What do you need to own a two-bedroom cabin on five-and-a-half acres of land in southeastern New York? For one lucky person, just $149 and a short essay.
Owners Andrew Bares and Kelly Lavorgna haven’t had much luck putting their Catskills vacation home on the market. After putting it up for sale twice in four years with no buyers, the couple decided to take a more interesting approach and host an essay contest. Alongside the entrance fee, applicants are asked to submit 200 words answering one question: “How would owning the lakefront dream home change your life?”
Bares and Lavorgna are not the first to try such an unconventional sales method. According to The New York Times, an innkeeper in Maine sold her bed-and-breakfast the same way.
“The reality is, somebody is going to win this house for $149,” Bares told The Times. But there are more than a few strings attached.
The prize would be treated as income, so the winner would be forced to pay income tax on it, which could be hefty depending on the winner’s annual income and what the cabin is appraised for. The winner would also have to pay about $11,000 per year on property taxes.
And that’s if they find a winner. In order for a contest like this to work, the couple has to generate a lot of buzz around their property and convince people that it’s worth the gamble. It seems tough considering they weren’t able to find a buyer in the first place, but Bares thinks it comes down to money.
“I do believe that there are at least 5,500 people who would be willing to pay $149 for a vacation house that’s within two hours of one of the great cities of the world,” Bares said. “I think the pool is huge.”
If they don’t attract the 5,500 people they need to bring in $819,500—almost as much as the $825,000 they listed it for in 2015—they plan to cancel the contest and give applicants a $100 refund. The remaining $49 is an “administrative fee,” which isn’t a total scam if you consider the amount of work the couple will have to go through to potentially return hundreds or even thousands of cheques.
There’s also a number of legal issues that come with hosting a nationwide contest, which is why they hired a lawyer to establish the contest’s rules and guidelines. They’ve also hired a publicist and built a website and promotional video to showcase the cabin’s vaulted ceilings, stone fireplace, and its 250-feet of waterfront.
So while the contest isn’t without its kinks, it does have potential to benefit one lucky entrant. Unfortunately for legal reasons that person can’t be Canadian.