Would You Buy a $150 Raffle Ticket For a Chance to Win a $350,000 House?

Before you answer let’s take a look at some facts about the raffle. First, this is a real raffle (local for me). Each entry into the raffle costs a cool $150 cash, which is quite a bit of money that you could be just throwing into the trash. But, when you break down the raffle into pieces you can determine if this is a good idea or not.

The most important thing to consider is that this raffle is only selling a fixed number of tickets. This means there are exact odds to winning, and the odds are significantly better than any lottery. Only 3,800 tickets will be sold, once they are sold out no more will be available. That means you have a 1 in 3,800 chance of winning the grand prize. Not too shabby, but still a long shot. But the house is not the only prize, there are many more. They are also giving away two brand new vehicles valued at $21,000 each, or you can elect to receive a cash award of $15,000.

Beyond the three large prizes they are awarding many other prizes. All said and done they will be awarding 40 prizes that are worth more than the ticket price. This means the odds of winning anything and making your money back is 1 in 95. Now those are slightly better odds.

But are those odds good enough for you to throw $150 at it? There is one last issue to consider and that this whole thing is for charity, two very important organizations around here. While you cannot deduct the value of the ticket as a charitable donation at least you are giving money to an organization that could use the help.

So would it be worth purchasing a ticket? I’m still undecided myself. Common sense tells me no, you’ll never win, you never win anything so use the money for something else. But the other side of me says sure why not, somebody has to win and it isn’t like you can’t afford losing $150. Plus the raffle directly helps one of my employers.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see once tickets go on sale in a few weeks. Who knows, maybe I’ll be reporting back with news of my winnings.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

10 comments
kidswriter
kidswriter

There are many reasons to enter a charity raffle. One is simply the willingness to help others, the other is simply the fun of seeing if you win something. The cost of a ticket can be significant but the largest issue is the taxes incurred if you win a property. One organization is taking a different tack in this instance stating in the rules that if you win the first prize you have 2 choices. One is to Take a smaller cash payout. The other is to buy the property for $1000. The organization running the raffle owns the property and if you win you win the option of buying the property offered for the $1000. This makes the transfer of property a sale and not a prize in a raffle which is classed as gambling and subject to anywhere from 25 to 33.3 percent property taxes. This huge tax expense is eliminated if the the winner chooses to buy the property. In this way the new owner is now only responsible for the property taxes in the county where the property lays.

KellyG
KellyG

Hey Jeremy - This is an interesting concept that I am doing some research on... I liked your article and comments. Do you have any follow-up or details you can share about this raffle: where was this home located, how was it advertised? Did it end up working out for all parties? Thanks... Kelly G

Jeremy
Jeremy

Well I guess it doesn't matter now. I found out today that the tickets were all sold out in less than 48 hours. So I didn't get to purchase one, so now we'll never know. Oh well.

mbhunter
mbhunter

If you keep entering contests, the odds that you'll win at least one of them improves with each one you enter.

LAMoneyGuy
LAMoneyGuy

I have participated in a raffle like that. The house was worth a million, but they also sold more tickets. I think it was also for $150. Strictly speaking, the odds are bad, and you shouldn't do it. (expected value

Traciatim
Traciatim

My spouse and I recently purchased tickets on a similar draw in my area at the end of last year. We purchased the tickets in November for the draw held on December 28th. In that case there were only 2500 tickets sold, and we each had some spare cash for the month so we figured it was better than a couple of nights out at a high calorie meal. The sheer thought of having a 1 in 1250 chance of winning a brand new house for a month was worth it to us, especially because we were just ramping up to buy a house in the beginning of the new year.

It's sad to say we didn't win, but now we are moving from our apartment in to a brand new house we just purchased anyway. If a similar thing happens this year I'll probably buy a ticket again, as long as we have the cash set aside for it. Plus, in Canada, no tax on winnings :)

Thuy
Thuy

We recently had a raffle like that in my town. The charity was selling $40 tickets, maximum of 1,400 tickets. We thought the odds of winning sounded pretty good, but the prizes were not anything of interest to us. After the raffle there was a board posted announcing the winners. Only 1,007 people had bought tickets! I was sure they would sell out, but it turned out that the few who bought in ended up with even better odds than expected.

Wes
Wes

It's not such a bad deal. The expected value of one of these tickets (before taxes) is about $100.

Here's how you get that: $350k + $21k + $15k = $386k

Odds of winning: 1/3800

Thus: $386k / 3800 = $101.58

For the record, last friday night I went to a fund raiser that included a raffle. I bought 3 tickets (for $2 each) just for fun and to support a good cause. I guess there were 1000 tickets sold. Surprisingly I won a 1GB iPod Suffle (worth $80). Sooo... based on past experience... I'd buy that ticket.

Jeremy
Jeremy

mapgirl, the good news is (which I forgot to mention) is that for the house and vehicles you can elect to receive a lump sum cash option and they just automatically withhold the taxes from that.

That is what I would do personally since I have no need for a new vehicle (plus registration, insurance, taxes...) and we already own a decent home. And since the location of the home is in a more affluent area and given the value I don't think I would want to be stuck with owing taxes on the prize plus the property tax bill!

mapgirl
mapgirl

The odds are way better than a trillion to one for the lottery. But factor in your taxes for your prize winnings. That's coming out of your pocket with the raffle ticket cost if you win.

Reminds me of those dream home reality show winners who couldn't keep the house because of the property taxes, or the space flight winner who turned down the prize because of the tax bill.