Essayist could win home and land

Published 11:05 am Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An essayist could get the keys to a century-old home on 58 acres of property valued at $1.5 million near Cartersville.

Seventy-year-old Carol Carper, who owns Newstead Farm in Cumberland, is giving her home to the person who best writes an essay saying why they’d like to own Newstead Manor and operate Newstead Farm.

“The phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Carper said in a statement.

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The certified wedding and event planner who also raises purebred Katahdin Sheep on the farm, wants to retire.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work,” she said.

Carper described the brick home as a five-bedroom historic mansion. She said the home is in very good shape. The land is mostly open, Carper said.

“It seems to be catching on around the country,” Carper said of the unconventional manner of liquidating her home. “A friend of mine mentioned it to me at a party.”

Carper says she won’t go unrewarded financially. In addition to the essay, she’s asking for a $233 entry fee. If she receives the 7,000 entries she expects, Carper said she will recoup the property’s estimated $1.5 million market value and award the winner an additional $100,000.

“As my mother puts [it], life is a little backwards when you’re older,” Carper said when asked why she was getting rid of her home and land. “You have a nice place like this that requires a lot of vision. I’ve been here 21 years, and I’ve enjoyed it and done a lot of good things with it and for it. It’s time for me to retire.”

Though the offer may sound as good as a free lunch, the new homeowner would be obligated to pay property and other taxes and fees connected to the home and land.

A home original to the property burned after the American Civil War, Carper said. When rebuilt, she said the bricks of the home were formed from red clay down the hill from the house.

The essay winner would get the house and land, and possibly her Morgan horses and sheep. “The animals are available if they want the animals,” she said. “They might want to do something different.”

When asked about the rules associated with the contest, she said attorneys were reviewing them. “I’ve toyed with the idea of asking that the property not be subdivided any further … It needs a certain amount of land around it,” she said, noting that rule wasn’t in writing.

Carper said she’ll enlist a three-person panel to help her decide the winner by Sept. 21, 2016. “The new owner will take over a month later,” she said.

The essayist and potential homeowner needs to clearly convey why they want to have the historic manor house and farm to be successful, along with their vision of the place.

So, why not put the house on the market and simply pocket the cash?

“The people who want this place, they’re younger and they don’t have the money that this place is worth. They can’t afford it. And people who are older that have the money, it’s not the kind of place they, you know, really are ready to commit to,” Carper said.

“I’d be glad to help out the winner,” she said. “There’s a lot to learn.”

“In this case, what would make the seller happy is that the property ends up in the right hands. Essentially, the seller is ‘buying’ a good owner for his or her property,” said Scott Wentland, an associate professor of economics at Longwood University. “It is an expensive proposition, probably most commonly offered by a well-off owner or one with no direct heirs.”

He called the Carper’s essay contest an extreme case of a very common phenomenon in real estate.

“Anecdotally, we see variations of this when sellers offer a discount to buyers they believe would take care of the home as they would or would be a good fit for a particular reason. Agents often advise sellers not to attend the open house, because sellers may be tempted to sell the home at a discount to the family that loves it more or less the way it is, as opposed to a slightly higher price to a family that talks about extensive remodeling,” Wentland said.

If Carper does not receive enough entries, “the entry fee will be returned,” and the essay offer will be null and void, she said. Carper didn’t offer a specific number that would negate the contest. “Everyone’s entry fee will be returned if I do not receive enough entries,” she said.

Those interested in participating in the contest should send a self addressed, stamped envelope to Newstead Farm Essay Contest Rules, P.O. Box 45, Cartersville V.A. 23027 to receive a copy of the official entry blank and rules. Photos of the home and property can be found at

“It’ll be an interesting journey, you know, like the Chinese proverb, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.’ And, we’ll see how this goes,” she said.