Sellers get creative: Desperate to unload their homes, sellers are trying everything from auctions to essay contests

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Two years ago, Ray Sinclair and his wife, Sharon, put their
Yachats, Ore., beach house on the market -- just in time for the housing slump.
"Everybody who saw the house loved it, but nobody could afford it," says
Sinclair, who listed the 1,967-square-foot house for $600,000, then dropped the
price to $539,000. Still, the house sat.




Two years ago, Ray Sinclair and his wife, Sharon, put their

Yachats, Ore., beach house on the market -- just in time for the housing slump.

"Everybody who saw the house loved it, but nobody could afford it," says

Sinclair, who listed the 1,967-square-foot house for $600,000, then dropped the

price to $539,000. Still, the house sat.

Write a memorable 100-word essay, and this beach house in Yachats, Ore., could be yours. Credit: Ray Sinclair

Then, while lying awake one night worrying about the house,

Sinclair got an idea: Why not give it away in an essay contest? If enough

people paid the entry fee, he’d earn market value. “At that point I decided

anything was better than having the house just sitting there,” he says.

To be sure, many sellers are coming to the same realization

these days. With home prices still falling and the supply of houses on the

market still increasing, sellers are looking beyond traditional sales tactics

in an effort to distinguish their homes from a sea of others. They’re

auctioning off houses to the highest bidders, giving away freebies and offering

personal loans.

Cyberhomes.com asked the experts to weigh in on what methods

work for sellers—and whether any of them represent a good deal for buyers.

Essay contests: Roses

are red, your house is blue …

Sinclair made sure he did everything by the book. He hired

an attorney, formed a corporation, recruited three independent judges and launched

a website, www.win-this-home.com. Five months and $40,000 later, the contest

commenced on January 2.

Entrants have until the end of April to pay $200 and submit

an essay of 100 words or less about why they should own this house. Ideally,

the Sinclairs will collect 3,000 entries -- enough to cover the value of the house

and the fees associated with the contest. If they don’t make that target, the

Sinclairs will refund the prize money, all of which is in escrow.

As of early February, the couple had a little over 360

essays. But Sinclair is hopeful that things will pick up. "We had 40 people

come see the house on Super Bowl Sunday," says Sinclair. "Word is getting out."

Advice to sellers:

The process takes a lot of work, and money, up front with no guaranteed

success. "But I could see people getting into something like this," says Robert

Irwin, author of The Armchair Real Estate

Investor. Just be realistic about your home’s appeal. If it’s a historic

gem, it may inspire essayists. If it’s a cookie-cutter home in the suburbs, not

so much. (Bottom Line: A lot of work, with uncertain outcome.)

Advice to buyers:

Make sure the owners have set up a legitimate contest. Then, if you can part

with the entry fee and pen an essay for a house you don’t need but can afford

to maintain, go for it, says Irwin. “Heck, I might send in my own essay.”

(Bottom Line: There is a lot of upside here. If you understand all of the caveats, go for it!)

Continued on Page 2

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