Save Yourself from Rainy Days


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Radha Prathi, March 24, 2017

problem It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into adjoining walls that are at different levels. 

Come rainy season, and urban India is on tenterhooks, when it comes to their houses.

The reasons for these are many, ranging from poor construction to lack of a good rainwater draining system. Sometimes, a good many number of building parts, or even entire buildings have little or no exposure to sunlight. Correcting these anomalies is beyond the realms of practicality. Such being the case, it will be only wise to take the next best recourse.

Architects, builders, consumers and the waterproofing industry have identified the problems associated with moisture in buildings and have come up with solutions that can keep the building dry for the most part of the year. When the rainy season sets in, they have come up with techniques that will get the water off the building fast, so that pooling and leaking of water into the structure can be contained. Adding slopes in the roofing area wherever possible and rainwater harvesting project incorporated into buildings can stem this problem to a large extent.

It has been identified that water has a tendency to seep into the adjoining walls that are at different levels. Extra care during construction and plastering of these areas can control the damage caused due to dampness. Sometimes, water seepage can happen when there is error in the installation of the plumbing system. Then there are those instances when there can be inadequate surface preparation, improper use of primers, failure to take into account the thermal and wind movements of the structure etc which can undermine the strength of the construction over a period of time.

No matter what the problem, there are mostly ready-to-use products available that can repair possible damages to the buildings. If you are constructing a new facility, you can use them in the first instance, but if you are trying to protect an old home, you might have to walk that extra mile. Nevertheless, you can be sure that it is worth the effort.

Structural waterproofing

Open areas like balconies, porches and terrace slabs, which tend to be exposed to rainwater directly and for a longer time, will do well to mix admixes which will plasticise the walls and plug in the pores so that they do not retain water and absorb it later. As always, the market offers a range of these admixes with various grades of plasticising agents both in the paste and powder form. People looking at longevity of their constructions even have the options to fill hollow cement bricks with this mixture to make it waterproof from within.

Roof & terrace

It is universal knowledge that the roof and the terrace of any building are always exposed to the natural elements. This, coupled with bad upkeep can make the area develop cracks. Hence, waterproofing the terrace can protect it. You really do not need professionals to do this job, for the method is very simple. Sweep the terrace clean, wash it with clear water. Leak-guard pastes available off the shelf can be used to plug in cracks, dents and chipped area of the terrace.

Similarly, waterproof powder and chemical can also be bought in any hardware shop. Mix the powder as instructed in a bucket of clear water and apply the liquid to the surface with a wide paint brush. Apply a second coat after three hours and be rest assured that your terrace is safe for the next three to four years. As of now, there are no permanent waterproofing techniques for the roof; hence the need to repeat the exercise time and again.

Basement

Basement areas tend to become swimming pools during monsoons. The slope and the rainwater drains don’t help much, unless planned and executed well. You can prevent your basement from becoming redundant if you use appropriate waterproofing. While new basements can use structural procedure, old buildings have to first release the surface of the mould. Fumigation and subjecting the area to hot air blasts can clean it to a large extent. If the walls of the basement have started chipping or flaking, it will be worth the investment to get them plastered again before working on the floor.

Then, use non-metallic heavy duty floor hardener to reinforce the floor. Though this measure is costly, it has a long life and can be easy to clean and maintain. Waterproofing buildings has come of age. There are plenty of options in terms of both price and quality. The best time to waterproof buildings will be summer. Make sure that your homes and offices wear their rainproof cover before the first drizzle.

Enclose With Elegance


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neat Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides of your showcase. photos by author

Did you know that the showcase that adorns your living room is perhaps one of the features that is almost never missed by your guests and visitors? They pay special attention to the showcase because they are aware that it is the hotspot in the house which conveys a lot about the residents.

The trophies that assert one’s success, the souvenirs that stand witness to your travels around the globe, the antique piece which speaks about your aesthetic inclinations, the family heirloom that display your affection for your grandparents and so on and so forth, jostle with one another and proclaim your collective personalities as a family.

It is true that all of us who have arranged our showcases must have spent some time giving it our thoughts and exercising our creativity. However, we may have noticed that not all of them are always appealing or exotic. This does not for a moment mean that your stuff is not good enough nor does it mean that your showcase has become redundant. All the same, the lacklustre aspect could be attributed to several reasons.

For one thing, it may have collected dust and grime. Otherwise it could be overcrowded or sparsely filled up. Sometimes, we leave essentials like keys, bills, torches, money, matches etc in some section of the showcase for easy access, not realising that they could be an eyesore.

If you think that the above reasons are not applicable to you perhaps, you have never changed the arrangement over the years, giving it a sense of predictability, which will fail to garner the attention of your visitor. So, here are a few tips that will ensure that your showcase attracts renewed attention:

Remove all the contents of your showcase and clean them thoroughly.

Clean the showcase and the covering glass using soap and water. If the walls of the cabinet have yellowed or scaled due to age, rub the surface with sandpaper and scrape it completely.

Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides. If your cabinet is made of wood, a coat of ready-made wood polish will do the job.

Check if you have one too many articles that will look good when hung. Take stock of the number and fix little sticks on hooks (easily available in the market) on the ceiling of the partitioned area.

Sort out your showpieces either in terms of size or theme. If you are the sort who likes to rearrange memorabilia time and again, it will be a good idea to stick to a theme. On the other hand if you want to take things easier, identify a few things that you always want to display and change only the other items from time to time.

Make sure that all the unsightly wires that run through are carefully stapled and hidden away.

Toss in a few pieces of camphor in every shelf to keep it pest-free and fragrant.

Use an old newspaper to wipe the glass clean from both sides before sliding it over the showcase. Make it a point to wipe the glass clean at least once in a fortnight.

Repeat this exercise and bring variations in the display once in every three or four months.

Do not place damaged pieces, picture postcards or family photographs amid other things, unless it happens to match the theme.

With Better Strength and Shine- Vitrifed Tiles


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With its beautiful finishes, low porosity and commendable resistance to heat and water, vitrified tiles can be the perfect flooring option for your abode. Radha Prathi offers some insights

The ultimate idea of a clean floor in our country is when one has cleaned, swept and mopped it with all kinds of chemicals and solutions. We have been following this method for ages without a break, no matter what the kind of flooring is. Natural stone floorings like granite, marble or salt stone have borne the brunt of this harsh routine for a long time. Yet floors made of cement, ceramics, terracotta and certain low-quality mosaics have succumbed to scratches, pockmarks, cracks and even little craters by the sheer result of wear and tear.

This syndrome has proved to be a nightmare for conscientious housekeepers, who take pride in their work. While the building is well designed and has lots of scope for utility, it falls short in such cases, raking up huge maintenance bills. Sometimes, mere poor maintenance of the flooring botches up best-laid plans for a home.

The best solution to the problem will be to replace the flooring with a sustainable option. Now, we have two choices: for those who can afford, they can go in for marble or granite. Both, while costly, are long-lasting and classy. On the other hand, if you have a smaller budget, but do not have the heart to completely uproot the foundation, relaying the floor is another option. Don’t worry: relaying the tiles won’t pinch your pockets.

Reworking aesthetically

We live in the age of vitrified tiles. These beautiful tiles which come in all shapes, sizes, colours have become the builder’s pet and with reason too. They are man-made ceramic tiles endowed with great strength, low porosity and come with great resistance to scratches, heat, water and even frost. They come with glazed and matte finish for both indoor and outdoor uses.

Laying these beautiful tiles on your own is no big deal as most dealers who sell tiles also sell the requisite cement, adhesive, polish and acid necessary for the laying activity. Some of them also have trained tile layers who can lay tiles in an eight square premises within eight to 10 hours.

Yet the challenge lies in reworking on existing premises. If one can manage it, it will be in the best interest of the building in the long run to remove the present flooring completely, put a layer of cement over it and then lay the said tiles according to the instructions. This method can prove to be very cumbersome, a little expensive and time consuming though the results will be spectacular.

The other way to lay these tiles is to lay them over your present flooring. Many people all over the world have experimented with this idea and have arrived at different conclusions. While some of them have considered their effort to have been successes, others have cursed the day when they decided to go in for this particular method. If the tiles are not laid properly, they can make the floor uneven. Over a period of time, the gap between the tiles could open up to moisture. And when we mop the floor on a daily basis, lots of moisture gets accumulated in such gaps. Then we can do nothing much about it except rework on the entire flooring.

As in all things, if we follow the prescribed procedure properly, chances of disappointment can be non-existent. If you are one of those people who choose the easier but trickier option, you will do well to go to a professional for such things.

Starter tips

But if you are doing it on your own, here are some helpful pointers:

* First of all, remove all the doors in your facility, because the floor level will rise when the vitrified tiles are overlaid on them. They can be refit at the end of the exercise. You will need to get a carpenter to saw the extra wood towards the bottom of the door. This will ensure the door will fit perfectly with the new height of the floor.

* If the existing floor has developed a crack, check its strength and piece them together with cement. In other words, make sure that your flooring is even.

* Clean the floor thoroughly and keep it free of dust, paint, oil etc, before applying the chemical adhesive to the floor.

* To avoid wasting the adhesive, make sure it is mixed in small proportions. Never make the mistake of using the leftover adhesive of the previous batch while mixing a new batch. However wet or fresh it may be, never mix the old and the new because it is this little bit of thriftiness which will lead to lumping which will in turn make the flooring jagged in the long run.

* Even out the adhesive so that it covers all the borders of the tile. Remember, unevenness is either due to excess of the adhesive or a lack of the same.

* Ensure that you double check the direction of the arrow to gain the visualised pattern before laying the tile. Just in case you make a mistake, remove the tile immediately and scoop out the adhesive. Allow the place to dry and then scrape out the remaining adhesive before reworking. This kind of mistake may stop your work for a couple of hours, but doing the square thing will prove to be a stitch in time.

* Once the tiles are laid, make sure that you do not place anything heavy over them or walk over them for the next six to eight hours. If walking on them is unavoidable, ensure you walk on them only after four hours and only step on the centre portion of the stones. If you want to use the passage earlier than that time period, it will be best to relay the tile as described earlier. There is really no point in being penny wise, pound foolish.

* The following day, the hairline gaps should be packed neatly and carefully with white cement putty. Remember to wipe the floor clean with a wet mop only after 12 hours.

* Inspect the borders of the tiles with your toes. If it happens to be seamless, you have accomplished your mission, if not, nothing is lost.

* Your dealer will hire out a buffing machine which can correct small aberrations when used by an expert user.

* Once the buffing is done, go through the white cement exercise.

* Since most vitrified tiles come polished, there is no need to polish them all over again.

* A light acid wash can be implemented if the floor has been soiled. Please consult the tile dealer before taking a call.

So, are you ready to say hello to fabulous vitrified tiles now?

To Create That Wow Effect With Glass


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With buildings constantly rising vertically every year, it is becoming increasingly difficult for homes that do not go beyond the first floor to get their fair share of ventilation. Though not much can be done, a little thoughtful makeover can actually lighten up the place. If you want your home to glimmer at all times of the day, glass is the way to go.

With so many varieties of glass available today — ranging from bulletproof and transparent to smoky and featured with visibility from one side — there are innumerable ways in which you can incorporate the material creatively into your living space. And with some imagination and professional help, you can transform your home or office into a state-of-the-art premises with a fine mix of glass.

It’s possible to transform any area into a roomy, well-lit and expandable place. Let’s take a look at a few practical solutions that can help you incorporate glass effortlessly into your home. For starters, how about using glass partitions? They prove to be cost effective in the long run as they are low on maintenance.

Open & spacious

Old buildings take up a lot of interior wall space. When renovating such places, take a careful stock of the walls that can be done away with. For instance, you can consider the walls that can be brought down to make open kitchens, dining areas, corridors and foyers.

Once you have decided which walls are coming down, ensure that the entire wall is not affected. It will be wise to leave about six inches of it from the floor upwards and about two feet from the roof downwards. The wall should be immediately plastered and allowed to cure for a couple of days before proceeding with any further work.

While leaving the space open is an obvious choice for open areas, it is something that is not feasible in an old building. A plain or stained glass of your choice can be fitted between the bracketing walls of the ceiling and flooring, allowing for ample light and extended space. Additionally, you can paint these glass partitions, if you wish for privacy in the rooms.

Portable walls

There are times when we feel the need for a temporary wall, say near the wash basin or in the drawing room — a bit of privacy can be the need of the hour. At such times, a portable glass wall can come in handy as you can move it easily from room to room.

And if you don’t want it to be made entirely of glass , you can have it fitted into a metallic or wooden frame. You can also  customise it to your taste. For example, you can have frosted or stained glass put in. And to make it truly portable, you can attach small wheels at the bottom and a little stopper.

Pillar idea

For those who do not want to use glass sheets, glass pillars are a good option. These are available readymade in various sizes, designs and colours. Additionally, you can get them customised to your preferences. These can be placed in various parts of your home, according to your need and necessity. For an ethereal look, you can add appropriate lighting to enhance the effect.

However, keep in mind that these pillars cost more than the glass sheets. If you are apprehensive about the cost factor, it can be a good idea to have a pillar or two on either end of the space or in the middle and have narrow panels of glass fitted in
between. This will take care of the ventilation needs as well.

Exteriors effect

Putting glass on your home’s exteriors allows you to brighten up the space by bringing in a lot of sunlight and making it look  spacious. These can be in the form of a wall, large windows or as a part of your balcony, porch or sit-out.

However, if the area is facing busy streets, it can prove to be a perpetual problem, courtesy the dust and noise. Such places are best covered with a strong and suitable variety of glass. These can range from stained glass to glazed glass. However, ensure that the glass can be slid open and closed easily to let in air as and when necessary.

Using glass at home may not just be limited to these; there are numerous other ways that you can creatively incorporate the material into your abode. Versatile and easy to maintain, glass is a perfect medium to enhance your home’s interiors and make your home look striking. Not to forget, the natural light that it can get in!

How to paint on glass

If you are looking to paint on the glass you have bought, there are several things you need to look at. But first, ensure that you do a practice run on the readymade glass painting kits that are available easily in the market.

Once you have got a hang of it, decide on a design for your glass and take a printout of it in the exact dimensions you need. Place the sheet on the glass.

Procure a small sample tin of black acrylic oil paint and a set of pearl paints. You will also need some thinner to erase mistakes that you might make, and two round-tipped brushes numbered triple zero and one.

Keep in mind that the outline for your design must be done in one sitting. Hence, set aside around two hours or more to complete the task.

As for filling in the colours, it can be done over many sittings once the outline has dried. What you are actually working on is the design’s backside.

If you want to give special effects like shading and dimension remember that the colour applied first will be seen first. Hence, you need to work backwards while using your glass painting techniques.

Transparent Beauty Accents


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Radha Prathi, January 8, 2016

The ever-rising urban buildings are making it increasingly difficult for the vintage homes that don’t go beyond the first floor at best to get their fair share of ventilation, despite the fact that they have not flouted a single rule about leaving enough space around their homes.

Though not much can be done about the new buildings, a little thoughtful makeover can actually lighten up the place. If you want your home to glitter and glimmer on all days and all times of the day, glass is the way to go.  You don’t have to actually construct a new building to integrate glass in your building. A little imagination coupled with some professional help can translate your home or office into a state-of-the-art premises.

These days, we get glass sheets that are as strong, if not stronger, than corrugated sheets. They can be bullet-proof, transparent, smoky or featured with visibility from one side. You can make an educated choice about this. Once fitted, these partitions will prove to be cost effective in the long run. The number of walls to be maintained will come down. Plus, the new walls will spell low-maintenance rates. If your electricity bills come down because you don’t reach out to switch on the lights, fans or air conditioner as often as before, then consider that to be an additional bonus. Here are a couple of practical and economical glassy solutions that can transform any area into a roomy, well-lit and expandable place.

Bring them down

Old buildings take up a lot of interior wall space. When renovating such places, take a careful stock of the walls that can be done away with. For instance, you can consider the walls that can be brought down to make way for open kitchens, dining areas, corridors, foyers and service areas.

Once you decide on the walls that are going to come down, remember that the entire wall should not be affected. It will be wise to leave about six inches of it from the floor upwards and about two feet from the roof downwards.

The wall should be immediately plastered and allowed to cure for a couple of days before proceeding with the work. Plain or stained glass of your choice can be fit between the bracketing walls of the ceiling and the flooring. Those of you who value their privacy, can unleash their creativity and paint on the glass.

One of the best ways to make glass an intrinsic part of your home decor is to bring in glass paintings, specifically, DIY glass paintings. First of all, decide on a design and then, simply print it out in the exact dimensions you need. Place the glass on the sheet. Procure a small sample tin of black acrylic oil paint and a set of pearl paints. You will also need some thinner to erase mistakes that you might make and two round-tipped brushes numbered triple zero and one.

You could fill in the colours in a series of sittings. When you draw the outline and paint, you are actually working on the reverse side. If you want to give special effects like shading and dimensions, remember that in glass painting, the colour applied first will be seen foremost. In other words, it makes perfect sense to use your shading techniques in the reverse format for best results.
Make them portable

There are times when we feel the need for a temporary wall, say near the wash basin or one corner of the study room or even in the drawing room. At such times, a portable glass wall can come in handy. Glass walls need not always extend from top to bottom. Nowadays, you can have frosted or stained glass cut and fit into a metallic or wooden frame. If you choose to use plain glass and then paint on it, your very own personalised wall will be ready. You can fit small wheels at the bottom and a little stopper to make it portable.

Matter of strength

For those of you who do not want to use glass sheets because they might obstruct air circulation, glass pillars happen to be the next best option. Long, slender, readymade columns are available in all circumferences, heights, designs and colours. There are some firms which also take orders and make customised pillars that can be installed around the home, according to your necessity. Lighting between the pillars, either from the top or bottom, can actually add an ethereal appeal.

The cost of glass pillars is certainly much more than glass walls. If you are apprehensive about the cost factor, it can be a better idea to have a pillar or two on either end or in the middle and have narrow panels of glass fitted in between. This measure will take care of your ventilation needs too.

Outside in

Balconies, porches or sit-outs that face busy streets can be a perpetual problem because they keep gathering dust. Such places can be best covered with a strong and suitable variety of glass. Ensure that the glass can be slid open and close, to let in air as and when necessary. You can also go in for translucent glass, wherein, you will get plenty of light and also avoid people peeping into your homes. There’s a ‘glass solution’ to almost every decor challenge at home!

Give The Elderly Their Space


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Give the elderly their space

Radha Prathi

easy & smooth Architects and interior designers have come up with some brilliant ideas to cater to the needs of senior citizens.

Long, long ago, in ancient India, when people grew older, they took up Vanaprastha. The elders would go away to live in the forest by themselves and spend their time in spiritual pursuits. When living in civilised societies became the order of the day, the members of an extended joint family shared the responsibility of caring for the elders in the family. With industrialisation, India urbanised in a big way and paved way to nuclear families.

Over a period of time, the young population has been finding it increasingly
challenging to take care of its senior family members at home. Nevertheless, the need to protect our elders and to be there for them when they need us has not changed.

Architects and interior designers have come up with some brilliant ideas to cater to the needs of senior citizens. Although some of us may have introduced one or two of the elderly-friendly features, it will be a jolly good idea to incorporate them all at least in one room of the house. After all, everyone of us has to go through the norm of getting old and feeble at some point in the future. Here is a list of features that can be introduced in your homes, elder care centres and geriatric wards in hospitals and nursing homes:

The first step forward would be to hire a creative carpenter, electrician, plumber and a good mason to make some necessary and useful alterations. A fairly large room with an attached bathroom can be allocated for the purpose. It will be ideal if windows and doors are situated either in the east or west, if not on both sides. This measure can ensure natural and healthy ventilation and lighting. Fix mosquito nets for all the windows and ventilators.

Having staircases, steps or threshold within the house should be avoided as far as possible, to facilitate free movement. It will be a good idea to make provision for a lift or a wheelchair-friendly ramp instead of stairs, to prevent this problem. A lovely carpet along the incline can prove to be a boon to everyone in the home. The toddlers, if any, around the home will also find it a lot easier to move around without the fear of tripping.

Moreover, moving furniture and other heavy objects around the house will become a cakewalk. If you think that it is a tall order, then at least make it a point to remove the steps or threshold of the assigned premises and make it easier for the resident. Fix door knob grippers for all doors, including that of cupboards and lockers. They are user-friendly and can be operated without strain. These grippers, if stained or soiled, can be washed clean and left gleaming.

If you are renovating existing premises, check the wiring and rewire the room if necessary. This step can help prevent accidents. Bring down the height of the switch box (which houses the switches and plug points) so that it can be operable even while sitting on a wheel chair or crouching over a walking stick.

Fix glow tapes on all switches to enable night vision. Make sure that emergency calling systems or bells are fixed on all the switchboards, which when used can be heard in all rooms of the house. One such bell can be fixed along the bedstead for increased convenience.

The latest trend happens to be the tablet-enabled services calling and video calling system, which can help the distressed call for help during times of emergency. A little protruding rectangular plank of wood along the bottom of the switchboard can make it a charging station for electronic gadgets.

Being practical
Make sure that you fix two-way switches for electrical appliances like the geyser, fan, air conditioner, computer, television, music system, among other such gadgets present in the room, so that you can shut down the device from outside the room if the person has fallen asleep while using them.

A modern method would be to fix motion sensor lights in the room and the adjoining bathroom. Introducing smart electronic remote system for all switches is another way of keeping tabs on your electricity usage — some of which may be a result of fatigue or forgetfulness. Though we have come a long way from using landline telephones and intercoms, it will not be a bad idea to install a telephone connection in all rooms to facilitate emergency calls.

Fix grab rails along the walls of the room, especially the one leading to the bathroom. Make sure that these rails do a round on the insides of the bathroom. The rails should render good grip besides being strong and reassuring. Wooden, fibre glass or plastic railings can prove to be a good choice. Try and avoid metal railings for the simple reason that they can be cold and unfriendly, especially when someone is in need of warmth and comfort. The towel rod, the soap stand, the little shelf, among other such paraphernalia, should be shifted to a lower level so that they can be reached out from the wheel chair.

Safety first
Make it a point to lay anti-skid tiles across the living and bath area. These days you get them in a plethora of materials, designs and colours. In fact, you can redo the flooring of the entire home with anti-skid tiles and save yourself a hefty hospital bill that you might incur because of your super smooth shining floors. Place anti-slip mats in wet areas to make it doubly safe.
Once the alterations in the room are done, pay attention to the bathroom. Change to anti-skid flooring, fix switch boards as suggested and fix wide doors that open on the outside to enable wheelchair movement.

If you visit a state-of-the-art shop that sells sanitaryware, it will not be difficult to find senior-friendly health faucets, shower chairs, smart toilets with seat raisers, seat warmers et al. Ensure that the grab rails go around three sides of the toilet which will give immense confidence to the user with slow reflexes.

Do not forget to fix effective electronic pest repellent in every room of your house. Once the spadework is done, give the room a fresh coat of paint. Using glow paints on the bathroom door and in corners can avoid accidents at night.

Finally, attend to the furnishing and decor of the room. It will be ideal to use much loved possessions, which bear the emotional imprints of sentiments and memories for the peace and happiness of the older residents. A collage of family pictures, a favourite music play list that can be easily accessed, a television and a magazine stand that appeals to their taste can make the elderly feel loved and honoured at home.

Sometimes small gestures like introducing an easy chair or a rocking chair — if you do not have one already — can make them feel at ease. All it takes is a little enterprise (and expense) to bring a smile on a loved one’s face. And every effort is certainly worth it.

Earn This Home, Say Owners


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Radha Prathi, Aug 28, 2015:

Image for representation.

Incredible as it may sound, homeowners in the US are now conducting essay contests to find the right buyers. Radha Prathi finds out more about this popular practice.

When it comes to buying, selling or inheriting homes, bungalows, ranches or palaces, there are only two ways in which the process goes. One, the owner of the property sells or bequeaths it to his/her children or near and dear ones. Two, if the owner does not have any inheritor and does not want any single individual or family to get his legacy, s/he sells or donates the property for a public cause.

While this is the general trend of property owners, the stand of the inheritors within or outside of the family has been not very different over the ages. The inheritor usually repairs or renovates the property and enjoys it or s/he simply razes down the old building and constructs a home, in case s/he does not sell it right away.

If you have been wondering why such a well-known norm is being parroted, well there is a reason. We are living in strange times. The winds of change have set in, at least in the United States of America. These days, property owners are coming up with innovative methods to ensure that their property is passed on or sold to the right person.

Of late, there have been a couple of instances where the proprietor has called in for essays on a given subject. The hopeful entrants are invited to showcase their creativity and writing skills and submit their essays to the owner along with an entry fee of $100 or $200. The owners will peruse and evaluate the entries and then give away or sell their property to the winner. However, conditions apply.

Statement of purpose

For instance, Matthew Brownfield, a software programmer who was in financial dire straits, announced an essay contest for which the prize would be a three-bedroom home in the historic district of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With nine-foot ceilings, window seats, a white picket fence and beautiful natural woodwork throughout. The topic of the essay happened to be, “How has the economic downturn affected you and your family? Why would receiving this house help your situation more than others?”

Matthew’s family actually tried to achieve two birds with one stone. They hoped to sell their home to someone who may give a practical and economic solution to their problem. Besides, the Brownfields expected at least 1,000 entries with an entry fee of $100 each.

They anticipated the entry fee to take care of their immediate financial needs. They also had a sub-clause which made it clear that if the contest did not attract the expected number of essays, then the winner will get half of the money that is raised and the Brownfields would use the other half toward their mortgage.

It is another story that he did not get a single entry for a while. All the same, Matthew was optimistic when he said, “There are at least a thousand people in America who have been so affected by the economy that they would not mind taking a shot at paying $100 entry fee where the potential is there that they could win a home.”

In another case, Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry are giving away their 18th century horse farm in Virginia to the winner of an essay contest on similar lines. The Rock Spring Farm is “three-storey high with four-bedroom home, besides a two-bedroom cottage, a five-stall barn and an air-conditioned woodworking shop. That is in addition to more than two miles of horse trails, acres upon acres of loamy soil and an endless patchwork of mature hardwood trees bordered by natural streams.”

Unlike Brownfields, a health issue made Randy, 64, realise that he would no longer be able to take care of his farm the way he did in the past. Randy and Carolyn wanted to find someone who would cherish the farm the way they did. They announced an essay contest with an entry fee of $200 where each entrant had to come up with practical and innovative suggestions to take care of the farm efficiently.

Carolyn said she was inspired by an essay contest for the Center Lovell Inn in Maine, a bed and breakfast facility that was won for $100 in 1993 by a woman named Janice Sage. Janice wrote a 250-word essay that demonstrated her culinary and hospitality skills, and her ability to care for the inn. She recently decided to retire and give the inn away by holding another essay contest rather successfully.

People have raised questions about the legality of giving away homes through an unrelated contest — especially when the owners get a significant amount of money by way of entrance fees. Yet the law of the land has done nothing to deter them as they can see the owner’s ploy to find a solution to their problems.

If the general public is ready to take the risk and spend the amount then they really see no point in throwing a wet towel at the novel endeavour.

Apparently, these landowners are people who care deeply for their possession and love it dearly  for the fond memories that is associated with the premises. They want someone who appreciates the sentiments, the finer points of the facility instead of merely evaluating the property on the basis of its real estate value.

The owners are particular that the heir or buyer should understand the history of the property and the associated difficulties and anecdotes related to their former nest. In other words, the proprietor wants the successor to cherish the possession as s/he himself did. In the process of doing so, s/he charges a nominal entrance fee to encourage earnest contestants and also to make the effort to screen them all worthwhile.

One has to yet wait and watch whether this trend will take wings in the US and elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a novel way of dealing with an old problem.