Social Home Buying?

Tough times call for inventive measures, and, with real estate markets so thin these days, sellers are looking for, well, something different:

That’s when the desperate owner decided to get creative. He opted to hold a raffle via his Web site at Tickets went on sale in October for 25 euros (about $33) apiece, and so far 2,000 of them have been sold. A drawing on May 1 will determine which lucky ticket holder wins the property. Crowsley hopes to sell enough tickets to clear about 1.2 million euros.

“Property raffles are without a doubt an exciting and different way to sell a property, especially if it has not sold using the conventional method,” Crowsley said. “I firmly believe that it will be the way to go in 2009 and beyond.”

Already, dozens of Web sites dedicated to property raffles have cropped up in several European countries.

Now, I may be completely off-base here, because, for the most part, this is straight up gambling. For 25 euros, you can win a house. But in light of many of the trends we so today, as our cyber-lives grow increasingly social, I often think our real lives have followed (see: 2008 Elections, Obama Campaign). Is it possible these property raffles are more than just a new and desperate way to sell a home? Could this be a sign that we are perhaps moving to a world that’s just a bit more community-minded? Less bowling alone, and more working together?

Again, most likely, this is gambling. But a couple things I’ve read make me wonder otherwise. First, almost a year ago, there was some speculation on a few blogs, triggered by a post from Jeff Jarvis, about “Insurance 2.0.” In particular, a comment in Jarvis’s blog struck me:

A few months ago I got a facebook message from a friend of a friend saying that the friend’s bicycle had been stolen, which was very bad news because it was the second time in a couple of months and hence wasn’t insured conventionally because the premium would have been too high.

It turned out that the friend of the friend had contacted all the friends’ friends. She’d asked us all to message back if we would be willing to put in £20 for a new bike which would then be presented as a surprise.

Sure enough, easily enough friends messaged back to buy a new bike, transferred the money, and the bike was bought. This all took less than a week – which is an awful lot shorter than a similar claim would take through an insurance company. Less paperwork too.

Now, obviously, there is a long way from that idea to Geico, but the idea is there, and it’s certainly worth considering.

That was then. Since, we’ve seen the collapse of the financial industry. Douglas Rushkoff has written about the “financial melt up,” as he has called it, how the speculative economy that’s created much wealth for relatively few people has run out of gas. His prescription?

All this means is that you can’t count on capitalism anymore. Your wealth is not how many paper assets you have. It’s not even how much land you have (or think you have). It’s what you can do. It’s your value to other people.

…The opportunity here, while the big boys are down, is to rebuild the genuine, local commercial infrastructure. To make shoes, clothes, food, education, healthcare and everything else we can in a bottom-up fashion. While speculators enjoy the economy of scale, we inhabit an ecology scaled to the human being that was lost in the corporatist equation.

The sooner you “drop out” of the speculative economy and its abstract concerns, the sooner you will be able to create and provide real value for the people all around you, and the better position you will be in to get what you need for yourself and your family.

Bottom-up. The idea behind “participatory culture.” And the same idea behind the “we all chip in and get our friend a new bike” insurance model, and, perhaps, a tangent to the property raffles that are happening in Europe.

Not sure, but it’s something to watch.


One response

  1. This has got to be the most interesting commentary I have read relating to Win a House competitions or raffles! Most articles have either discreetly promoted one, or focused on the economic and practical dimensions. But I think you’re right there is more to it than gambling. Whilst the act of participating may constitute a gamble, the fact that people are able to do so, seems new. It is the fact that they are able to use the online space in a way and at a scale that results in viable economic models, which seems novel and perhaps enables such new social models of buying?

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