Write Home Essay Contest

Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna are among a small group to try this unconventional sales method. In 2015, for example, an innkeeper in Maine dispensed with her bed-and-breakfast through an essay contest; she had acquired it in the same fashion in 1993. Such contests are uncommon largely because they involve serious legwork, with no guarantee of success. Rather than hammer a “for sale” sign into the lawn and wait for the open house, these sellers have to set up and run a contest, generating enough buzz around a single property to convince thousands of people to gamble on it. Already, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna have had to extend their deadline, originally set for Jan. 31.

So far, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna, who live in New Jersey, have spent about $40,000. They hired a lawyer to establish rules and guidelines, judges to read the entries and a publicist to spark interest. They built a website with a promotional video showcasing the property and its surroundings, located in a gated community called the Chapin Estate. They declined to say how many people have submitted essays, as the contest is continuing.

The contest strategy has the potential to appeal to far more potential buyers than might otherwise purchase homes in the area. “I’m absolutely amazed by who enters these contests,” said Sara F. Hawkins, a lawyer in Phoenix, who has handled about five similar competitions, including the one in Bethel. “They’re from all over, all walks of life.”

In the promotional video, set to inspirational music, Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna walk hand-in-hand through the wooded property, roast marshmallows at a campfire and play horseshoes with friends. They have been trying to sell the property because they rarely visit it, which is due in part to the fact that they own two bed-and-breakfasts in Cape May, N.J. The house, just steps from a lake, has a log cabin-y feel, with vaulted ceilings and a stone fireplace.

The video makes it all seem so dreamy. But it also poses the question: If no one was willing to buy the property when it was listed for $825,000 in 2015, why would 5,500 people want to bid on it now?

It all comes down to money, Mr. Bares said.

“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,” he said. “I think that the pool is huge.”

But Christine Vande Vrede, a saleswomen at Chapin Sotheby’s International Realty, with offices in the Chapin Estate, doubts that the pool is so vast. “I don’t see this happening in this neck of the woods,” she said. Unlike internationally famous vacation spots like the Hamptons, people who buy homes in this part of the Catskills “have a regional knowledge,” she said. (Unless, of course, you consider Bethel’s claim to fame, as the actual location of the Woodstock festival in 1969.)

The Chapin Estate has sprawling Adirondack lodge-style homes spread across 20,000 acres of forested land with lakes and mountain views. One listing asks $6.75 million for a 14,400-square-foot compound with two homes, a horse stable and riding arena. A more modest one asks $775,000 for a three-bedroom lodge.

By contrast, Ms. Vande Vrede described 391 Woodstone Trail as “basically a three-car garage with a finished apartment above it.” She added that “what that home has to offer might not be what our clients are looking for.”

Mr. Bares paid around $750,000 for the land in 2007, before he met Ms. Lavorgna. He spent another $350,000 building the home. If the essay contest is successful, it will have raised nearly as much as the 2015 list price of $825,000. “They are trying to short circuit the market,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants, who described the contest as “more of a gimmick than a real contest.”

These types of contests are not without problems. A winner might not comprehend the tax implications, and ultimately be unable to afford the cost of owning and maintaining the property. Contestants who don’t win might challenge the results. There are complicated legal issues associated with holding a national contest, as laws vary from state to state. Without enough contestants, sellers would have to return hundreds, if not thousands, of checks, itself a daunting task.

Mr. Bares and Ms. Lavorgna see the contest as not only a way to sell a difficult property, but also as the start of a business venture. In addition to their two bed-and-breakfasts, they also own an interior design company. They have been featured on HGTV, on Caribbean Life and Flea Market Flip, where they won $5,000.

Using the essay contest as a model, they are designing an internet platform where sellers could list homes for sale by contest. Initial setup plans would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 for access to contest rules, legal plans, promotional materials, social media and a judging platform. Mr. Bares anticipates that the seller would ultimately pay about half the price of a broker’s fee, which is usually about six percent of the selling price.

Their hope rests on the notion that if people can turn their homes into ad hoc bed-and-breakfasts using platforms like Airbnb, what’s stopping them from selling their home in a game of skill? If the entry fee costs about the same as a night on the town, buyers just might take a chance. “Everyone seems to be looking for a deal these days,” Ms. Hawkins, the lawyer, said. “Why not this?”

Continue reading the main story
Correction: February 12, 2017

An article last Sunday about an essay contest to win a house in the Catskills misspelled the given name of the lawyer handling the competition. She is Sara F. Hawkins, not Sarah.

Topic

Why do we — as consumers of media — need to obtain news from multiple feeds and not just one or two outlets?

About the award

The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association want to increase high school students’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media to our lives. National winners of this essay contest receive scholarship awards.

Who is eligible?

All students enrolled in grades 9-12 in U.S. public, private and home schools within the United States. Students must submit original work.

Format?

The essay should be 300-500 words. Entries may be typed or handwritten but must be double-spaced.

Entering

Entries may be submitted online as a PDF using this form, or mailed to JEA headquarters using this form.

Each submission to the High School Essay Contest must be accompanied by a $5 entry fee. Entrants submitting online must use a credit card, and entrants submitting by mail may pay by check or credit card and should indicate the preferred payment option on the entry form. Checks should be made out to the Journalism Education Association. Entries submitted without the required entry fee will be disqualified.

Send mailed entries to:

Journalism Education Association
ATTN: SPJ/JEA High School Essay Contest
105 Kedzie Hall
828 Mid-Campus Dr. S
Manhattan, KS 66506

Deadline

Postmark/upload deadline: Feb. 23, 2018, 11:59 p.m. Central time/9:59 p.m. Pacific time.

Essays will be accepted beginning Nov. 3, 2017.

Award recognition

First Place: $1,000 scholarship
Second Place: $500 scholarship
Third Place: $300 scholarship

Scholarships are funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Winners will be notified via email, and the names of winners will be announced at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention. Winning essays also will be posted on jea.org and spj.org.

Official rules

Section I – General Rules

1. Contestants must enter through JEA headquarters.
2. Contestants must compose an original essay with limited guidance from others.
3. The Journalism Education Association and Society of Professional Journalists will have the right to edit, publish or otherwise duplicate any essay entered into the contest without payment to the author.
4. Due to the volume of entries received, only national winners will be contacted with the results.
5. The entry fee for this contest is $5 per essay.

Section II – Qualifications for Contestants

1. The contest is open to all students in grades 9-12 in public, private and home schools within the United States.
2. Contestants may submit only one essay entry during any given contest year.
3. No individual having previously won a national SPJ Essay Scholarship will be eligible to compete at any level of the competition again.

Section III – Contest Rules

1. Participants must write on the official topic.
2. Each entry must include the Contest Entry Title Page (entry form) or submit a cover page containing the same information found on the Entry Form.
3. Essays may be typewritten or legibly handwritten but must be double-spaced.
4. Essays must contain at least 300 words but no more than 500 words. Every word of the essay is counted. This does not include the title, bibliography or footnotes.
5. Any quotations or copyrighted material used in the essay must be identified properly. Failure to identify non-original material will result in disqualification.
6. Essays must be written in English.
7. Mailed entries must be stapled together in the upper left-hand corner.
8. Any protest in the conduct of the contest must be made immediately. The JEA executive director will decide all protests in conformity with the contest rules. The decision of the executive director is final, and no higher appeals will be recognized.

Section IV – Judging and Timing

1. Judging will be completed by a panel of qualified judges.
2. Judges will not discuss or compare essays being judged until all essays have been judged.
3. Only judges can assign a penalty or award points.

Section V – Scoring of Contest

Scoring procedures at all levels of the contest will be identical.
1. Material Organization (Logical interpretation of the subject, adherence to topic): 40 points
2. Vocabulary and Style (Phrasing and continuity): 30 points
3. Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling: 20 points
4. Neatness: 5 points
5. Adherence to contest rules (prepared in the proper format): 5 points

Recipients

2017

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner:
Lauryn Wu, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winners (tie): Aliza Diepenbrock, Spring Street International School, Friday Harbor, Washington; Carolyn Harper, Bob Jones High School, Madison
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Eileen Yang, Peddie School, Hightstown, New Jersey

2016

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Simon Levien, Sparta High School, Sparta, New Jersey
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: David Oks, The Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, New York
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Christine Condon, Dulaney High School, Timonium, Maryland

2015

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Matthew Zipf, Richard Montgomery High School, Rockville, Maryland. Read essay [PDF]
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Philip Kim, Paramus High School, Paramus, New Jersey. Read essay [PDF]
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Sania Chandrani, Parkview High School, Liburn, Georgia. Read essay [PDF]

2014

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Tianyu Lin of Milton Academy in Milton, Mass. Read essay [PDF]
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Phoebe Fox of La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls in Honolulu, Hawaii. Read essay [PDF]
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Jacob Bloch of Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, N.Y. Read essay [PDF]

2013

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Courtney Swafford of Write from the Heart in Wilmington, Del. Read essay [PDF]
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Anran Yu of Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. Read essay [PDF]
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Chuli Zeng of Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif. Read essay [PDF]

2012

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Hwasung (Daniel) Yoo of Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond, Va. Read essay [PDF]
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Niisackey Mills of South Plainfield High School in South Plainfield, N.J. Read essay [PDF]
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Dustin Chandler of East Burke High School in Connellys Springs, N.C. Read essay [PDF]

2011

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Emerson Hardebeck of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash. Read essay [PDF]
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Shaun Moran of St. Augustine Prep School in Richland, N.J. Read essay [PDF]
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Chris Papas of Oakton High School in Vienna, Va. Read essay [PDF]

2010

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Erin McDonough of Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Shaj Mathew of Huntingtown High School in Huntingtown, Md.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Xiaonan “April” Hu of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va.

2009

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Alix Cohen of Cypress Bay High School, Weston, Fla.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Victor Hollenberg of Staples High School, Westport, Conn.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Alyssa Patrick of Eisenhower High School, Yakima, Wash.

2008

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Mark Brouch, Aurora Central Catholic High School, Aurora, Ill.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Evan Rich, Jericho High School, Jericho, N.Y.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Danna Seligman, Newbury Park High School, Newbury Park, Ca.

2007

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: David Kelly, Broomfield High School, Broomfield, Colo.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Dan Garon, Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, Plymouth, Minn.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Erin Gowdy, Bob Jones High School, Madison, Ala.

2006

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Angelika Zych, Vanguard High School, in Ocala, Fla.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Jonathan Homrighausen of Sunnyside High School in Sunnyside, Wash.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Amy Brooks of Clayton High School in Clayton, Mo.

2005

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Mindy Zhang, Robinson Secondary School, Fairfax, Va.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Zachory John Drisko, Green Hope High School, Cary, N.C.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Katie Roberts, Home schooled, Walnut Shade, Mo.

2004

— First Place, $1,000 Scholarship Winner: Heather Hamilton, Sentinel High School, Missoula, Mont.
— Second Place, $500 Scholarship Winner: Logan Oyler, Hickory High School, Chesapeake, Va.
— Third Place, $300 Scholarship Winner: Joey Muffler, Bishop Ireton High School Alexandria, VA

2002

— First Place Winner: Jonathan Ross Kaplan, Nova High School, Davie, Fla.

2000

— First Place Winner: Katie Pennock, West Henderson High School, Hendersonville, NC

1999

— First Place Winner: Darcy Colson Baxter, Lansing Central High School (near Ithaca, N.Y.)

1998

— First Place Winner: Michael Anthony Fedele III, Northwestern High School, Rock Hill, S.C.

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