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posted: 4/13/2012 1:52 AM

About real estate: Some home sellers turn to a saint to help find a buyer

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Some owners will swear on a stack of Bibles that burying a statue of a popular patron saint in a yard can trigger a pilgrimage of buyers to a seller's front door.

Q. We have had our home on the market for months, but haven't even gotten a nibble from a buyer. My neighbor was having the same problem until he followed the advice of a friend and buried a statue of St. Joseph in his yard, and the property sold just a few days later. Does this practice really work?

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A. I get this type of question every few years, usually when sales are slow and sellers are desperate. My answer is always the same: Burying a likeness of St. Joe in the yard won't necessarily bring buyers flocking to your door, but it won't hurt your marketing chances either.

With Easter's arrival, it's a good time to look at the issue again.

No one is sure how the practice got started, although many experts trace it back to a group of European nuns in the Middle Ages who are said to have buried a medal of St. Joseph -- the patron saint of home and family -- in a quest for land to build a new convent. The land was supposedly soon granted by a feudal landlord.

Yet, even true believers disagree over how the small statue should be placed. Some say it should be buried with the face looking toward the home to protect the family, while others say it should be planted with eyes facing the street so St. Joe can view potential buyers and welcome them to come in.

Many real estate agents who believe in the concept also say the statue should be planted upside-down, because Joseph will work even harder to find a buyer so he can "right himself" and get out of the soil.

Some folks believe the practice is tantamount to blasphemy. But for the record, officials of the Catholic Church say they don't have a problem with it -- as long as the statue is dug up, cleaned and placed on a mantle or other place of prominence when the sellers move into their next home.

Q. We purchased a home late last year, but we got a late start working on our tax return and there's no way we can meet this year's April 17 deadline. How can we get an extension?

A. It's easy. Virtually everyone automatically qualifies for an extension to Oct. 15 by filling out Internal Revenue Service Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. But you must still estimate your tax bill, enclose a check for as much as you can (if you don't expect a refund) in the envelope you send to the IRS, and make sure that it's postmarked by 11:59 p.m. on this year's April 17 deadline.

You can order the form by calling the agency at (800) 829-3676, or by downloading it from www.irs.gov.

Although an extension will buy you an extra six months to file your return, it's important to note that you will owe interest on any underpayment. And if you underpay by more than 10 percent, you may be subject to a penalty as well.

Q. Is it true that mowing a lawn when it's wet from dew or a spring rain will kill the grass?

A. It won't kill the entire yard, but it can certainly lead to balding in some areas. Mowing when the lawn is wet often compresses the soil, which then shuts down oxygen to the roots and thus makes the grass turn brown or even die.

There are other reasons why you shouldn't mow a wet lawn. More than 200,000 people are injured each year in mower-related accidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, often because they slip on wet grass and break an ankle or -- worse -- they fall and their foot or hand gets caught under a power mower with a blade that can spin at more than 200 miles an hour.

Q. I like the idea of creating the type of basic living trust that you often write about so my kids can inherit my home without having to spend all that time and money on probate proceedings. But when I visited a lawyer about creating the trust, he said it would cost about $6,000. Isn't that kind of expensive?

A. It sure is. Lawyers typically charge between $1,200 and $2,000 to set up a basic trust, according to experts at the authoritative Nolo legal-publishing firm, so you could probably save a lot of money by checking with a few other attorneys.

You could save even more if you're willing to do some of the work yourself. Many computer stores sell easy-to-use trust-making software for about $50. Nolo sells a program for $65, or you can do it online at www.nolo.com for $60, and the company will save it in its database for two years in case you want to later amend it.

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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