COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — What if you were told you could own a 6,200-square-foot home on almost 5 acres of property, complete with an indoor pool?
That dream could be a reality — not if the price is right, but if the essay is right.
Tim and Deanna Railing are giving away their custom-built log cabin in Columbus to one lucky contestant.
The contest costs $150 to enter. They’re asking people to write a 250 word or less essay on “A Life Well Lived.”
The deadline is Nov. 16, 2015. The couple will only give the house away to a winner if they receive a minimum of 4,500 entries. If they don’t reach 4,500 entries, the $150 fee will be refunded.
A panel of anonymous judges, not including the couple selling the home, will choose the essay winner.
“We decided we didn’t want any part of the judging for this essay. We want to be impartial. We might read some of them because they’re going to be fun to read,” said Deanna Railing.
“The theme of the contest is ‘A Life Well Lived.’ We chose that theme in particular because it would not limit the scope of the winner. It would actually open it up. The person can be any story, and we’re hoping it will be a positive story,” said Tim Railing.
The Railings said they saw the idea on the news when someone in Maine did something similar.
Deanna said, “To me, he (Tim) is the epitome of a life well lived, and I thought I want to hear more people’s stories like that.”
The house is located west of downtown Columbus, between Columbus and Nashville.
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With the $150 entree fee and requirement for 4,500 entries, the couple would make at least $675,000 — the list value of the home — in entree fees before giving the home to the contest winner.
One seemingly unstoppable real estate trend this year has been the write-an-essay-win-a-housecontest, in which homeowners who want to sell their properties in a quicker, more meaningful, or potentially more profitable transaction "gifts" the house to the winning essay writer while recouping costs by amassing entry fees (typically $100 to $200.) As it turns out, this is far from a new scheme. In fact, the folks who offered to give away their historic Maine inn last spring
—a headlining-making event that seemed to have spurred a string of similar contests in recent months—actually acquired the property through an essay contest to begin with, way back in 1993. It's just that the Internet and social media in particular make it easier for these endeavors to go viral and, more importantly, draw enough entries (and accompanying fees) to make it all worthwhile.
As detailed in a new story on The New York Times, however, these contests are not entirely as twee and feel-good as they appear on Facebook feeds. So you want to run or enter a win-a-house essay contest? You'd better read this.
1. First, the math—The Maine inn contest managed to draw over 7,000 entries, which translated into more than $906,000—or just about the property's estimated value. But according to the Times, many similar contests haven't been so successful. Without enough entries to recover costs, owners are often forced to terminate the contests and begin refunding entry fees. Oof.
2. It's not all warm-fuzzies—After the winner of the Maine inn was announced this past June, a Facebook group was created to unite people who thought the contest was rigged. "Fifteen complaints were lodged with the Maine attorney general's office, which led to an inquiry by the State Police," the Timesreports. (The State Police ultimately ruled everything lawful.) And a caveat for any potential contest winners: beware of sore losers. The lucky guy who now runs the Maine inn says losing contestants keep leaving one-star reviews of the place on TripAdvisor and paying him "nasty visits and phones calls."
3. In fact it's more like a part-time job—To avoid the kind of controversy seen in the Maine inn contest, a Virginian couple running a competition for their 35-acre horse farm has gone all out to ensure the process is completely legitimate. These measures include: hiring a trustee to accept entries and remove identifying details, establishing a panel of anonymous judges to make a final decision from 25 finalists chosen by the couple, and setting up a Facebook page that details all the rules for potential contestants. The couple reportedly spendsfour hours a day reading essay entries and explaining rules to possible entrants.
4. Beware, unexpected visitors—A Houston-based realtor who tried a win-a-house essay contest had this to say to the Times: "There were always people walking around and driving by slowly. If someone else does it, I would suggest maybe not living in the place."
5. There's a site for all this—Carolyn Berry, who's behind the Virginia horse farm contest, is chronicling win-a-house contests popping up across the country on this Facebook page; inevitably, she also updates when a contest has been canceled due to insufficient entries.
Do check out the full story on the New York Times.
∙ All House of the Day posts [Curbed]
∙ Write a 200-Word Essay, Win a Historic Inn in Maine [Curbed]
∙ Oh Great, Another of Those Write-an-Essay-to-Win-a-House Contests [Curbed]