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Latest perk in buying new home? Free pizza

A local mortgage company wants to cut homeowners in on a piece of the pie _ the pizza pie.

Buy this house, proclaim the company's signs, and get a free pizza.

A $20 pizza might not seem like much of an incentive to shell out $70,000 or more for a home. But the signs are getting attention _ and in real estate, that's half the battle.

"The signs are generating a lot of calls. People want to know about the pizza," said Betty Craig, quality control manager at American Mortgage Link in St. Petersburg.

Craig said her office has logged dozens of calls since the signs started going up about two weeks ago. There are now about 10 of the signs in and around St. Petersburg, she said.

American Mortgage Link isn't actually selling the houses. The company works with homeowners who are marketing their own properties.

If prospective buyers call about the pizza, the mortgage company will give them information about the house, hoping to get the mortgage business if the house sells.

Craig said the gimmick grew out of a late-night brainstorming session.

"We were tossing out ideas, and someone suggested we give the buyer a free puppy," she said. "But that was too complicated.

"Then we thought a pizza would be nice. You're moving in, you're unpacking, you don't want to deal with cooking and all that."

Sales gimmicks are nothing new in the real estate business, said Walt Smyth, a manager with Premier Group Realty and president-elect of the St. Petersburg Suncoast Association of Realtors.

Agents will pass out pens, buy billboards, coin catchy slogans _ anything to get attention.

"The bottom line in the real estate business is: Work to get the phone to ring," he said. "You're always trying to do something to get your name out."

Smyth hasn't seen any of the pizza signs, but said they sound like effective eye-catchers.

"If I had seen one, I probably would have called, just out of curiosity," he said.

Jimmie Dean has one of the signs in the yard of a house he owns at 4000 Neptune Drive SE in Coquina Key. The two-bedroom, one-bath house is on the market for $68,900.

"It can't hurt," he said Monday. "I don't see any reason not to have it there."

Dean acknowledged the sign is "gimmicky" and said he probably wouldn't have thought of it on his own.

"I normally wouldn't do something like that, but it might work," he said. "I can't really imagine someone buying a house to get a free pizza. But it's something to trigger the mind, you know?"

Craig said her company's offer is good for any pizza at any St. Petersburg pizza joint.

"But who knows?" she said. "If we had a big enough house, we may send them to Italy for that pizza."