HOUSE raffles have boomed in popularity – but can you really win a £3million house from a £2 ticket?
The answer is yes. But the chances of winning are very slim. We take a look inside the world of property competitions.
Experts warn those entering competitions to be cautious, as a high proportion of the prized pads never change hands.
More than 3.5 million tickets have been bought by property raffle fans in the last 18 months to enter draws run by the public through portal Raffall.com.
Yet of the 60 property raffles that have since closed, just 17 ended with a contestant winning the top house prize.
Organisers using the eBay-style raffle platform are blocked from making off with the money and winners get compensated if the house doesn’t change hands, but not all raffles have these restrictions.
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Last year National Trading Standards received 15 complaints ranging from homes being re-raffled over and over with no winner to draws being extended and winning prizes being changed.
So before you buy a ticket to win your dream home, here’s what you need to know.
What is a house raffle?
It is a draw to win a house which you can enter for free or by buying at least one ticket. The winner is drawn at random on a specified date and is given the advertised home as a prize.
They are commonly known as raffles but in fact a raffle, whereby you purchase a ticket, is legally a lottery which can only be run for charitable causes not for private profit. They are regulated by the Gambling Commission.
Homeowners or companies raffling off houses for profit must run either a draw which offers free tickets to people who enter by post.
Or they must pose a question which entrants have to answer correctly to be entered into a prize competition. The Gambling Commission does not regulate either.
But if organisers do not follow the draw or competition rules they will be shut down for running an illegal lottery and entrants lose their money.
Can anyone run a house raffle?
Yes, if they own the house they are raffling.
Probably the best known is Omaze. It runs a prize draw offering Hollywood-style homes in locations like the Cotswolds. It donates some of the ticket proceeds to charity.
Smaller companies include RaffleHouse.com and Tramway Path.
Competition website, Loquax, which claims to list all live property competitions, ticket prices and closing dates is currently showing 19 house competitions are open.
Homeowners can pay to host their own raffle on a portal such as Raffall.com.
Users have a web page which advertises their property, the maximum tickets they will sell, the price and the closing date. Raffall.com draws the winner at random.
If the owner doesn’t sell enough tickets to make the raffle a success, the platform gives 75% of the money as compensation to the winner and keeps 25% for commission and costs.
Homeowners can also choose to build their own website to raffle their property, issue tickets and collect payments. Adverts to enter are found on social media.
A quick search on Instagram reveals more than 1,700 posts are using the hashtags #winourhome, #houseraffle and #winmyhome.
Benno Spencer, chief executive of Raffle House, said: “I’ve seen well over a hundred companies or individuals try and make a success of property raffles over the past few years.
"Unfortunately, most property raffles have either been shut down by the Gambling Commission or failed for another reason.
"Our Fixed Odds competitions always show the number of tickets that have been sold .
"So while we aim to sell all tickets to maximise the winnings for the lucky customer, the potential winnings and odds of winning are also clear to any customer right up to when the competition closes, with better odds of walking away with a huge win when limited tickets have been awarded."
“I’ve been entering draws for five years – but I haven’t won yet”
Viva Andrada Oflynn, 40, has been entering property raffles for the last five years.
She only buys one ticket per competition and sticks to big prize draws like Omaze.
“It’s a game of luck but other people can win so why can’t I?” said Viva who owns a cake and crafts shop.
“It gives you a sense of aspiration and inspiration. You wish you could win and imagine yourself living there, watching your family grow up.”
Viva, who lives in Gloucestershire with her husband John, says they are always careful to protect themselves from scammers and would never give their personal details or credit card number out over the phone.
“We’re cautious,” she added. “We don’t enter small competitions, we read the reviews and before entering we check the terms and conditions first.”
How much does it cost to enter?
Some draws offer a free entry route so check their website for this option.
Companies running house draws tend to offer bundles of tickets. Omaze offers 15 tickets for £10. RaffleHouse.com charges £10 for 30 tickets. If you pay £100 you get 900 tickets priced at 11p. Tramway offers one entry for £2.
Some companies give competitors two for one offers which means you get the same amount of tickets for free to enter another draw.
Watch out for pop-up offers tempting you to increase your spend to earn more free tickets.
Privately hosted raffles usually offer single tickets for sale which start from £1 upwards.
Is there always a winner?
Omaze guarantees that someone will always win the house but not all draws make the same promise.
One of the common reasons raffles fail is because the owner does not sell enough tickets to achieve their goal.
If it’s a company, that could be to turn a profit after covering their costs, paying for the house and donating to charity.
Private owners may aim to repay their mortgage, make enough money to buy another home or raise money for a good cause.
In most cases, if the target isn’t met no one wins the house. Some competitions offer the winner a lesser cash prize which is worked out as a percentage of ticket sales. Or they specify a fixed sum.
The latest raffle to close earlier this month (May 9), winawexforddetachedhome, needed to sell 50,000 tickets priced at £12.50 to give away their four-bedroomed detached home in Ireland.
The retired couple wanted to raise money for Cancer Research. Failing to hit their target, 75% of the cash raised was given to the winner as compensation.
Some draws are abandoned entirely if the target isn’t hit, offering no prize at all.
A draw which sparked an investigation by National Trading Standards had raffled the same home four times over. Each time, the host offered a smaller prize instead of the house keeping around 40% of the money from every draw.
Stelios Kounou, chief executive of Raffall.com, said homeowners who set up a website to raffle their own home don’t realise how hard it can be to sell tickets because the public are suspicious that it’s a scam.
Only 28% of property raffles hosted on the platform in the last 18 months have ended with the house being won.
“People fail to sell enough tickets, become disheartened and give up,” said Mr Kounou.
“The big worry here is, what happens with all the money? What’s to stop them running off with it? That’s why hosts using our platform can’t access the ticket revenue until the winners get their prizes.”
“I won a competition – but I didn’t get the house”
George Albert, 33, has been a fan of property prize draws since reading in his local paper about a woman who won a £2.5 million home.
For the last six months George, who lives in Birmingham, has spent between £30 to £40 a month entering draws through Rafflehouse.com and Omaze.
“If I won I wouldn’t live in the property I’d sell it to pay off my debts and buy a normal regular house and give some money to charity,” said George, a fleet team leader
Although he’s yet to win the dream home competition he recently had a brush with success.
“I’d entered a cash prize draw on the Raffle House website. Two weeks ago I got an email that said congratulations you’ve won the £20,000 cash prize draw,” said George who lives with his partner and baby.
“But when I opened the email, it said the actual prize was £1,440 which I was a little disappointed about.”
What should you check before entering?
“Consumers entering house raffles must go into it with their eyes open,” said Alison Farrar for the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.
“Make sure you are aware of the terms of the raffle before entering.”
The advert should explain what happens if not all tickets are sold. It should spell out if a lesser cash prize is offered, when the raffle closes and when the draw will take place.
If the date of the draw keeps changing the organiser is struggling to sell tickets.
Check the odds of winning. Competitions that specify the number of tickets they need to sell give you a chance of working out the odds.
Draws such as Omaze don’t state how many tickets they plan to sell so you’ve no way of knowing.
Look for hidden bills. Lots of adverts state that stamp duty and legal fees will be paid for. If they don’t you need to foot the bill.
Check you can afford the maintenance and council tax for the house too.
Before handing over your cash, read past reviews of the organiser’s raffles, look at how long they’ve been established and whether there have been previous winners.
If it’s a homeowner hosting their first raffle, then it’s a case of buyer beware.
Watch out for scams
“If the house raffle isn’t for charity and it isn’t free entry or a proper competition then be wary,” said consumer expert Martyn James of Resolver.
“There are numerous reports of these raffles collapsing and dodgy, questionable practices around who wins. Always check with the Gambling Commission before entering.”
To report a misleading advert call the Advertising Standards Agency on 020 7492 2222.
If you’ve paid for a ticket with no chance of winning or the prize keeps changing report the draw to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
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James Oakes for Omaze said: “Omaze is focused on raising as much as possible for its charity partners, with a minimum donation set at £100,000 per draw.
"There is no limit on entries for each house draw and we encourage and support responsible participation at all times.
“The number of entries received and the odds of winning the grand prize vary for each campaign.”
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