Raffling million-dollar homes for charity a new trend

Somewhere in every human being resides the fantasy to own a huge, expensive showcase house — and big-time charities are pouncing all over it.

In California and across the United States it's become a trend to sell $150 tickets that can win a $2 million house — and ring up leftover money for a group doing good deeds.

In San Francisco, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is relentlessly promoting its July 10 raffle of a $2.4 million house near Golden Gate Park. It's happening in the capital region, too, for the first time: a $150 ticket could win you a $1.9 million house in Placer County – while raising funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northern California. In February, a couple from Danville – the husband just laid off – won a $1.2 million house in Marin County with a $150 entry.

What gives? Is this a new way to sell a house in a market where everything above $400,000 is stalled?

Sandra Sims, president of Texas-based Step By Step Fundraising, said she gets questions weekly from "homeowners who want to raffle their house because they're having a hard time making payments." It may be, she said, that some big homes are "distress situations."

That's speculative, of course, and Home Front has no inside knowledge on any of these big raffle homes.

Neal Martin-Zeavy, raffle director for the Placer County residence, said, "A couple members of our extended community in Placer County were in a position to partner with a nonprofit. They've asked us to keep their names anonymous. But they were in a position to make their home available for a raffle, and we're obviously overjoyed."

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