It’s apparently a writer’s market for Maine real estate this year.

While an innkeeper in Lovell got national attention last month for holding an essay contest to sell her business, an Edgecomb woman is using a similar method to sell about 47 acres of wooded land in Whitefield.

All it will cost to win the land is $100 and an essay of no more than 200 words saying what you want to do with the land along Route 218.

Martha Manchester, who has owned the land since 1994, said a goal of the contest is to try to make more than the fair market value for the land, but she also wanted to give people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford so much land an opportunity to win the property.

She plans to donate $10,000 of her earnings to the American Cancer Society in honor of her mother, who died from bone cancer six years ago, and $10,000 to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter.

The rules of the contest require at least 3,000 essays to be submitted, and the number of contestants will be capped at 3,500. Entries must be received by June 11, and four judges selected by Manchester will choose a winning essay June 12.

Manchester, 45, of Edgecomb wouldn’t say what she hopes to see the land used for because she didn’t want to influence contestants, but the essays will be judged on wit, human interest, expression of thought, creativity and originality.

“I really want it to go to someone who wants to do a good thing with it,” Manchester said, while standing on the side of the road next to the property last week.

The land is completely wooded with no structures besides Central Maine Power Co. power lines that split the back end of the property. It abuts a few properties with houses, including a parcel Manchester sold eight years ago with her old home on it, and it overlooks a pasture used for horses.

She said the only limitation that will be included in the deed is mobile homes won’t allowed on the property. The winner will have to sign an agreement saying he or she will actually use the property as described in the essay, Manchester said.

Although news of the Lovell innkeeper’s essay contest has received more press, Manchester had been planning her contest for months, she said. In the case of the inn, its owner, Janice Sage, took over ownership in 1993 after winning an essay contest from the previous owners of the Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. Sage said she hopes to receive 7,500 entries at $125 apiece before the deadline in May.

These types of contests are legal because winners are judged on skill, not picked by chance.

Tim Feeley, the spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, said via email that the state only regulates games of chance, but consumers should always understand what they are paying for before they part with their money.

If Manchester receives the maximum of 3,500 essay submissions, the contest will bring in $330,000 before taxes and after donating to the American Cancer Society and the Lincoln County Animal Shelter.

The town of Whitefield, which considers the land two parcels because of the CMP lines, values it at $57,200.

Bonnie Stone, a real estate broker for Drum & Drum Real Estate in Damariscotta, said it would be difficult for her to assess what the property could fetch on the open market without knowing more about it. Factors that would impact its value are the number of lots that could be built on it, whether the trees are hardwood and how easily electricity could be connected to any future buildings, Stone said.

Generally, empty land isn’t selling for a lot right now because it’s more costly to clear a lot and build something than it is to buy an existing structure, she said.

Manchester said she isn’t worried about not getting enough contest entrants because she’s heard from others who would be interested in buying the land if the contest doesn’t work out.

One of the judges, Traci Blackman, director of vacation rentals for Pottle Realty Group in Boothbay Harbor, said the land will be a great deal for whoever wins. She said she thinks the land would work well for someone looking to raise horses or something similar.

As a tip for contestants, Blackman said, “just have fun with it.”

For more information, click here to visit Manchester’s website.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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