Raffle winner sells $1.2 million home at a bargain

Church’s $650,000 offer for Edgewater property eases hefty tax burden

A Colorado woman who won a $1.2 million home in Edgewater in a $50-a-ticket raffle in January has sold the property to a Severna Park church at a bargain-basement price.

“Hooray, finally!” said Karen McHale, 47, who lives in a home she built with her husband in the mountains west of Denver and never intended to move to the mid-Atlantic. “I tell you, that was a giant rock around my neck.”

McHale said she bought two raffle tickets last year as a contribution to an Annapolis-based charity that was co-sponsoring the contest. The raffle venture came about when a mortgage broker teamed up with We Care and Friends, which helps at-risk youths, to sell his home.

A week after one of those tickets was chosen as the winner, McHale lost her job as a chemical engineer. Eager to sell the home before Dec. 31 to avoid paying about $300,000 in 2009 income taxes, she put it on the market in March for $799,000.

When no one bit, McHale dropped the price to $749,000 in May. A dozen prospective buyers asked after the property; no one submitted an offer.

McHale’s husband, who works in construction, spent a week at the house in June, painting its 40 interior doors, hooking up a dishwasher and doing other last touches.

Two buyers made offers in September; both deals fell through.

Meanwhile, the six-bedroom, 4 1/2 -bath windfall, despite sitting empty, was accompanied by a hefty monthly bill: $600 to $800 in utilities and homeowner’s insurance.

McHale finally sealed a $650,000 deal last month with Unity By the Bay, a church that has outgrown its quarters in a Severna Park strip mall. The church paid $450,000 in cash, McHale said, and she made a tax-deductible contribution of the additional $200,000 to stem the flow of her winnings to the IRS.

“We are all just so grateful to Karen McHale for her donation. The congregation is ecstatic,” said board member Carol Kerr. “We have wanted to have our own building, but everything seemed so out of reach, pricewise, that we just haven’t been able to make it happen.”

All in all, McHale said, she will pocket about $200,000 after paying state and federal tax bills.

“It’s amazing how fast you can spend it,” McHale said, “but we’re done now. We’re back to normal.”

A chunk of the profit went toward the mortgage on the McHale family’s Colorado home. They also spent some of the money on a greenhouse to grow vegetables in a part of the country where winter lasts much of the year and a new Dodge truck to replace one that was falling apart.

One son, a budding chef, got a set of knives; another got help with his August wedding and honeymoon to Italy. At a recent lunch to celebrate the sale of the 6,000-square-foot Maryland home, McHale passed out $50 bills to a couple of dozen family members and friends.

Her original windfall was accompanied by enough stress and tax-code headaches that McHale said she’s done gambling on faraway real estate.

“The Elks [Lodge] was raffling off a pig recently, and I bought tickets for that because I wanted the meat,” she said, laughing. “But I’m not buying raffle tickets for any more homes in strange states.”

A mortgage broker teamed with a charity to raffle off his $1.2 million Edgewater home in January. A mortgage broker teamed with a charity to raffle off his $1.2 million Edgewater home in January.
Photo Credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

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