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money-web.jpgBy Aaron Swarts

RISMEDIA, January 15, 2009-(MCT)-It’s one of those things that sounds too good to be true. For just $150 and the answer to a simple word problem, you could be the proud owner of a sprawling ranch home worth more than $1 million.

This amazing opportunity is courtesy of the Bahm family, which is attempting to defy the slumping real estate market by holding a contest to give away their home on Lammers Road in Tracy, Calif.

And with the money they make from the contest, they’re going one step further and making donations to a number of local charities.

Inspired by a similar giveaway run by the San Jose, Calif., Chamber of Commerce, the Bahms decided to make the idea their own, despite some initial criticism.

“It’s a little different when an individual does something like this as opposed to a nonprofit,” Valerie Bahm said. “At first we came under heavy fire with people telling us that it was illegal, but the rules are simple and this is all very legal.”

Bahm explained that there are three criteria that have to be met: an entry form, an entry fee and some sort of skill to be performed or question to be answered.

Valerie and her husband Jerry Bahm opted for a word problem.

“Other people have done this with an essay contest, but we didn’t want to control who was going to win by grading anything,” she said. “We wanted something more general that would give everyone a chance.”

To enter, participants must fill out the form, pay the $150 entry fee and answer the question. The contest becomes valid when a minimum of 11,000 people sign up. The Bahms will cap the contest at 13,000 entries. The deadline to enter is June 15.

At that point all correct answers will be placed in the “tiebreaking drum,” and the winning entry will be chosen.

“They will receive a beautiful house with no mortgage, and we will retire to Texas having helped some of our favorite charities,” Bahm said. “It works out for everyone.”

The 3,800-square-foot home, at 25201 South Lammers Road, features three bedrooms and bathrooms and a large, open professional-grade kitchen, as well as a formal dining room, den and large game room. The property also includes a three-car garage and a 3,400-square-foot custom shop building, all set on nearly two acres.

If all goes as planned, the Bahms are anticipating being able to donate about $300,000, to be shared between The McHenry House Family Shelter, Tracy Interfaith Ministries, Hospice of San Joaquin and Weston Ranch Little League Baseball (which makes sense when you see the question you have to answer).

“Charity donations are down nearly 30 percent this year,” she said. “We want to do something about that.”

Darleen Quin, director of Tracy Interfaith Ministries, said her organization and others need all the help they can get at the moment.

“I don’t know if their plan is going to work, and we won’t count on spending the money, but any funds we might receive would be wonderful because things are getting pretty tight,” she said. “With the economy suffering, more and more people are turning to us for help.”

The Bahms have already had more than 1.5 million hits on their website and are well on their way to making the contest a reality.

“The economy is really a bummer right now,” Bahm said. “So hopefully we can have some fun and lightheartedness and help some people out in these gloomy times.”

For a complete list of rules, additional photos of the house and the official entry form, visit

© 2009, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.