How to own a beautifully restored home with ballroom, cinema room and six bedrooms for £2

In 2011, graphic designer Dunstan Low bought Melling Manor in Lancashire, a Grade II listed, semi-detached mansion built in 1792, for £435,000. He thought it would take just ‘a lick of paint’ to restore his new home, but soon found that much more work was required to complete the project.

After spending £150,000 on the restoration the family struggled to pay the mortgage.

After failing to sell the house on the open market for the asking price of £845,000, the price was reduced to £500,000 – but still the house didn’t sell. So Mr Low made the unusual move of setting up a website and began selling raffle tickets for the property at £2 per ticket. Entrants were invited to identify the style of Melling Manor as Victorian, Tudor or Georgian. Once the requisite number of tickets had been sold, or the closing date reached, the competition would close although Mr Low did reserve the right to extend the deadline by six months.

The target was to sell 500,000 tickets, which would cover Mr Low’s costs, including stamp duty and legal fees. The ticket sales would also enable the family ‘to complete any last minute jobs to ensure the house is as perfect as possible for the next owner’.

National media soon spotted the story and it was even broadcast around the world on Sky News. Entries poured in from as far afield as the Bronx, Russia and China, and 12,000 free postal entries were received.

£900,000 was raised by the deadline, and the lucky winner was announced in August 2017 as Marie Segar from Warrington. Ms Segar purchased 20 tickets and along with the house also won the title ‘Lady of Melling’, a title donated to the raffle by St John’s Hospice in North Lancashire in exchange for a £30,000 donation made by the Low family from their competition earnings.

Mr Low said he had been inundated with enquiries from other struggling sellers who had asked him to raffle their properties for them, and the website is now inviting people to get in touch. He said:

“I have no regrets at all about the way we did this; I wouldn’t change a thing. It was stressful, but it has been an amazing experience. I want congratulate Marie on her win and I really hope that she enjoys the house.”

A survey is strongly advised in advance of purchasing any property, small or large, new or older – particularly a grade II listed property formerly used as a hotel which looks as though it might need a little paintwork! A Chartered Surveyor will identify problems that might not be obvious and can be expensive to rectify. Commissioning a surveyor to provide a building survey, structural survey or on-site acquisition advice could save you thousands of pounds, and perhaps enable you to keep the beautiful house you fell in love with rather than sell it.

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