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Lexus drives home the deal

Published Aug. 1, 2007

Need to sell a house in a hurry in these days of too many homes and too few buyers? Throw in a Lexus.

That's what Maureen and Tom Brennan of Garden City, N.Y., did when they wanted a fast sale on the home they bought last December. They paid $159,000 cash for a new 1,200-square-foot villa at Woodland Village in Hudson.

But then they decided to build a house on the East Coast near Maureen's mother. So they listed the Hudson villa in March for $170,000 with Barbara Zeppenfeld of Coldwell Banker Residential in Palm Harbor.

When there was no action by July, Tom Brennan suggested: "Throw in the car," their four-door 1997 Lexus 400SL, which had a book value of $10,000.

One day in July, Darlene Thurston, 49, went looking online for a home. She and husband James, 43, wanted to buy but had found nothing, and they were just about to renew the lease on the condo they'd been renting.

When she saw Zeppenfeld's listing with the words, "Free Lexus," her first thought was, "Oh, it's a gimmick." But she discovered that the Woodland Village property was "a mile from my daughter, really cute and had everything I wanted, in the price range I was looking for": two bedrooms, two baths, side-by-side refrigerator, washer and dryer, inside utility room, on a pond. And a Lexus.

The two met "within an hour," Zeppenfeld recalled. In another hour she got the Thurstons approved for a mortgage, even before they saw the house. Thirty days later they closed, paying $161,000. She's an oncology technician at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa; he's a nurse at Community Hospital in New Port Richey.

"It was unbelievable," Thurston said. "We're still in shock." They're enjoying riding around in that fully loaded Lexus. Said Thurston: "We're like kids in a candy store."

Judy Stark can be reached at (727) 893-8446 or