Homegrown Infomercials Aid Desperate Seller

Desperate home sellers are resorting to novel real estate marketing strategies these days -- including filming their own infomercials. For example, when Gary O'Neal decided to sell his 19th-century estate on a 30-acre mountaintop in rural New Hampshire, complete with historic chapel and a ton of religious history, clearly he needed more than a prayer to attract buyers.

A few years ago, after his mill flooded, O'Neal decided to sell Crestwood for $3.5 million. That was before the real estate market collapsed and prices cratered. The last offer was $2.5 million from a Baptist church, but "they just couldn't put the deal together in the end," says O'Neal. They only wanted 19½ acres and "wanted me as part of the deal." O'Neal told them, "We don't do indentured servants anymore in New England!"

Now O'Neal is marketing Crestwood in an unconventional way. No more Realtors, no Multiple Listing Service. O'Neal teamed up with Reelife Productions to make a series of infomercials aimed at -- are you ready? -- the Asian market. Here's his thinking: There are a lot of students in private schools
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in the northeast, many of considerable means. He has had the infomercial translated into four languages -- Japanese, Russian, Chinese, and Korean -- and is sending it around the globe.

"I figure they can fly here in a helicopter, and have very little contact with the community," says O'Neal. "And buy."

Crestwood is a 116-year-old estate which sits on the top of Scofield Mountain with glorious views of three states: Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It was built and owned by Cyrus Ingersol Scofield, a 19th-century religion scholar, who created the Scofield Reference Bible at Crestwood.

In 1895, Crestwood was one of the first residences in tiny Ashuelot, N.H., to have gas light, utilizing miles of zinc galvanized pipes and carbonic acid gas. In the late 1920s, the estate was purchased by the Count and Countess Phillippe Videl, who owned it for about five decades. O'Neal bought the property in the 1970s after the couple died.

Though only in his 20s, O'Neal set about making Crestwood into a glorious retreat, bed and breakfast, and charming wedding chapel.

After Realtors tried but were unsuccessful at selling this most unusual property, the price cratered from a firm offer of $3.5 million for 19½ acres to, as O'Neal puts it, "being dead" in the New York Times online edition listed for $800,000. Say O'Neal, "I had to do something different."

So far, so good. He says he's had more responses from his infomercial than he had from any print advertising. There's no cash left in this area, says O'Neal; to sell the estate, it's going to take a global buyer. He is also targeting alumni newsletters and magazines, and using students to help him enhance his web presence.

"We've had a few tweets, and it's posted online," says O'Neal. "We are hopeful."

Candy is an award-winning, Dallas-based real estate reporter, blogger, and consultant. She's the gal who brought House Porn to the Bible Belt! Read more at SecondShelters.com. and send story ideas and tips to CandyEvans@secondshelters.com.

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