There have been several different methods used to advertise home sales via an essay contest — neighborhood fliers, church bulletins and newspaper classifieds — but the latest example was truly a sign of the times.

A man in Seaside, Ore., used the lure of a peaceful retirement and relaxing vacation time on the Oregon coast to mount an online campaign (www.win99dollarbeachhouse.com) to sell a beach cabin. Theodore Zennie capitalized on the power of the Internet to spread the word that for $99 and a short essay of "six lines or less explaining why you wanted or needed the cottage" entrants could buy a chance to own the property free and clear. The contest drew not only cash-strapped first-time homebuyers, but also retirement folks and second-home investors.

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