Win a house – Property raffles the new craze to sweep the nation

win a house

Wouldn’t it be nice to win a house?! For a £2 raffle ticket, that dream could be a reality, as many home owners are now choosing to sell their homes through the medium of ‘property raffles’.

Auctions, online estate agents, cash home buyers; UK homeowners wishing to sell a property have a wide range of options available to them.  Now, it seems, a new craze is sweeping the nation.

It gives homeowners a new option for selling their property and it gives would-be homeowners the chance to win a house, simply by buying a raffle ticket for a few pounds.

What is a house raffle?

A relatively new way to find a new owner for your property, a house raffle allows members of the public, who may otherwise not be able to afford the property, to buy a raffle tickets that gives them the chance of winning it.  Tickets for previous UK house raffle competitions have ranged in price from just £2 up to £1,000.

The idea is that the homeowner will sell enough tickets to cover the cost of the house, and one lucky winner will get to own a highly desirable property for a fraction of its market value.

 Where did house raffles come from?

The raffle of a £1million Devon estate in 2008 was famously the first ‘win a house’ competition that successfully reached completion, and since then the concept has steadily gained momentum.

Win a Country House – Melling Manor

One person who has benefitted from the house raffle trend is Dunstan Low.  After lovingly restoring Melling Manor, a six-bedroom Georgian manor house, between 2011 and 2012, Mr Low was struggling to keep up with the mortgage repayments and needed a quick house sale.  He tried to sell the property on the open market with an asking price of £845,000, but was unable to find a buyer, so to avoid repossession he decided to run a house raffle.

With tickets priced at just £2, and the option of a free postal entry, the competition attracted a lot of attention.  By the time the competition closed, it had raised not only enough money to cover the cost of the house and all legal bills, but also enough for Mr Low to donate £40,000 to charity.

Sounds like a win-win situation, surely there’s a catch?

It sounds like a great way to ‘sell’ your property, and there have been several impressive success stories, but, unfortunately, there have also been a few occasion when house raffles have not gone to plan.

After struggling to find a buyer for their six-bedroom Wirral property, which had been valued at £725,000, Howard and Marie Lipsey decided to offer the property as a prize in a raffle.  They had previously seen media coverage of the Devonshire estate raffle that had been a success.

Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Lipsey, the Gambling Commission raised questions about whether the raffle was legally viable and forced them to put it on hold, just weeks after it launched.  By the time the Gambling Commission gave the Lipseys the go ahead to continue the raffle, interest in it had declined and they failed to sell enough tickets to make the raffle viable.

The couple had used the money from the initial ticket sales to finance the set up and marketing of the competition, and as a result were left unable to refund ticket holders.  Mr Lipsey says this has resulted in abusive emails and threats from angry ticket holders wanting their money back.

Mr Lipsey described the experience as ‘a living nightmare’, and said they have since had to draw up a contract promising to repay ticket holders when the house eventually sells, at a significantly reduced price, on the open market.

What you should consider before you raffle your house

A house raffle has the potential to be a great success, as long as you research the legalities carefully and are clear on what you are liable for.

Before you consider a house raffle, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would you price the tickets?
  • How many tickets would you need to sell to make the raffle viable?
  • What would you do if you did not sell the required number of tickets?
  • Who will be responsible for paying the stamp duty, legal fees and other costs associated with a house sale?

You will also need to ensure you have a thorough understanding of the legalities surrounding house raffles to ensure you do not end up breaking the law.

What are the legal guidelines for a house raffle?

You will notice, if you start looking at existing house raffles, that they will require you to answer a question or participate in some other type of ‘competition’ element.  This is because UK lottery laws make a straight raffle illegal.  Would-be winners must participate in a ‘skills-based’ question in order to make the raffle legally permissible.

Schemes that do not include a ‘skills-based’ test, that would prevent a significant number of people from participating in the competition, are classed as lotteries, and lotteries cannot be operated for private gain, ie. selling a property.

 Want a chance to win a new house?

If you’d like a chance to enter to win a house, you’ll be able to find a number of house competitions simply by searching the internet using the phrase ‘win a house UK’.

Before you enter a competition to win a house, make sure you read the terms and conditions thoroughly, so you have a clear understanding of what your financial responsibilities would be if you won.

Remember, any form of home ownership comes with financial responsibilities, no competition or raffle will enable you to win a house for free; there will always be costs involved in terms of household bills and ongoing property maintenance etc.

What happens after the competition has ended and reality sets in?

So, what happens after the competition has ended?  Mr Low, former owner of Melling Manor, was kind enough to give us an update on the fate of the six-bedroom Georgian house, now that the competition has ended.

He said: “The winner of the house was caught a little off-guard when she found out she’d won, so she didn’t have a plan in place for what she would do with the property.

I understand they had a big celebration party at the house, but then the reality of the ongoing financial commitment of owning a large property like Melling Manor soon set in.  She went on to re-sell the property fairly quickly after winning it, at the significantly reduced price of just over £300,000.

In our situation the house raffle worked out well for everyone; we avoided repossession, the competition winner walked away with just over £300,000 in her pocket, and the new owner of Melling Manor has got an absolute bargain.

In general, however, I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to sell your property.  I think there are around 30 house raffles on the go in the UK at the moment, but unfortunately I suspect many of them will fail.  The whole process is not as simple as it looks from the outside.  Trying to get enough interest and ticket sales, the legalities of the whole thing, it is just not as easy as it looks.

I’m now advising other homeowners on house raffles, but it’s hard.  If you are in the position we were in, where you are trying to avoid repossession and have no choice, it worked for us, but generally it’s not an easy thing to do, so I wouldn’t recommend it for most people.  It’s not an easy alternative to selling on the open market

 UK house competitions

Over the last ten years there have been a number of house raffles in the UK and it seems to be an increasingly popular way of selling your home, with several house raffles usually running at the same time.

If you are interested in winning a house, try visiting some of the following property raffle websites:

www.winthishouse.co.uk – Run by the owner of the property, Kirstie Searle, www.winthishouse.co.uk gives you the opportunity to win a five-bedroom family home in Northamptonshire.  For just £2 you could be in with a chance of winning this £300,000 modern and beautifully presented property.

Inspired by Dunstan Low’s success, Kirstie says she wanted to do something different to the norm and make a real difference to someone’s life, as well as for her family and for charity.  She plans to donate £30,000 from the proceeds to charities close to her heart, and says winning the property will be life changing for the winner.

Winabode.com – Hailing itself as ‘the UK’s first online property competition platform’, winabode.com plans to run multiple house raffle competitions simultaneously.  Would-be home owners can currently buy raffle tickets to win a three-bedroom, ground floor flat in Dalston, London, worth £700,000, and the website promises more house raffles coming soon.

www.yourcountrychurch.com – Fancy winning a Grade II listed converted stone chapel in the Peak District National Park worth £750,000?  www.yourcountrychurch.com gives you the opportunity to do that, simply by purchasing a £6 raffle ticket.

For those suspicious that a raffle is a way of getting rid of a dud house, property owner Cheryl-Anne Jenkinson, explains:

People imagine these houses have problems because we’ve had issues selling them, but it’s not true.

Reaching the right buyers is beyond the scope of how the English sales system operates.  I’ve had many asking price offers! But not everyone can get a mortgage on an unconventional home, and a fair number of sales fell through when buyers were stuck in chains.

But above all, grand country houses need a global, affluent market yet estate agents are geared up to sell locally.  Buyers are hardly going to search for Swythamley [where the propery is located], for the mere reason they don’t know it exists.

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