AUDIO: ‘Bury Joe’ to sell your house
June 17, 2008
• Modesto entrepreneur sells St. Joseph statues to those looking for heavenly help
• ‘There’s much more to this St. Joseph thing’
Philip Cates with a statue of St. Joseph
For home sellers who are desperately devout or devoutly desperate, Modesto mortgage banker Philip Cates has something he’d like them to bury.
Mr. Cates sells plastic statues of the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph. Home sellers desperate for any kind of nibble from a buyer are supposed to bury the statues near the “for sale” sign in the front yard, head down, “feet toward heaven,” he says.
Some aver that this, along with prayer, a good real estate agent and perhaps the right price will help sell their homes in a depressed economy.
Mr. Cates, who operates out of a modest suite of offices in a downtown Modesto building that house his Service 1st Lending office, says business, at least the statue selling business, is booming.
“It’s kind of my hedge bet for the mortgage industry, I would say,” he says.
He got the idea of selling statues of St. Joseph as an aid to selling homes in 1990 during a real estate slump, developing on a Midwest tradition of burying statues of the saint in the yards of homes that were for sale.
“Burying St. Joseph in the front yard is just one more way for people to ensure that their prayers for a quick sale come true. There is no harm in appealing to higher power for help," says Mr. Cates. “St. Joseph is something different for everybody.”
(Phil Cates talks about his statue business and the real estate market in today’s CVBT Audio Interview. Please click on the link below to listen or to download the MP3 audio file to your computer or iPod.)
“When I started this, I had no belief factor. It was merely a marketing idea. But as I’ve seen the testimonials over the years it’s put me in a position to understand that there’s much more to this St. Joseph thing than just merely burying a piece of plastic in the front yard,” he says.
Saying all he has used to market the statues has been word-of-mouth and media coverage, Mr. Cates says he is now “the largest seller of St. Joseph statues in the country.” His basic kit, with a four-inch statue, sells of $9.95.
The statues are made by a company in the Midwest and packaged in Manteca into the “St. Joseph: ‘The Underground Real Estate Agent’” kit, he says. The kit also includes a listing on his homes-for-sale website.
Mr. Cates says since he created the first St. Joseph “home selling kit” in 1990, he has sold “in the tens of thousands.”