Does anyone ever win – A look inside the remarkably murky world of house raffles

What if, rather than pay estate agents to find a single buyer, you simply sold raffle tickets for your home?

Back in 2017 that was the exact plan used by Dunstan Low – owner of the six-bedroom Melling Manor near Kirkby Lonsdale.

His "Win a country home" competition sold 450,000 tickets at £2 each and resulted in officer worker Marie Seager walking away with the property a few months later – which she's now rented out.

Since that initial success, dozens of homes have gone up for sale this way – but almost none of them have resulted in a home changing hands.

Some of the competitions have refunded cash, others have simply vanished while most have seen the "winner" walk away with a cash prize instead of a home.

Then there are the competitions that won't die – with owners simply extending the "draw" date again and again in an effort to drum up enough ticket sales to make the whole process worthwhile.

Marc Gershon, of recent raffle operator Win my Dream Home , said: “When you look back at previous house competitions in the UK and abroad, it’s clear to see why the public perception of the format is a negative one, with just one house awarded and a small handful gifting a cash prize."

Problems are both simple and complex.

The first, and simplest, is you need to sell enough tickets.

"It is just a numbers game, really. You need to sell an awful lot of tickets,” Tim Jones, who decided to raffle his house off in 2018, told Mirror Money.

And a few months after launch, things weren't going well.

“The goal was to sell about 200,000 tickets,” he said.” I could probably still do it if we sold 130,000, but we're at roughly 15,000.”

In the end, he didn't make it – with £24,000 of the ticket revenue donated to the charitable cause, £24,000 distributed as cash prizes and the rest going to cover costs and the home not changing hands.

With ticket sales proving a real stumbling block, the next key question is what happens to all the money that comes in if the house doesn't change hands?

In many cases it goes on cash prizes, but there are real questions about how these are distributed.

In several cases, these are awarded "after costs" with no real explanation of how these are calculated, leaving many entrants suspicious that they are being taken for a ride.

Raffle House , which ran the competition to win a Brixton flat last year, is up front about theirs and awarded a six-figure payout to the winner – if not the home.

But in other cases it's simply unclear as to what happened to the money.

Win Barns Farm Life and Win a Yorkshire Home closed down and the outcome either unknown or refunds given.

House To Win – where £2 gave you the chance to win a 2 bed house in London – had their website and Twitter page removed and we can't find any details as to why or what happened to the money people paid in.

Win my Dream Home's Gershon said: "These competitions are a business venture at the end of the day and if not enough tickets are sold, a cash prize is an acceptable substitute.

"However, when it is done in a less than transparent manner with the financial details or ticket sales being withheld, you can see why those that do win still feel hard done by."

Then there are the competitions that just don't end – Dancers Hill, for example, has seen its closing date extended by six months.

It doesn't always work, with Rafflehouse extending its deadline, then offering a cash prize.

Founder Benno Spencer said: "Of course, it would have been fantastic to have hit our ticket sales target and to have been able to award the property as the first prize."

But he's not put off.

"We have learned a lot during our inaugural competition and have launched our second draw with major changes that will reduce the number of tickets we need to sell in order to be able to award the property as the main prize, which is excellent news for us and for our players," Spencer said

Win My Dream Home's Gershon said: "A lack of understanding is the driving factor behind the poor running of these competitions and due to dodgy T&Cs, extensions to closing dates and an inadequate skills test like spot the ball, there’s a lot to do to raise the bar in the house competition sector and get the public back on side.”


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