Like many homeowners around the country, Gerry and Cindy Mann have found it difficult to sell their house during the past year.

So they decided to use a more creative sales approach: Buy their miniature replica of the home for $169,000, get the real thing thrown in for "free."

"After a year I was thinking, I don't know, I have this dollhouse sitting in my basement, let me see if I can do some creative marketing," Gerry Mann, 60, told the Battle Creek Enquirer for a story Tuesday. He is an assistant superintendent at Battle Creek Public Schools.

The Manns, who are planning to retire to Brighton, are caught in the same housing slump that has gripped the nation for the past couple of years. Area home sales are at their lowest levels since 1991, according to the Michigan Association of Realtors.

Cindy Mann's father, the late Ron Caldwell, fashioned the dollhouse to resemble the home. Using a scale of 1 foot to 1 inch, he built the model about 15 years ago for the couple's three now-grown children to enjoy.

The retired engineer toiled for more than a year on the structure. He cut the wooden swinging closet doors, trimmed the sandpaper shingles and wired the electric fixtures himself.

The Manns estimate the dollhouse is worth a couple thousand dollars. They are hoping that the addition of their digs will ease the pain of the $167,000 markup.

"I've seen funny signs, like, 'Hey, honey, stop the car,' but I haven't seen anything like this," said Matt Davis, president of the Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors' Board of Directors. "I mean, it's a pretty creative idea, and God bless 'em if it works."