your Minnesota REALTOR sell your house?

The practice of burying a St. Joseph statue in the ground and offering novenas for real estate needs began hundreds of years ago in Europe. Groups of nuns who needed to acquire more land for convents began burying St. Joseph medals in the ground of properties they wished to gain. St. Joseph is the patron saint of families, and the patron saint of workers, so St. Joseph was the obvious choice for patron saint of families with real estate needs.

The practice continues to this day, and the medals have been replaced by small plastic statues of St. Joseph that can be purchased in bulk over the internet. The practice became very popular in the 1980′s, and a profusion of variation on the ritual surfaced. Some insisted that the statute be placed upside down; others insisted that it be facing the street. An ancient solemn ritual became the subject of superstitious speculation. Of course, for the faithful, the positioning of the statue was not important; the true power of the ritual is simply an act of faith in the power of God. And, of course, the property would need to be fairly priced and updated or repaired with as much care as possible. Many homeowners and REALTORS are absolutely convinced that this practice works. Even REALTORS who have few religious inclinations will employ this ancient ritual. There are even real estate agents who believe that the intercessions of St. Joseph helped them sell their own properties.

Of course skeptics will scoff, and some of our Protestant friends will claim that this is some sort of idolatry or necromancy. But before you guffaw, I would like to introduce you to a very dark art- the black magic art of real estate statistics. This dark art becomes even darker as it attempts to explain and even quantify causality regarding what makes homes sell. Some really strange and mysterious numbers are conjured up.

You might read ads that say some things like “XYZ homes sell 23% faster than homes sold by other companies.” ( Perhaps they did not mention that they sold only one home for the year!)The National Association of REALTORS claims that homes listed by REALTORS sell for 14% more than those sold by owner (I can’t remember the exact statistic.) Of course, it is just common sense that a professional Minnesota real estate agent will have more resources available, more tme to spend on marketing, and will probably generate more offers, and therefore a better price. But what about the “14%?” Where do those sorts of statistics come from, and who makes them? Is this really empirical data? Is there a ‘control’ group? Have all of the confounding variables been removed? In other words, were all of the homes studied exactly identical in terms of style, color, condition, age, location, etc? Were they all exposed to identical buyers at the exact same time under identical market conditions? Were they all priced exactly the same? Are there other factors not even considered? For example, do sellers who use REALTORS tend to own more expensive homes in the first place? If that is the case, the whole causality argument is now very much in question. The “scientific” study looks more like pseudoscience and hocus pocus.

Sometimes, agents read an ad for a marketing gimmick that says something like “Homes that have a Squawking Box Internet Radio Brochure sell 23% faster.” Faster than what? Who does those studies? Does the outfit that reports these statistics have anything to gain? Even the National Association of REALTORS uses studies conducted by those who stand to gain according to certain results.

Now, if a homeowner uses a certain technique, and suddenly gets a good offer, it will be hard to disabuse him of his notion of causality. Likewise, the person who sees miraculous results after petitioning St. Joseph will be convinced that the benevolent patron saint is the cause.

Do I believe that St. Joseph can help you sell Minnesota real estate? You bet! I challenge you to prove me wrong!

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