Too good to be true? Eleanor Doughty investigates the trend for sale by raffle and explains why you should always read the small print.
You may well have seen them and thought them too good to be true: houses for sale via raffle. One popped into my inbox the other week: ‘Own Grade II mansion for under £15.’ I could, in theory, own a ‘dream north London mansion that has been a family home for three decades’ and pay just £13.50.
The house in question, Dancers Hill, a six-bedroom property worth £5.25 million, isn’t alone in being raffled off. Last year, Susan DeVere put 45-room Orchardton Castle, near Dumfries, up for sale via raffle. One might well wonder why this lottery business has suddenly come about.
‘Selling enough tickets is no easy task and, if not handled correctly, it could be deemed an illegal lottery by the Gambling Commission. My advice would be to stay well clear.’
For one thing, it’s part of wider disruption going on within the property industry – a technological revolution. Lately, alternative methods of selling one’s home have risen in popularity, notably, the online estate agency via companies such as Purplebricks, which, in October, claimed its brand name is now better known than property portals such as Rightmove. It claims to have doubled its number of registered users during 2018 and seen instructions increase by 56.2%.
Could the property raffle fare just as well? Naturally, traditional agents have doubts. A representative for a major agency stated: ‘We would advise all home movers to use a trusted estate agent for the best possible service.’ Others, such as Marc Schneiderman, director at Arlington Residential, are more strident.
‘Although buying a home by raffle is a win-win situation, selling a home by raffle may not be. Selling enough tickets is no easy task and, if not handled correctly, it could be deemed an illegal lottery by the Gambling Commission. My advice would be to stay well clear.’
Jonathan Bramwell, head of The Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s independent buying consultancy, agrees. ‘Although savvy vendors will include Stamp Duty, the winner may find themselves with a multi-million-pound property with hefty running costs.’
‘Quite simply, it could become financially catastrophic.’
James Robinson, general manager of Lurot Brand, is also sceptical. ‘There may be reasons why an unscrupulous seller would choose to raffle their house, especially if they’re hoping the buyers won’t bother with surveying.’ He cautions buyers: ‘One might think how bad can it be? Quite simply, it could become financially catastrophic.’
Jonny Jackson, co-founder of Cadivus, a prime property raffling website that launched in November, has a more positive outlook. Cadivus, he hopes, will professionalise the usually amateur business of raffling houses. ‘It’s just a new way of raising awareness of selling a property,’ he says.
Mr Jackson admits that there are problems with the method’s image. ‘People think “these guys are up to something – you can’t pay £10 and then win a house in a raffle”.’
In addition, the properties for sale are often being marketed this way as a last resort. ‘They’re often phrased “win my house in the middle of nowhere dot com” and there’s less demand for that.’ The first property to be raffled by Cadivus was a newly developed central London flat. ‘It’s something that people actually wanted to buy,’ says Mr Jackson. ‘It’s like winning a 15-year-old banger versus trying to win a Ferrari.’
‘We’ve got three central London properties that we’d like to do this with,’ continues Mr Jackson. ‘We know that most raffles fail, but even if we can’t give the property away, that doesn’t mean the project has been a failure.’ And if you can’t take the house home, as it were, oh, lucky ticket winner, you could win a cash prize instead. What’s not to love? (Terms and conditions apply. See fine print.)
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