HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Frustrated by a nationwide housing slump, a western Maryland couple is selling raffle tickets for their $390,000 house and hoping they'll sell enough $100 tickets to get the farmhouse off their hands.
Dennis Kelly and Karen Crawford put the four-bedroom house for sale for $425,000 a year and a half ago. But they say the housing slowdown means they haven't had any takers. The house is now valued at $390,000.
"We had showings every weekend and we couldn't get a buyer," Crawford told The (Hagerstown) Herald Mail. "It's part of what's happening today."
Crawford read a story in the newspaper about an Ohio couple who offered their farm for sale in an essay contest, and she got the idea for a raffle.
Crawford approached a local charity, the San Mar Children's Home in Boonsboro, about helping in the raffle. Any extra money raised through raffle ticket sales will be given to the home.
"We would be foolish not to embrace this opportunity that has presented itself to us," said Bruce Anderson, executive director of San Mar.
Cynthia Moler, the couple's Realtor, said the raffle has been approved by Maryland gaming authorities.
"This is going to sell their house, and it's going to raise a lot of money for San Mar," she said.
Moler said the raffle offers a total of five prizes. The four-bedroom house will go to the grand-prize winner. Second prize is a 2008 Toyota Camry, third prize is a Persian rug, the fourth is furniture and the fifth prize is $1,000 cash — all offered to raffle organizers by a local car dealership and furniture store.
The winners will be drawn in March at an annual dinner benefiting San Mar, which provides foster care services and teaches school to several dozen students.
Anderson said the proceeds would be used to build a new gymnasium and classroom, plus new housing for some of the students.
Crawford told the newspaper she plans to meet the winner.
"I'm just anxious to see their joy," she said.
However, not all house raffles succeed. In 1996, a Sharpsburg funeral home owner joined with the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. to raffle off his pre-Civil War-era building to sell it, plus raise money for the fire company. The raffle fizzled, though, according the former owner, Major Osborne.
"We didn't really have enough interest," Osborne said. "We were told the Civil War people would just love to have a place in Sharpsburg. I think it was $100 a pop ... and I'm not even sure we sold half the tickets."
The Ohio contest that inspired Crawford's raffle has not been decided. However, homeowners Rose and Dennis Wallace said fewer people entered than they thought.
Moler said she'd work hard to make sure the Kelly-Crawford raffle gets enough publicity to turn a profit.
"That was then and this is now, she said. We're going to try to get national exposure to this. ... This is a really good cause," Moler said.