house raffle hell A WIRRAL couple who offered their dream family home as a raffle prize are now "living on the breadline" after the failure of the competition.
Howard and Marie Lipsey set up the special contest in a bid to beat the credit crunch and declining property prices.
For a £25 ticket, punters were in with a chance of winning the six-bedroomed house in West Kirby, which was originally valued for £725,000 in 2006.
However, complications with the Gambling Commission meant the Lipseys' raffle had to be put on hold just weeks after its launch.
Now the family receive regular threats from angry ticket holders wanting their money back after Mr Lipsey was forced to scrap the competition due to re-launch costs and limited time before the closing date.
Mr Lipsey, a father-of-three, had wanted to mirror the success of a similar competition in Devon where a couple raffled off their £1 million country retreat, complete with fishing lake and holiday lodges.
But the Commission highlighted problems to do with the "skill-based" question used for the entrants, and by the time Mr Lipsey was given the green light to resume tickets sales five months later, interest had dwindled.
He said: "It has turned into a living nightmare. At first we thought it was an excellent way to beat the recession and the plunging housing market.
"We had seen the News
coverage of the raffle in Devon, and thought why not?
"We thought maybe we could ride on the back of their idea and repeat their success up here.
"But by the time we were given the go-ahead again, too much time had lapsed to relaunch the project. We had only managed to sell 400 tickets, making just £10,000.
"That money barely covered the costs of setting up in the first place. And we found ourselves in an awful position."
Mr Lipsey, a former property director, vowed to reimburse every ticket holder but soon found himself struggling to make ends meet.
After putting the house back on the market for a reduced cost of £595,000, the family are hoping they will be able to sell up quickly and pay back competition entrants.
However, Mr Lipsey told the Globe he has had a backlash from some entrants and would advise anyone thinking of launching a similar raffle to think twice.
He said: "We really are just getting by. My wife works part-time and I am constantly applying for jobs but as you can imagine, they are few and far between in the current climate.
"Any extra money we have we are using to give refunds to people and we are holding car boot sales to get the cash together.
"Some people have been great about the whole situation, we have had tonnes of messages of support and people telling us not to worry about getting the money back to them.
"However, I have received several threats and abusive e-mails.
"My wife cries herself to sleep every night and our four-year-old son wears clothes bought at boot sales.
"I am not looking for sympathy but just ask for people to bear with us until the house is sold.
"Of course, I understand completely the frustration that some entrants are feeling but they will get their money back as soon as our house is sold.
"We have drawn up a contract with our solicitor to say that once the Sale
goes through, all these people will be given a full refund.
"This is an awful situation to be in, it is not the ticket holders' fault, nor is it mine. But of course, I take responsibility and will not rest until everyone has their money.
"I deeply regret the way things have turned out and I would advise anyone thinking of raffling their home to think long and hard before doing so.
"The house in Devon was unique in that it had 11 acres of land and its own lake. It had small lodges which you could rent out to tourists. essentially, you were winning the lifestyle which that home offered.
"Who knows if we would have sold the 26,000 tickets we needed to break even if the contest had not been put on hold. We just want to wake up from this nightmare and get our lives back."
A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said: "The Commission does not in any circumstances 'approve' prize competitions which remain free of statutory control under the Gambling Act 2005.
"Organisers considering running a house competition should read the Commission's advice on prize competitions and free draws and take independent legal advice before proceeding." THE GLOBE