FOR SALE: Mediterranean-style home in prestigious part of Santa Barbara, Calif. 3 BRs, 1.5 Baths, FDR, French doors throughout. Rcntly remodeled, near beach, movie stars for neighbors. Valued at $1 mil-plus, yours for only $150.

That’s the type of breathless ad that a Realtor might print for the handsome, two-story home in ritzy Santa Barbara that’s available today.

And no, that’s not a typographical error–it’s all yours for just $150.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. A “Benjie-and-a-half,” like some say in Los Angeles, about 100 miles to the south. A “C-note plus fiddy,” as others call it in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area to the north.

Or, as the surfers who cut the Pacific waves just a few blocks from the exclusive Santa Barbara property might say, “‘Bout half a lid, dude!”

If you want to buy the property for $150, just bring your checkbook…and all the luck you can muster.

The stunning home will be raffled off Sept. 4 by the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, a local nonprofit that provides grants to budding artists and venues to show their work.

Some appraisers say the home is worth about $1.25 million. A few say it’s worth closer to $1.5 million.

Certainly, raffling a home isn’t a new idea: It’s a concept that’s been adopted by other nonprofits to boost their funding, and even by some private property-sellers to get more for their tract house than the market would demand.

But the Santa Barbara raffle is different, in part because the home is in an exclusive seaside town where the richest owners are instantly recognized around the world by only their first name: Oprah. Mel. Sting.

By planning to sell 18,000 raffle tickets at $150 each, the arts forum will gross $2.7 million–about twice the property’s appraised worth.

Susan Goggin, a spokeswoman for the arts forum, is quick to point out that much of the group’s ticket-sale proceeds will be gobbled by expenses.

First off, Goggin said, there’s the price that the group paid for the home: She wouldn’t disclose it, but admitted that it was “substantial”–no surprise, given that the California Association of Realtors reports that more than half the homes in the area now sell for more than $1 million.

And then there’s all the overhead costs involved in printing tickets, processing requests, and having a lawyer read the 60 or so pages that the state Attorney General’s office issues for this particular type of raffle.

But the winner of the raffle will have problems of his or her own, especially when it comes to the Internal Revenue Service.

The federal tax rate starts at 10 percent, but quickly moves to about 35 percent. That means that the “winner” of the fancy Santa Barbara home might owe the IRS more than $350,000.

Of course, the State of California will also want to share in the player’s good fortune–by levying another $35,000 or so in state income taxes.

On top of all this, the new owner likely will owe an annual property tax of about $15,000. So, even after paying hundreds of thousands to the IRS and tens of thousands to the state, the winner should plan on setting aside about $1,200 every month for the local tax assessor.

That’s roughly the same monthly payment a buyer would make on a 30-year mortgage for a three-bedroom home in a nice suburb of Chicago, or even a small ranch in Wyoming.

And then there’s the question of whether owning a home in Santa Barbara right now is a good investment for the future. Values in the area have raced forward at a double-digit rate over each of the past several years, but some experts say that the real estate bubble is about to burst.

If the winner of the Sept. 4 raffle is leery of future market swings, Goggin said, he or she can instead choose to take $1 million in cash rather than title to the home.

“For obvious reasons, we can’t guarantee that the home will keep going up in value,” Goggin said.

“But look at it this way: If you win this home by purchasing a $150 raffle ticket, how much ‘down side’ can there be?”


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