You can win a house, but are raffle homes the real deal?

The odds are certainly unlikely but it’s not impossible, as 27-year-old Niomi Boontam will tell you. She now owns a London apartment valued at £500,000 after winning a raffle. Her ticket cost just £5. 

‘I never thought I’d actually win. I was shaking and thinking ‘this is not real’. I live with my partner and we’re renting and it’s a lovely location, but we don’t own it,’ says Niomi, who currently lives in Bournemouth. 

The firm behind the competition, Raffle House, also pays the stamp duty where it applies, plus conveyancing fees and throws in £3,000 to help with running costs. 

Niomi is not the only lucky winner this year. Administration assistant Jemma Nicklin, 23, who lived with her parents in Wolverhampton, won a £500,000 four-bedroom cottage near Shrewsbury after buying two tickets at £2 each. 

South London, £750,000. (Ticket: £2) 

In recent months there has been an explosion in the number of property raffles. This two-bedroom house near Loughborough Junction, South London, has a garden. Tickets are £2 and the property is valued at £750,000. (Enter before November 30 at rafflehouse.com)

In recent months there has been an explosion in the number of property raffles. This two-bedroom house near Loughborough Junction, South London, has a garden. Tickets are £2 and the property is valued at £750,000. (Enter before November 30 at rafflehouse.com)

In recent months there has been an explosion in the number of property raffles. This two-bedroom house near Loughborough Junction, South London, has a garden. Tickets are £2 and the property is valued at £750,000. (Enter before November 30 at rafflehouse.com)

The beautifully renovated £750,000 Victorian townhouse in South London is currently owned by Lucy Mieville, a 35-year-old nutritionist who designed the interiors. She and her husband, James, hope to sell 650,000 tickets, with the house awarded to one lucky winner mortgage-free. All fees and stamp duty will also be covered as part of the prize

The beautifully renovated £750,000 Victorian townhouse in South London is currently owned by Lucy Mieville, a 35-year-old nutritionist who designed the interiors. She and her husband, James, hope to sell 650,000 tickets, with the house awarded to one lucky winner mortgage-free. All fees and stamp duty will also be covered as part of the prize

The beautifully renovated £750,000 Victorian townhouse in South London is currently owned by Lucy Mieville, a 35-year-old nutritionist who designed the interiors. She and her husband, James, hope to sell 650,000 tickets, with the house awarded to one lucky winner mortgage-free. All fees and stamp duty will also be covered as part of the prize

The downstairs of the South London property, near Denmark Hill, consists of a large living room (pictured) which leads onto the dining room and kitchen. The £2 tickets for the competition can be purchased from the Raffle House website where entrants can buy in bulk. In addition, 2.5% of ticket sales will be given to homelessness charities Centrepoint and Housing for Women, with Raffle House having already raised around £30,000 from previous competitions

The downstairs of the South London property, near Denmark Hill, consists of a large living room (pictured) which leads onto the dining room and kitchen. The £2 tickets for the competition can be purchased from the Raffle House website where entrants can buy in bulk. In addition, 2.5% of ticket sales will be given to homelessness charities Centrepoint and Housing for Women, with Raffle House having already raised around £30,000 from previous competitions

The downstairs of the South London property, near Denmark Hill, consists of a large living room (pictured) which leads onto the dining room and kitchen. The £2 tickets for the competition can be purchased from the Raffle House website where entrants can buy in bulk. In addition, 2.5% of ticket sales will be given to homelessness charities Centrepoint and Housing for Women, with Raffle House having already raised around £30,000 from previous competitions

The dining room and kitchen have an open plan layout. The couple want a home with more space than their 1,023 sq ft property following the birth of their baby daughter

The dining room and kitchen have an open plan layout. The couple want a home with more space than their 1,023 sq ft property following the birth of their baby daughter

The dining room and kitchen have an open plan layout. The couple want a home with more space than their 1,023 sq ft property following the birth of their baby daughter

Upstairs the primary bedroom is spacious enough for a king-sized bed and features built-in cupboards and a large window with a view of the garden. Raffle House also awards £1,000 to one lucky player every week between now and when the competition closes

Upstairs the primary bedroom is spacious enough for a king-sized bed and features built-in cupboards and a large window with a view of the garden. Raffle House also awards £1,000 to one lucky player every week between now and when the competition closes

Upstairs the primary bedroom is spacious enough for a king-sized bed and features built-in cupboards and a large window with a view of the garden. Raffle House also awards £1,000 to one lucky player every week between now and when the competition closes

LANCASHIRE, £900,000. (Ticket: £2.50) 

There are six bedrooms in Grade II-listed Melling Hall near the Lake District. Tickets are £2.50 and the property is worth about £900,000. (Enter before September 15 at winacountryhall.co.uk)

There are six bedrooms in Grade II-listed Melling Hall near the Lake District. Tickets are £2.50 and the property is worth about £900,000. (Enter before September 15 at winacountryhall.co.uk)

There are six bedrooms in Grade II-listed Melling Hall near the Lake District. Tickets are £2.50 and the property is worth about £900,000. (Enter before September 15 at winacountryhall.co.uk)

The kitchen at Melling Hall. Property raffles are on the rise because many owners who put their homes on the market in the traditional way with an estate agent just before lockdown have become frustrated waiting to find a buyer

The kitchen at Melling Hall. Property raffles are on the rise because many owners who put their homes on the market in the traditional way with an estate agent just before lockdown have become frustrated waiting to find a buyer

The kitchen at Melling Hall. Property raffles are on the rise because many owners who put their homes on the market in the traditional way with an estate agent just before lockdown have become frustrated waiting to find a buyer

Guy and Julie Vass bought Melling Hall, a stunning Georgian house, 18 years ago and have spent the last ten years lovingly restoring it

Guy and Julie Vass bought Melling Hall, a stunning Georgian house, 18 years ago and have spent the last ten years lovingly restoring it

Guy and Julie Vass bought Melling Hall, a stunning Georgian house, 18 years ago and have spent the last ten years lovingly restoring it

The three-storey home has a sweeping driveway, deluxe kitchen, a two-storey high entrance hall and three double bedrooms with panelled shutters and their own bathrooms

The three-storey home has a sweeping driveway, deluxe kitchen, a two-storey high entrance hall and three double bedrooms with panelled shutters and their own bathrooms

The three-storey home has a sweeping driveway, deluxe kitchen, a two-storey high entrance hall and three double bedrooms with panelled shutters and their own bathrooms

In recent months there has been an explosion in the number of property raffles, because many owners who put their homes on the market in the traditional way with an estate agent just before lockdown have become frustrated waiting to find a buyer. 

But while raffles may change the lives of a fortunate few, are they a serious way of trying to buy and sell a home? 

The jury is out, not least because organising a raffle with such an expensive prize is complicated and recent examples have collapsed. 

What’s more, the Gambling Commission has stepped in to shut down many house raffles because it is illegal to simply sell tickets with a prize valued at £200,000 or above, unless the organiser obtains a formal licence. 

CAERNARFONSHIRE, £290,000. (Ticket: £5)

Cwellyn Cottage, in Caernarfonshire, has two bedrooms, a large garden and a stone fireplace. Tickets are £5 and the property has been valued at £290,000. (Enter before September 15 at cwellyndream.com)

Cwellyn Cottage, in Caernarfonshire, has two bedrooms, a large garden and a stone fireplace. Tickets are £5 and the property has been valued at £290,000. (Enter before September 15 at cwellyndream.com)

Cwellyn Cottage, in Caernarfonshire, has two bedrooms, a large garden and a stone fireplace. Tickets are £5 and the property has been valued at £290,000. (Enter before September 15 at cwellyndream.com)

Katherine Jablonowska and Ryan Mclean purchased the cottage in the Llŷn Peninsula, Wales, in September 2018 and began developing it. The pair are now looking to sell the home via raffle and aim to raise some money for The Children's Society charity, with hopes of attracting at least 80,000 entrants

Katherine Jablonowska and Ryan Mclean purchased the cottage in the Llŷn Peninsula, Wales, in September 2018 and began developing it. The pair are now looking to sell the home via raffle and aim to raise some money for The Children's Society charity, with hopes of attracting at least 80,000 entrants

Katherine Jablonowska and Ryan Mclean purchased the cottage in the Llŷn Peninsula, Wales, in September 2018 and began developing it. The pair are now looking to sell the home via raffle and aim to raise some money for The Children’s Society charity, with hopes of attracting at least 80,000 entrants

The garden of the property, on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park, boasts some stunning views

The garden of the property, on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park, boasts some stunning views

The garden of the property, on the outskirts of Snowdonia National Park, boasts some stunning views

Roll up: Niomi Boontam, 27, who rents in Bournemouth, now owns a London apartment valued at £500,000 after winning a raffle. Her ticket cost just £5

Roll up: Niomi Boontam, 27, who rents in Bournemouth, now owns a London apartment valued at £500,000 after winning a raffle. Her ticket cost just £5

Roll up: Niomi Boontam, 27, who rents in Bournemouth, now owns a London apartment valued at £500,000 after winning a raffle. Her ticket cost just £5

Otherwise a seller could end up with a £5,000 fine or even a year’s prison sentence. 

Instead, there must a competition element: in many cases an entrant has to answer a question, which avoids the need for a licence. 

Secondly, there is the issue of selling enough tickets to cover the home’s value, plus the costs of holding a raffle. 

Most raffles to date have failed to sell enough tickets and had to give a cash prize. 

This had led to complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. 

Raffle House failed to sell enough tickets for a draw in 2019. ‘Our first competition closed with a cash prize of over £170,000. 

‘We’re over the moon at being able to award such a huge sum of money and to have raised nearly £14,000 for charities,’ says chief executive Benno Spencer. 

Even for the few winners who actually get a property, there could be downsides. 

Consumer group Which? points out some raffles do not pay stamp duty, so a winner may end up with significant costs. 

‘It’s also important to know whether the prize is a leasehold or freehold. 

‘If it’s a leasehold, check how many years are left, and whether any service charges or ground rents apply’, says a Which? spokesman. 

In addition it might be worth trying to find out why the property is being raffled in the first place, instead of the traditional and simpler route via an estate agent. 

‘There’s the risk that the property wasn’t accurately described and may include some unwanted and expensive surprises,’ says Shilpa Mathuradas, head of property litigation at London legal firm Osbornes Law. 

Niomi said of her new apartment (above): 'I never thought I'd actually win. I was shaking and thinking "this is not real". I live with my partner and we're renting and it's a lovely location, but we don't own it'

Niomi said of her new apartment (above): 'I never thought I'd actually win. I was shaking and thinking "this is not real". I live with my partner and we're renting and it's a lovely location, but we don't own it'

Niomi said of her new apartment (above): ‘I never thought I’d actually win. I was shaking and thinking “this is not real”. I live with my partner and we’re renting and it’s a lovely location, but we don’t own it’

The firm behind the competition, Raffle House, also pays the stamp duty where it applies, plus conveyancing fees and throws in £3,000 to help with running costs. (Above, the interior of Niomi's apartment)

The firm behind the competition, Raffle House, also pays the stamp duty where it applies, plus conveyancing fees and throws in £3,000 to help with running costs. (Above, the interior of Niomi's apartment)

The firm behind the competition, Raffle House, also pays the stamp duty where it applies, plus conveyancing fees and throws in £3,000 to help with running costs. (Above, the interior of Niomi’s apartment)

What are the rules on raffling a home – and what happens if they don’t sell enough tickets?

What is a house raffle and how is it legal? 

Raffling off a home is becoming more and more popular with dozens taking place every year in the UK.

For the seller, the idea is to sell enough raffle tickets to cover their asking price – plus cover the cost of running it.

Most set up a website to advertise their competition and charge between £2 and £5 a ticket in order to attract as many entrants as possible – but more expensive properties can be raffled at £25 a ticket.

Once they hit their target total, they then select a lucky winner at random – but the draw must be carried out by a regulated lotto firm not the owner.

Those who want to keep the money gained for themselves must either hold a free prize draw or add a competition element to the raffle.

Competitors should have to prove their skill, knowledge or judgment in order to win the top prize.

Many people get around this by asking an incredibly simple question such as ‘what style of property is this house: A – Victorian, B – Tudor or C – Georgian’ when people pay for their raffle ticket.

Others have run spot the ball games to decide the winner.

How often do house raffles fail?

More and more raffles are failing to hit ticket targets as people become suspicious of them.

In this case the organisers will fall back on their terms and conditions.

These usually allow them to keep 25 per cent of total sales to cover their time. 

They can also deduct further reasonable running costs such as legal or PR spending.

The remaining money is then given away – but it is always smaller than the value of the home that was up for sale.

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But if you do bite the bullet, there are plenty of opportunities as several raffles are now ‘live’. 

One competition is offering a two-bedroom apartment in Manchester city centre. 

Tickets are £1.80 and the draw will be held in September 2021 or earlier. If too few tickets sell, 75 per cent of the monies raised will be awarded to the winner. 

Owner Stella Wong says: ‘I know it is a little unusual, but we thought this was a great way to give something back. 

‘We want to give someone a fresh start and, the apartment will come fully-furnished with stamp duty paid so it really is the chance of a lifetime.’

Drawn out of the hat: Consumer group Which? points out some raffles do not pay stamp duty, so a winner may end up with significant costs

Drawn out of the hat: Consumer group Which? points out some raffles do not pay stamp duty, so a winner may end up with significant costs

Drawn out of the hat: Consumer group Which? points out some raffles do not pay stamp duty, so a winner may end up with significant costs

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