Million-dollar inn up for grabs for 200 words and $170

NEW YORK (AFP) - A 200-word essay and US$125 (S$170) is all it will take to become the proud owner of a bucolic New England inn, says its owner, who won the establishment in the same way.

For more than two decades, Janice Sage has run the Center Lovell Inn, a majestic bed and breakfast nestled in western Maine, famous for its cross-country skiing and mountain vistas.

Now, 68-year-old Sage plans to retire, and she's ready give away the inn, valued at nearly a million dollars, for next-to-nothing.

"Have you ever dreamed of owning a country inn and restaurant in New England? Well, here is your chance!" she wrote on the inn's website:

"In 1993, the former owner ran an essay contest and I was the winner," she explains.

"After 22 successful years, it is time for me to retire. Now, I would like to fulfill someone else's dream."

Entrants will have until May 21 to submit an essay entitled: "Why I would like to own and operate a country inn."

The establishment in Maine's White Mountains - a favourite destination of summer holiday makers - will go to whoever writes the best essay.

She won the inn from the former owners by answering a similar essay question and paying a US$100 fee.

The bed and breakfast, built in 1805, is in the town of Lovell, 80km from the state capital Portland.

Sage expects to attract around 7,500 entries, netting around US$937,000 - just short of the inn's market price.

A committee will choose 20 finalists based on the essays, and the winner will be announced on May 21.

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