Cedar Rapids Homeowner Trying to Sell Home with Essay Contest
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Is it a sign of home-selling desperation or a stroke of marketing genius?
One man who still owns a Cedar Rapids home despite moving out of state is hoping to unload the house with a raffle-like essay contest. First, and only prize, is the house itself.
Matthew Brownfield, who now lives in Toano, Virginia came up with the contest idea while he was trying to decide what to do with the family’s Cedar Rapids home located at 336 17th St. S.E. After seeing the contest idea work in other states, he came up with the idea of picking the most deserving winner based on a 500-word essay. But obviously there’s a catch.
The catch is the essay must be accompanied by a $100 entry fee.
Brownfield posted details about his Iowa House Essay contest on KCRG.com in the “YouNews” section in late March. He also sent details to YouTube, Facebook and other computer sites.
Brownfield said he will pick the winning entry based on who answers two questions the best. The questions are: how has the economic downturn affected you? And why should you or your family deserve the home more than someone else?
“It could help a family that has been affected by the economy. That’s why the contest focuses on the economic downtown and why your family should receive this,” Brownfield said.
Brownfield said he knows all about the downturn in both the economy and housing market in Cedar Rapids. He bought the house on 17th Street S.E. in 2008 and promptly got laid off from his job. He and his family moved out of state to find work. Brownfield said he’s rented the home, tried a traditional realtor and then figured it was time to go with something completely different.
His home is still currently listed for sale by a realtor at a price of $99,500. His agent admits the nearly 100-year-old home with original woodwork in a historic neighborhood hasn’t gotten much traffic.
Brownfield said he expects people to be skeptical and took pains to spell out all the rules of the contest that runs through May 31st.
He won’t award the house to an essay winner unless he gets a minimum of 1,000 entries each paying the $100 fee. He would only accept a maximum of 2,000 entries total.
Brownfield said he’d award a cash prize to one winner, based on the number of entries, if the total is below 1,000.
And if the house happens to sell before the contest ends, he would also substitute a cash prize based on the number of entries.
While the family has moved to Virginia, Brownfield’s mother in law still lives in Marion and is watching over the home. Debra Rau said she was skeptical about the essay contest at first, but then decided it was worth a shot.
“Yes, I think this is going to work because there are a lot of people out there that need a home,” Rau said.
Bob Hackney runs an office for Skogman Realty that is handling the Brownfield listing. He said agents are going along with the idea for now because Brownfield has promised to pay the regular fee if the home sells in a conventional way or through a contest.
“I’ve not seen this before,” Hackney said adding “maybe in other parts of the country they’ve done something like this — it’s brand new to Cedar Rapids.”
Brownfield said he remains hopeful about his unconventional home sales plan. But as of midday Tuesday, he hadn’t received a single paying entry with an essay.
Brownfield said he sought legal advice when he set up the contest on a website. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office says the essay contest meets state rules.
What's On KCRG