‘Why I want to own your house;’ Ontario couple unloading home via essay contest

·National Affairs Contributor
Front of house

You have to hand it to Calvin and Diana Brydges, who've come up with a cunning plan to sell their home in a soft market.

The couple, who run a thrift store in Aylmer, a town of about 7,100 southwest of Toronto, have decided against rolling the dice by listing their home conventionally.

Instead, they've set up a contest where would-be homeowners can submit essays about why they think acquiring the house would benefit them, the Globe and Mail reports.

There is, of course, a catch. The entry fee for the contest is $100 and the writing competition won't go ahead unless the Brydges get 3,000 entries. The total fee haul then would just happen to add up to the three-bedroom bungalow's $300,000 assessed value.

The Globe says the couple has 200 entries so far, with the deadline set for Aug. 31. The contest is being promoted on its own Essay House Facebook page.

[ Related: Canada home sales slump, growth in household debt grows ]

CBC News reports the couple wants to move to Barrie, north of Toronto, and had tried unsuccessfully for two years to sell their home via a real estate agent.

"And we were sitting down one night and we were actually watching a movie called The Spitfire Grill where this old lady was trying to sell her inn and she had come up with the idea to do through an essay." Diane Brydges told CBC News.

"We both looked at each other and the lights just went on and we thought 'Why can't we do that here?' "

The 1996 film stars Ellen Burstyn as the small-town restaurant's owner and it's worth noting the scheme doesn't come off quite as planned.

The Brydges, who are semi-retired, say they turned up similar home-sales ploys in the United States, such as this one in Fairbanks, Alaska. The organizers hoped for at least 3,000 entries at $100 a pop by the April 30 deadline but Newsminer.com reported last month they've received fewer then 200.

In Britain, homeowners have turned to trying to raffle off their houses, according to the Telegraph.

The Brydges say they've consulted with lawyers to make sure their contest is legal. Apparently the key is demonstrating it's not a game of chance but a contest of skill, the Globe said.

“Your skill is, convince us with your essay how the house will benefit you,” Calvin Brydges said.

[ More Brew: English language debated, faces uncertain future in Quebec with proposed rules ]

The couple have disqualified their family and friends from entering and chosen a friend to collect the entries, log details and remove the names of entrants to ensure there's no bias in their judging.

If the number of entries exceed 3,000, the Brydges promise to donate the extra money to charity, the Globe said. And if they fall short, the entrants will get their money back, minus a $7 processing fee.

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