Spiralling house prices are increasingly snuffing out dreams of getting on the property ladder for tens of thousands of people.
So imagine being able to get the keys to a £845,000 country mansion – for just £40.
Marie Segar entered an unusual raffle where the prize was the sprawling Melling Manor in Lancashire.
The competition, run through the winacountryhouse.com website, was the idea of manor owner Dunstan Low.
He decided to sell raffle tickets at £2 a time after being unable to find a buyer for his fully-renovated Grade II-listed six-bedroom home.
And, after shifting about 500,000 tickets, one of Ms Segar’s was chosen using a random number generator as the winner from all the entries.
When Dunstan called her to break the good news, she said: “Is this a wind-up? I’m just in shock. I can’t believe it, I just can’t!”
Not only does Warrington-based Ms Segar – who bought 20 raffle tickets for £40 – become the new owner of the mansion, she also takes on the title of Lady Melling for a year.
The house, which has been valued at £845,000, has its own cinema room, a new family bathroom and kitchen and large gardens with space for six cars.
Dunstan Low said: “Over the past six months we have sold 500,000 paid entries to our raffle and we have had around 12,000 free entries.
“My mother-in-law thought I was crazy, and when I told my wife, she just said: ‘You did what!?’
“But the mortgage payments had nearly doubled, we had no money. We toyed with the idea of turning it into a spa but we were on the verge of handing the keys back to the bank when I came up with the idea of the raffle and the website.”
The proceeds from the raffle cover the full mortgage costs, plus renovation investment and leave a little spare for the future and for charity. Low now believes he could have hit upon a new disruptive business model – selling properties from around the world via raffles.
Melling Hall was built in 1792 by the Gillison family, who were ship owners. It was a hospital during the war, and then a hotel until 2000, before Low bought the property in 2011 and began a full renovation project.
However, as the couple struggled to keep up with the mortgage, they tried to sell it through traditional methods. When they stalled, he hit upon the idea of the raffle.
Low, with his wife Natasha and their their children Ozzy, five, and Dylan, 16, is looking to move to a smaller property somewhere nearby.