How can prayers — and palms — hurt?
I have often been accused — and rightfully so — of mixing church and property in the printed word.
For example, I once documented how we went to great lengths to drag a Jesuit priest to a remote lake in the heat of summer to bless a benefit footrace we produced in an attempt to limit the chances a runner would expire at our finish line. Nary had a runner gone down in the 10 years we produced the event.
Several years ago, the same priest performed a sort of exorcism in our in-city home after we discovered that a former owner, a delightful man the neighbors called “Big John,” had been shot to death in the living room by his wife. (We like to make sure all suspect paths are as clear as possible.)
The exorcism wasn’t limited to the living room. Because the owner prior to Big John employed several “ladies of the evening,” our casual procession made its way through all of the bedrooms.
But the “religious” ritual that’s brought the most laughs and snickers from friends was one we performed all by ourselves seven years ago. It subsequently brought the most mail of any other column I wrote that year.
Working on a tip from an ex-Jesuit, a person I still consider very close to the Big Agent in the Sky, we buried palm leaves in the four corners of our lot to help speed its sale. It worked. After weeks of many lookers and no takers, a serious buyer made an offer and the deal was done. In addition, the buyers were represented by a veteran broker who smoothly executed the deal and became a close friend.
Kevin King, the man who passed along the palm tip, said, “The idea really came from the agent who was helping us sell our condo. This woman was a member of our church and her mom had buried palm leaves in her yard. We thought, ‘What the heck?’ We had made an offer on a house we really wanted, and we had to sell the condo to get the house. Right after we buried the palms, we got a full-price offer.”
Kevin and his wife, Maggie, buried palms in the four corners of their new lot. “We did it in thanksgiving and for a sense of closure,” Kevin said, adding, “I’m certainly not above a little holy water … a few prayers for the house.”
Comments from the column came in bunches. Sellers from all over the nation told their tales of how they cracked a difficult sales environment by “divine intervention.” Several had buried statues in the ground instead of palm leaves. One woman from Modesto, Calif., sent me the “St. Joseph: Underground Real Estate Agent.”
That same week, a friend of mine from Sonoma County, Calif., wine country called and said, “If things get really tough, St. Joe’s not the guy. You gotta go with St. Jude.” St. Joseph is the patron saint of the family and household needs. St. Jude is the patron saint of impossible situations.
With all of this information still spinning in my head, my mother-in-law called to interject that her mother once buried St. Anthony upside down in the mud so that he could “think about that new house” she wanted to buy in 1931. When everything worked out, she replaced the statue that had done the dirty work with a more expensive one from Italy and housed him in a beautiful garden grotto.
St. Anthony? (“Tony, Tony look around” … for a house?) Did she mean St. Francis? What about the hard cash people have been paying for St. Joseph? Just how tough must it be for St. Jude to enter the picture?
This is Easter weekend. You still have time to wander over to the local church and pick up a few leftover palm leaves. Even though the local housing market is sizzling in spots, you may find yourself in a cold neighborhood and in need of all the help you can get.
Tom Kelly, former real estate editor for The Seattle Times, is a syndicated columnist and talk-show host.
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