Since we started our win a house competition section we've been approached a number of times about how to run them. Let's be clear from the outset and state that we've never run a house raffle. We have no experience in undertaking such a giveaway and have no desire to do so. However over the years we've observed how other competitions have been managed and hopefully we can offer some pointers and advice if you're considering going down this route.
These are our top ten tips. Please note this is not legal advice. Please seek professional advice before considering running a house raffle.
In our view this is the first thing you should be asking yourself. Why do you want to give your property away in a competition? Is it because you can't sell it via conventional means or do you think it's a way of making money? If you're struggling to sell then perhaps you need to address that issue first. Perhaps talk to your Estate Agent and see if there's anything you can do to attract buyers. If you're hoping to make pots of cash then we're not going to judge, but just be aware that running a raffle is perhaps not the easiest thing to do and it may actually cost you money. Hopefully you want to run a competition because you have a wonderful property that will be attractive to entrants.
Melling Manor, Shrubbery Farm and Grafton Farmhouse are all grand sounding properties! And grand sounding property raffles do seem to do a lot better than those competitions where an average terrace or modern suburban build home is on offer. Consider why someone would want to win your home? Does it offer that dream lifestyle to entrants? If it doesn't then what can you do to make it the right property? In our view too many would be promoters assume that people will go for any and every home offered without considering that a winner may wish to sell it, rent it or live in it. If your property isn't as exciting as a Melling Manor then you'll need to figure out a way to make it so.
If you've decided that a house raffle is for you then you're going to need a website and at least a couple of social media channels such as Facebook. You may need to contract a company to build a site for you although to save costs you could do it yourself. Remember you will need a domain name, hosting space and the abilty to take and process online payments. Your website should be easy to use, provide all the details about the property, contain high quality images of your home, house plans and plenty of terms.
Alternatively you could consider getting someone else to run your competition or you could consider using a service like Raffall. The promoter of Shrubbery Farm has gotten involved with Coles Hall and Win Your Dream. They are using the same formula with those properties. Raffall is a competitions and raffles app that's being used for the first time with this competition. We're not so enamoured with this platform though and our advice would be to see how that goes before jumping on board.
As you're running a competition and charging people to enter then you need to make sure you're running things properly. You need to include a skill element - although this is usually a very simple multiple choice question - and a free to enter postal entry route. If you're unsure of this kind of mechanic then take a look at how other sites operate.
Coles Hall for example require the answer to a multiple choice question but won't let you purchase a ticket unless you have the right answer. Some competitions in the past opted for harder mechanics like spot the ball. These didn't appeal to entrants. Whatever you choose make sure you understand skill competitions as the last thing you want is for The UKGC to close your competition down.
We're often amazed that people want to jump into this kind of thing without understanding the legalities. Yes you can create terms inspired by other competitions - and we do advise you look hard at the terms of other competitions - but do try and talk with a solicitor. At the end of the day you're potentially selling your home for the price of a couple of quid so spend a few pounds making sure what you're doing is above board. It's for your own protection as well as the people entering the competition.
The successful win a house competitions utilise the media to push their agenda. Shrubbery Farm were very successful in getting local media to pick up their story which quickly hit the national press. Be prepared to be interviewed on TV and radio. Sites like Loquax will also list your competition for free (although we will happily accept advertising payments). Referrals are another good way to generate interest especially on social media. Encourage entrants to share a unique link and offer free tickets and/or a cash prize to entrants who refer others.
Social media can be your friend and enemy. Use it well to promote your competition and engage with your audience. Consider running small giveaways to generate more interest in your page (e.g. share our page for the chance to win an Amazon voucher). You may have to spend some money on advertising but don't blow huge amounts. Millionaire Mansion spent money on radio adverts and still didn't sell enough tickets despite extending their closing date by a year. But be wary of social media! Good reviews and comments don't go viral as quickly as bad reviews and customer service.
What do Melling Manor, Shrubbery Farm and Grafton Farmhouse all have in common apart from they all completed? The ticket price for entry was just £2. In the past we've seen win a house competitions with ticket prices of £10, £25 and even £50. Some people assume selling 10,000 tickets at £50 will be easier than 250,000 at £2. Not always! In our view people are more willing to take a punt to win a property for the price of a cup of coffee.
Offer them the chance to get free entries by sharing their link and it's great value for you too. Note that some payment systems will charge for entry so make sure you factor in those costs of your ticket price. Don't rely on Paypal as Paypal doesn't like it's service being used for raffles. Also don't be greedy! If your property is worth £200,000 don't expect to generate £1million in ticket sales.
Once you've got things going it's not just a case of sitting back and waiting for all the tickets to sell. You're going to have to work hard in dealing with entrants, encouraging further sales, keeping people up to date, maanging social media and doing media stuff. People like to know tickets are selling so make announcements at various milestones. The more tickets that sell the bigger the cash prize alternative or the closer to the property being won. In our view the successful competitions are the ones which take advantage of the early weeks or media and user interest.
As mentioned above you will incur costs during the competition. But how much? We compared Win A Mega Home and Maida Vale back in January 2019. The latter was one of the most transparent competitions to date. On our blog one site claimed to spend £500,000 on marketing costs whilst the other spent just under £10,000. It's also worth considering that most house raffles now include a charitable donation. Make sure your chosen charity is OK being promoted on your site and being associated with a win a house competition.
Running a house raffle requires you to be transparent. Transparency is key! The examples above of Win A Mega Home and Maida Vale are the chalk and cheese of transparency. We guess some of that £500,000 was wasted on radio advertising that ASA wasn't impressed with but it's hard to understand how with that budget they only sold 30,000 tickets. It's no wonder it ended up as one of the most controversial competitions. In our option you must be clear with entrants, do everything above board and leave no stone unturned.
If the ticket price is £2 plus a £1 admin fee then the ticket price is £3. Make sure you are clear on your cash alternative if not enough tickets are sold. Every house raffle is questioned by entrants even the ones that are successful. Grafton Farmhouse didn't show the computer generated draw live on screen and that attracted comments on social media. Don't mess people around (e.g. constantly moving closing dates), don't lie about ticket sales (e.g we're close to selling out when you're not) and don't disappear off social media. Some sites have closed down as soon as the competition ended leaving entrants wondering what's going on.
Since 2017 we've featured nearly 70 win a house competitions of which only 5 have reached their desired end point (4 in The UK, 1 in Ireland). It's possible that your attempts to sell your house via this process may fail. You may create a wealthy cash prize winner and you may generate some revenue. However be prepared that you may also lose money. The owner of the Fred Dibnah property pulled their competition because they were facing losing cash. In fact they sold £10,300 in tickets but spent £21,000 on the actual competition.
Another thing to consider is that if you don't giveaway the property then you still have a home that you want or need to sell. A win a house competition can run for several months. This could be time when you could be attracting to buyers. If you end up back at square one after running a competition are you OK still being where you are?
A website that lists win a house competitions suggesting "don't do it"? Well yes! Actually it's our top piece of advice and it's what we have told pretty much everyone who's asked for our advice. The thing is is if you're asking our advice you've probably not researched things enough. If you're umming and ahhing then you're not committed to the stress and strain of the process ahead of you. Running a house raffle is stressful and can be a rollercoaster of difficulties. You could be lucky and turnover a competition in a matter of weeks but you could be trying to flog tickets for up to a year. If you're not sure that's for you then don't do it.
In our view the more knowledge you accumulate before going ahead with the process the better. It's easy to be seduced by the competitions that are completing and the idea of selling your home way above the asking price, but read the below and just be aware that it might be tougher than you expected.
We hope the above provides you with food for thought. We love the concept of the win a house competitions but despair about how badly they turn out for some promoters. The fact that the process has worked for some properties doesn't mean the process will work for yours. An attractive property, a good website, a reasonable ticket price, a fair number of tickets available, total transparency, a referral scheme and willing media will help you. However there's still no winning formula for house raffles. There does seem to be an element of timing and just pure luck involved. Good luck to you if you decide that raffling your property is the right thing for you.
If you need any further information or recommendations for hosting your raffle then please contact us.