Fairbanks couple offers home to winner of essay contest

FAIRBANKS -- An Alaska couple felt their home was too big once the kids moved away, so they're trying to sell. It's a familiar story. Their sale method, on the other hand, is anything but familiar: An essay contest.

Laurel Carlin and her husband are asking for $100 and a "hard luck" essay from each applicant. The winner gets the house. The catch is, they need a minimum of 3,000 essays.

That would net the couple $300,000, a tidy take that far exceeds the house's $200,000 assessed value, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

But the potential essayists have been suspicious -- only 200 essays have come in so far, and most of them are from Alaska.

If at least 3,000 essays come in by April 30, Bergstrom's parents will pick their favorite 10 to post on Facebook.

The writer of the essay who gets the most votes on Facebook will receive the four-bedroom 2,800-square-foot home. If fewer than 3,000 essays come in, Carlin said they will return the money.

The couple's daughter, Latisha Bergstrom, said the contest rules are based on the honor system, not any formal contract, a fact that has left some potential essay writers suspicious it's a scam. The contest routinely gets flagged as such when she tries to post about it on Craigslist.

They considered setting up the contest through a lawyer but decided it was not worth the expense, Bergstrom said. They expect locals to trust them.

"It's not like they (potential participants) don't know where we live," Bergstrom said Tuesday afternoon while sitting with her mother in the kitchen of the house. "I don't know why we'd take this potentially good thing and turn it into a crime. Nobody wants that."

Out-of-state applicants tend to be the most skeptical.

"People who live here (Fairbanks) just want to know basic things about the house. People in the (Lower 48) think it's a scam. They are very specific with their questions," Bergstrom said.

The essay-contest requirements aren't heavy on grammar or spelling, but sincerity will be judged most closely.

"Maybe you recently lost your home or job," Bergstrom said on the contest website. "Or maybe just the bad economy in general has (affected) your life, SUPER STORM SANDY? Or maybe you live in a 1-bedroom apt with 5 kids."

Laurel Carlin, who will pick the top 10 essays with her husband, said she's looking for "heartfelt" essays and has liked those she's seen so far.

"Most of the stories I've read," Carlin said, "I'd like to give the house to all of them."



Associated Press