October 9, 2012
Selling a home can be a tedious process in the still-beleaguered housing market – so why not make a game out of it?
That’s what Elizabeth Burgos, 43, is doing with her four-bedroom home in Detroit. She’s holding a “giveaway” for the home on October 28, where she’ll draw a name out of a box, and the lucky winner will receive the deed to the property. She hopes to sell 300 “in kind donations” of $100 each to raise $30,000 to help pay back taxes and move her family to Munich, Germany, where her husband, who was deported in 2010, is now a resident. She plans to hold open houses every Friday and Sunday before the drawing for interested parties to see inside the home.
“I just want us to be together again, to be a family,” says Burgos, who currently lives in the house with her three children.
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She's been trying to sell the family home since last October. She received an offer of $27,000 early this year, but decided to pass so the children could finish the school year. “I'm kicking myself because I'm having a terrible time selling now. I've gotten two offers recently for only $15,000,” says Burgos. She says the house is currently valued at around $17,000, even though they paid $50,000 for it when they bought it in 2004, and have spent an additional $30,000 to upgrade the kitchen, roof, electric and plumbing.
Burgos, who lost her job as an office manager two years ago, says her unemployment benefits ran out earlier this year and she has scrambled to make ends meet. She currently owes $3,200 in back taxes. The lackluster housing market sparked her creativity to come up with the idea of a drawing. “Names will be put in a clear box and I'll sign a quick deed at that time,” says Burgos. “I just want to pay the taxes and hand over the house so we can get to Germany and start a new journey.”
While Michigan has no specific law against home giveaways, other homeowners who have tried to raffle off their homes in the past have been shut down by the state’s attorney general. According to Laurie Janick, general counsel of the National Association of Realtors, generally raffles are governed by state law and considered gambling and illegal, unless done by a charity group. Burgos says her giveaway is different, since the money is considered a donation and she’s calling it a “drawing” instead of a raffle. But many experts say the law is unclear. Bob Stocker, a lawyer at Dickson Wright in Lansing, Michigan, says that unless she’s obtained a license from the Michigan Lottery Bureau, the drawing is illegal and could be shut down.
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Burgos is doing her best to get the word out about her drawing via Facebook, Craigslist and elsewhere, and she's already starting to hear from people—some who aren't even interested in the home for themselves, but want to give it away to a homeless family or to use it as group/transitional home.
The $30,000 she hopes to raise will go a long way in paying the taxes and giving her family the funds to move. “My husband is living in a studio,” she says. “When we get there, we'll need a new place to start over.”