The Chinese real estate sector could be in for a big shakeup soon. Many pundits are predicting that the government is getting ready to introduce a property tax.
While most people in the world regard property taxes as a way of life, in officially Communist China there’s no government taxes on the books for private property ownership because originally there was no private property ownership at all. However, things have changed dramatically in recent years - market demand and rampant speculation have fueled a huge real estate industry, and have helped push the Chinese economy into overdrive – annual growth is over 8% a year (as opposed to the 2 or 3 percent that more established economies grow at during boom year).
So why introduce a property tax then when it could weaken one of China’s strongest economic sectors? According the Financial Time’s Geoff Dyer, there are a lot of good reasons to get the Chinese middle class acquainted with tax:
A property tax is the favored policy tool of many a reform-minded economist. It would help reduce the rampant speculation in the real estate sector by introducing a cost for holding empty property. And it would help develop a reliable source of income for cash-strapped local governments - one of the key long-term policy challenges for Beijing.
While any property tax rolled out would likely be very minimal at first, “a small annual levy on second or third homes in the luxury sector”, there are still fears that is could prompt a massive sell off and scare away speculators – one of the key factors in the ever increasing property prices.
In April, Beijing rolled out a series of much needed measures to cool overheated home prices, and since then, speculation that a real tax is coming has intensified. "There are several plans on the table. While we don't know which one will be chosen, it is more likely to be implemented by New Year's Day," a market source said in an interview with the Hong Kong Standard. "Such a move does not require National People's Congress approval, only the State Council's, so the time frame is shorter."
Meanwhile, commercial real estate in China remains strong, even with high vacancy rates. The Wall street journal has reported that China’s insurance regulator has just amended the rules that govern how insurance corporations invest their assets. Chinese insurance companies are now allowed to invest up to 10% of their assets into commercial real estate – a move which could introduce as much as 460 billion yuan ($68.5 billion USD) of potential demand into the commercial real estate market.
One of the most popular blog posts Realestock has written was What do you Get for $1,000,000 – a fairly surprising comparison of global real estate prices. The conclusions? Tokyo was surprisingly affordable, New York and Seattle were what one would expect, and Vancouver came away seeming expensive by comparison. So if you really are looking to buy real estate in far flung, exotic locales, here are 5 more properties for sale from all over the world. So what does a million dollars get you?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada Why would someone want to live in Toronto? Quite simply, Toronto is the biggest and most happening city in Canada. It may not boast the mountains and oceans that Vancouver has, but in terms of cultural happenings, shopping and vibrant culture, Toronto is unmatched by any other city in Canada. Toronto gets a bad rap for thinking its the centre of the Canadian Universe, but there’s a reason for it – if you want to be where the action happens, you should be in Toronto.
What do you get for a million? A lot! For $999,900 dollars you can pick up a two level penthouse suite with spectacular downtown views. A spacious 1860 sq feet offering puts similar priced Vancouver offerings to shame. Better yet, this property is in the heart of downtown - a few blocks from Queen Street, incredible night life, world class restaurants, and the Bay Street financial district. Downtown Toronto Penthouse Size: 1860 sq ft Bedrooms: 2 + den Bathrooms: 3 Price: $999,900 CAD
Auckland, New Zealand New Zealand is a country of about 4,000,000 people, situated in a perfect climatic comfort zone. New Zealand’s climate is classified as “Mediterranean” and that actually means is plenty of sunshine, average temperatures in the twenties, and no real winter to speak of. The biggest city in New Zealand is Auckland, a modern bustling metropolis that’s only a few hours away from the incredible rugged countryside most people associate with New Zealand.
What do you get for a million? A spacious three double bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment overlooking the water in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin – which sounds sort of unappealing, but the Viaduct Basin is one of the swankiest parts of Auckland’s Central Business District (or CBD to the locals) housing the newest, most upscale apartments and best restaurants in the city. Auckland Ocean View CBD Apartment Size: 2260 sq ft Bedrooms: 3 Bathrooms: 2 Price: $1,055,000 NZ Dollars, approx $787,053.25 CAD
Washington DC, USA Far from being just for political types, Washington DC has proven itself to be one of the most resilient and well priced property markets in the US, holding its value even as comparable markets declined.
What do you get for a million? Property is at a top premium in Washington DC, so for those wanting to live closer to where the political action is happening, an apartment in Dupont Circle, part of the “Old City” would be more to most people’s liking. Dupont Circle is home to numerous Embassies, countless historic residences, and the Capital Pride LGBT pride Festival. Dupont Circle Apartment Size: 1416 sq ft Bedrooms: 2 Bathrooms: 2.5 Price: $998,000 USD, approx $1,053,249.50 CAD
London, England London is well known for having some of the most expensive real estate in the world – if you want to live close to downtown, a million dollars won’t get you very far at all. However, it can get a small, but attractive apartment near the action.
What do you get for a million? A two bedroom apartment, overlooking the Thames River, across the way from Canary Warf, in Rotherhithe – a district in inner southeast London. Although quiet and suburban in nature, Rotherhithe used to be the site of the Surrey Docks, which were largely filled in during the 1980s, to be replaced by modern housing and apartments. Thames Riverfront Apartment Size: 904 sq ft Bedrooms: 2 Bathrooms: 2 Price: £595,000, approx $956,385.63 CAD
Berlin, Germany Berlin is unmistakably a world class city. Renowned during the cold war as a bastion of freedom and artistic inspiration (David Bowie spent several years in Berlin and was so inspired by the city he named an album after it), and now as a city on the must see list for any European traveler. Better yet, property in Berlin is reasonably priced – typically at €1,000 per meter compared to London’s £5,000 per meter (or about €6,000/m).
What does a million get you? A 1910 apartment in Berlin’s 4th borough, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf featuring oak floors, high ceilings and incredible period details. Charlottenburg was the commercial centre of West Berlin during the Cold War, and is still the main shopping centre of Berlin, offering major hotels, theatres, bars restaurants and attractions for tourists such as the world famous Berlin Zoo. Period Luxury Apartment in Berlin Size: 1367 sq ft Bedrooms: 2 Bathrooms: 1 Price: €785,850, approx $1,073,958.30 CAD
Real Estate investment has taken a real beating in the past two years. With sluggish markets just beginning to claw their way back, the question the smartest investors are asking is not, “what properties are for sale” but “where is it worth buying?”
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) recently released their 2010 emerging trends report for Global Real Estate, which essentially laid out more of the same. While not feeling particularly bullish on any single market, markets that were performing well before the downturn will continue to impress, but markets on the fringe will still struggle to attract attention. Accord to PWC the best places to buy real estate are:
Gateway markets: often near the coast (east or west), with international airports, ports and major commercial centres to back up property values.
Urban Centres: upscale neighbourhoods in the city with safe streets that are pedestrian friendly and highly developed. Usually coupled with easy access to mass transit, and a good blend of amenities like stores, entertainment and recreational spaces all close by.
Smart Cities: having nearby universities, colleges or high paying tech based sectors like computing, finance, biotech or medical centres are good bets for the property market.
On the flip side, PWC advises shying away from bubble-burst markets, fringe areas (like far flung suburbs requiring long commutes, or rural developments) and cities without major amenities or financial drivers.
To make a long story short, PWC highly ranked places like Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver for investment prospects on the West Coast, and Toronto, Ottawa, Washington DC, Boston and New York all got favourable nods on the East Coast. Canadian cities on the whole, fared better than their American counterparts due to Canada’s relatively stronger economy.
What’s interesting about PWC’s pics is that none of these cities were ever known for their boom and bust economies, and all are traditionally more expensive markets. No matter where in the world an investor might be looking at real estate listings to buy properties, the market seems to indicate picking investments based on cities that offer good job prospects and a modern, highly urban lifestyle that’s always been a desirable location. At least for 2010, the safe money seems to be on the safe bet.
Did you imagine a palatial estate, with sprawling, manicured grounds, a pool and guest house? Or did you think of a glamourous apartment, in the trendiest part of town, close to incredible shops and world class restaurants?
Depending where you choose to live, a million dollars could get you your dream palace, or it could you you an apartment that may... not live up to your daydreams. Realestock searched all over the world to show you what a million dollars will get you in five world class cities.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Well known for having the hottest real estate market in Canada, Vancouver defied market trends, with the average prices increasing despite the worldwide recession. Famous for incredible mountains, a strong economy and being an olympic host city.
What do you get for $1,000,000?
If you’re looking for a home to call your own in Vancouver without moving to the suburbs or the rougher east side, and all you have to spend is a million, you’ll be looking at a fairly modest house pretty far away from downtown. The better bet is on a condo - in the million dollar price range, you can get yourself a two bedroom sub-penthouse in the tony Yaletown district.
The original housing bubble economy, Tokyo real estate is expensive because the city is incredibly crowded - over 8 million people live in the city proper, but adding all the outlying suburbs and towns that are connected by the massive rail network swells that number to a mind blowing 30,000,000 people. With so many people wanting to live in a limited area, real estate is valued above all else.
What do you get for $1,000,000?
A surprisingly large apartment in Kagurazaka - a neighbourhood in the classy, ultra-modern and fashionable Shinjuku Ward of Tokyo. Kagurazaka boasts tree-lined streets, some of the best traditional Japanese restaurants in Tokyo, and lots of of history - the area was home to geisha and artists in the 18th century. Watch out for the extra fees though - parking, building management and maintenance fees are an extra $1,300 a month!
Seattle - the home of high tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, and the birthplace of the global obsession with good coffee. Despite its high tech industry, Seattle is delightfully down to earth, filled with funky, hole in the wall eateries and friendly people.
What do you get for $1,000,000?
A brand new apartment right the middle of downtown with a waterfront view - and only a few blocks from the internationally famous Pike Place market. The Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue condominiums have floor to ceiling windows, high end appliances and all the amenities that you’d expect to have in a million dollar apartment in one of the best and most exciting parts of Seattle.
Price: $1,000,000 USD + (or about $ 1,032,680 CAD +)
Ask almost anyone to name the most romantic city on earth, and they'll probably say Paris. Historic, beautiful, and cultural. Those fortunate enough to live in Paris live in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world - Paris gets an estimated 45,000,000 annual visitors to see its sights.
What do you get for $1,000,000?
Paris is divided into 20 Arrondissements (administrative districts), and for $1,000,000 or about €785,000 Euro, you can have your pick of where to live - one of the best places would be the 1st Arrondissement, one of the oldest in Paris, home of the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens to name just two of the famous sites. This one bedroom apartment is a little less than $1,000,000 but it's smack dab in the middle of the Arrondissement, and only blocks from some of Paris’ most famous museums.
If you’re bored in New York, you’re doing something wrong. From chic galleries to broadway plays, from the quiet of Central park to the hustle of the financial district, when most people think of a world class city, they think of New York.
What do you get for $1,000,000?
Manhattan real estate is expensive because there’s just not that much to go around, but at the 1 million price point, you can live almost anywhere in the city, including the super desirable Park Avenue in midtown. A historic pre-war building with high ceilings, art deco style and doorman make it a perfect New York apartment.
Luxury real estate sales in Canada are soaring, breaking pre-recession sales records as buyers are capitalizing on low interest rates and increasing economic confidence. RE/MAX released its first quarter Upper End 2010 Report on Monday, showing a marked increase in luxury home sales in markets across Canada. The report noted that, "Canada's sound banking system, political stability, and strong dollar are attracting foreign investment -- and that is spilling over into high-end residential real estate.”
According to Wayne Schrader, a RE/MAX Broker/Owner and specialist in luxury properties on Vancouver Island, consumer confidence is playing a big part in the rallying sales. “Markets are picking up and turning the corner,” said Schrader. “People are realizing the big recession didn’t materialize in Canada, and at the same time, prices have come down and are much more attractive.” The Conference board of Canada echoes Schrader’s sentiments - its economic forecasts predict the Canadian economy will grow at a healthy 3.2% in 2010. An upswing in the economy makes the current market conditions even more attractive, as buyers take advantage of the current low interest rates, noted Schrader. But why have sales increases have been so sharp, in some cases bettering years that were fueled by the white-hot real estate markets of the time? According to Schrader, and the report, they key is balance. High end property prices have softened from their previous peaks explained Schrader, which can make luxury real estate look like a better investment for some buyers. “Ample opportunity and a good selection of product exists, and savvy purchasers are taking advantage of favourable conditions,” said the report. According to the Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice-President of RE/MAX in Western Canada. the luxury “segment of the market was hardest hit when the recession took hold, yet its comeback has been fast and furious.” Comparative sales figures back up Ash’s statements. In the first quarter of 2009, high end property sales had slumped - only 411 properties classified as “upper end” were sold by RE/MAX across Canada. This year, the number has leapt to 1,111 - an increase of more than 170%. Comparing that to 2008’s first quarter sales of 894 high end properties shows overall sales in Canada are still up almost 24% over pre-recession numbers.
The upswing in luxury home sales in Canada mirrors a better than expected recovery in the US real estate market. New home sales in the United States increased 27% in March, the biggest month over month increase in US home sales in 47 years. While the average US home price in 2010 has only increased 4% over 2009, strong government incentives for both first time home buyers and current homeowners have increased demand. Finally, what do you think? Is the combination of lower prices and advantage of low interest rates making luxury properties look more appealing? Or, is this a reflection of pent up market demand - did potential buyers hold off until the markets rebounded? Let us know in the comments.
In the last three weeks I've covered the ground from West to East accross Europe - on the hunt for depressed economic conditions. They seem to be more rare than the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. From London to Paris to Budapest - Picadilly to the Champs Elysees - and East to Andrássy Avenue in Budapest - the crowds fill shop floors and busienss workers I've spoken with say "...business is good..."
What struck me was the numbers of people traveling and buying. The other thing that was apparent is whether you're used to walking down (or shopping - not my favorite pass time - but I do like to walk in and see the business models) New York's 5th Avenue or Robson Street in Vancouver, the main stay stores are all broadly distributed accross these European Cities.
In my estimation, this is the "grass roots" recovery - where consumer confidence is voted by the ringing of cash registers and count of shopping bags.
What's different? US Media reported loosing $10 Billion last year - while online media companies like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Face Book all contemplate how to take on the new role of media and get "content" that is relevant.
There has never been a more clear Connected Market than what we're witnessing today. With online media and content driven by users and giants alike - and distribution channels boasting globalized brands shipping to markets all over the world, the connections are inseperable. The evolution of The Connected Market Space is obvious in the main stream retail and media - the Connected Market Space emergence for entrepreneurs is comming fast for those ready with the recovery here.
Information moves fast - the world is connected. Financing is returning to the scene. From retail to real estate - the market is on the move - I give it 18 - 24 months before the "window of opportunity" closes by the "smart money".
Heading back in a couple of days - with a lot of insight from the world scene.
Yesterday, I spoke about the first mistake any developer can make in project marketing and sales. As I said, I've seen a lot of developments stall or self-destruct at the hands of a developer who felt like he or she "knew it all." I told you about my friend the hotelier, who became a developer, then a travel "guru," then a marketing and sales "expert" capping off this illustrious and varied career with a stint as a financial products broker. His development is still just a patch of dirt.
Continuing in the same vein of "knowing it all," today I'll tell you what I've seen happen to developers who entrust their marketing efforts to brokers and sales people. Until recently, I've seen a lot of luxury brokerages trick developers into thinking that they were the total solution - a sales and marketing firm. I'll show you why sales and marketing under one roof make ineffective and wasteful bedfellows.
Mistake #2 - Hiring a Sales Agency and Branded Real Estate Broker to do a Marketers Job. In recent years, marketing real estate projects was more than just a lucrative enterprise for those who were doing the marketing - it was pure profit, plain and simple. There is a good reason for that - the best marketers got the job done.
When a luxury brokerage brand steps in and decides to become a marketing company they begin to over-leverage. Sure, they can leverage off their brand name for what seems like a quick win and surefire success, but this also means that they are leveraging off their core business. When brands experiment and begin to "know it all" (not unlike the hotelier I described yesterday), the Developer takes the hit. With a big name and a willingness to take an even bigger budget, I've watched developers dump literally millions of dollars of untraceable fancy print ads and ineffective web sites - all the while the brokers and agents who should have been motivated by selling the project, were lining their pockets with marketing dollars.
Marketing is a science - and a bit of an art. Marketing drives sales, sure, but as with any science or art (or both), this is something that is best left to experts, not amateurs (think about giving a High School Physics student the keys to the Hadron collider!). In my many years of working with the real estate industry, I've never once seen a brokerage bring in a graphic designer or copywriter to close the deal on a multimillion-dollar home; so why should the opposite make any more sense? The reason commissions exist is to get the sales team to work hard to close the sales, this is what they know and this is what they (should) do. The marketing team brings in the leads and brands the project; this is what they are paid to do. When both teams are working in their core capacity, the result is success. When the incentive model and expertise gets muddled - the result is millions spent, and a project bankrupt due to a wasted budget. I've seen this happen on a number of occasions.
Do yourself a favor. The next time a real estate brokerage says they can market your project, thank them for their enthusiasm, and offer them 2% more on the back end - so long as they carry the marketing load on the front end. Or spend your money wisely and get a marketing group and resources that brings in Quality, Quantity, and Qualified leads. Send the sales guys these leads so they can actually close the sale and earn their commission - the way they were supposed to get paid.
In the last few weeks, there have been plenty of discussions in terms of whether the new US Government financial stability plans are beneficial or yet another example of throwing away good money after bad (as my grandmother would say). Everyone has an opinion on the various stimulus packages that have been brought forward from both the current and previous administrations.
I have trouble deciding who should be bailed out, and who shouldn’t. No one wants to reward irresponsible behavior with a ton of money, but conversely, there are people who are underwater on their homes through no fault of their own. Many people make snap judgments on people who took out subprime mortgages, but frankly, these people need to get off their high horses. If someone offered you the chance to have something that you thought you could (just) afford, in a housing market that seemed to be on the up, many people would take the chance. Two or three years ago, your average Joe could not have predicted that there would be mass unemployment and an unprecedented drop in home prices.
Bailing out the big banks, mortgage companies, and other corporations leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Who could forget seeing the CEOs of the big three squirm in their seat when asked whether they would be selling their private jets and returning home via a commercial airline? However, as time goes on, jobs are being lost, houses are being foreclosed, and stock prices are shooting down, something needs to be done.
President Obama’s current packages seem to be taking a different technique from the last administration. While the Republicans’ strategy was more to encourage consumer spending and the growth of businesses, the Obama administration seems more aimed at directly helping consumers, particularly homebuyers.
In the last month, three new strategies have been launched by the administration: The $8,000 tax credit for first time buyers, and the Making Home Affordable Refinance and Modification options. These are available to the following buyers, and are summarized as follows (more in depth information can be found at http://www.recovery.gov) :
$8,000 First Time Buyer Credit. You may be eligible if:
-You are a first time buyer.
-if you have a single income of up to $75,000, or a combined income of up to $150,000 (this will mean you receive the full tax credit of $8,000)
-You bought your home on or after the 1st of January, 2009, up to the 1st December, 2009.
Home Affordable Refinance. You may be eligible if:
-The mortgage is on your primary residence
-The loan on your home is a conforming loan, controlled by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
-You are current on your mortgage payments (meaning you haven’t missed a payment by more than 30 days in 12 months)
-You are not ‘underwater’ on your mortgage –(meaning you cannot owe more than 105% of the cost of your home. (But 80% - 105% is OK))
For those not eligible for this plan, there is also the Home Affordable Modification. You may be eligible if:
- The home is your primary residence
-You owe less than $729,750 on your mortgage
-You are in some kind of trouble with your mortgage that is beyond your control at this point: e.g
1)Your mortgage rates were increased significantly
2)Your income has been significantly reduced since you got your current loan
3)You have suffered a hardship that has increased your expenses (e.g. medical bills)
-You began your mortgage before January 1, 2009
What is your view on these packages? Will they help? Will they benefit the economy as a whole, or are they just a temporary band aid over the real issues? What do you think? Will the cost of these measures be more or less than the cost of many, many foreclosures? Feel free to comment below.
The views expressed on the blog portion of this site represent only the opinions of the author and may not necessarily be the opinions of Realestock.com
Is the doom and gloom in the media getting you down? Have you stopped reading newspapers or surfing the net for fear that your house is now worth little more than pocket change? Never fear, here at Realestock we have some reasons why you shouldn’t get upset - whether you’re a home seller, home buyer, an agent, or a developer.
Mortgage companies are still offering competitive loans, and rates are going down. The media continually reports that mortgages are unavailable. We don’t know where they are looking, because we know first hand that you still can get funding, and even better, rates are dropping. If you are a first time buyer, this is an excellent opportunity to jump in. Why? Low interest rates mean your mortgage may turn out to be less than the rent you are paying now. Think of it as an investment. I’d rather be paying my mortgage than someone else’s.
You can get a really good deal, depending on where you are buying. Areas that may have been overpriced before the crisis may have come down to a more reasonable price – and this is where you can jump in. Always wanted that waterfront condo in Vancouver, but never been able to afford it? Now the price has dropped by 25%, you might be able to.
A decline in new home sales and a lack of building will mean that your ‘old’ property will be in demand. Fewer developments are in the works, and many condo developments are unable to complete construction. This means that there will be a couple of years when there will be a real lack of brand new homes for buyers who want to move in, without having to update their property. This is where you can jump in. The current crisis gives you enough time to renovate your 1980s condo just in time to catch those buyers who want to move in to a new place. Cha-ching!
There is a surge of demand for rental properties. If people don’t buy – they rent. Got a new development that you can’t sell? Why not try implementing a rent to buy model? Bought a house to flip and sell? Why not flip and rent? When the market comes back around, you’ll be able to sell to your renters. I love it when a plan comes together.
Overseas investment is still happening. Where you and I see “Argh! My house is worth less than it was last year”. Overseas buyers might think “What a great deal”. Obviously, not all properties and developments will appeal to overseas investors, but it you are selling in a popular tourist area, or own a waterfront property, you might find that you have something original to offer someone who’s looking for a nice vacation home.
Niche properties are still selling. Are you selling an environmentally aware development? Or something by the water? Maybe your townhouse community offers facilities that make it different and innovative, such as a fitness centre, or access to a golf course. If you are offering something that differs from the norm, you might find your property sells before similarly priced ‘little boxes’.
If you don’t have to sell, what’s the problem? If what goes up must come down, then hopefully what comes down, must go up. If you don’t intend to move from your home, and you can still pay your mortgage, then just hang tight. Remember, eventually you’ll make the money back. Maybe it won’t be at the same rate that you made it last time, but slow and steady wins the race.And maybe you won’t have to wait that long, because….
Many economists and world leaders are predicting that the major crisis period will be over in 2010. If this is the case, that’s not that far away. Think about how long ago late 2006 was? Not that long ago, eh? If you can afford to ride out the crisis, you can still come out with a great investment or properties to sell.
Your home is not just collateral. It is a living breathing thing. OK, maybe I’m going too far, but something that is really important to remember is that a house is not just an investment. – You spend your life there. Think about what you love about your home and what makes it special. Maybe it was your son taking his first steps in the den, or your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary dinner that took place in the dining room. Don’t you feel better already?
We are learning from our previous mistakes. As Oscar Wilde once said: Experience is the name we all give to our mistakes”. The whole world can now see where mistakes were made, and how we can avoid this happening again. Whether we blame over-speculating, or subprime mortgages, or everyone living on the never-never, it doesn’t matter. But we can learn from what has happened, and prevent a worldwide disaster from occurring again.
So you can finally pull yourself out from behind the sofa. Yes, things could be better, but they could be much worse, particularly if we let ourselves get caught up in this situation again. Real Estate is still a great investment, and while people are apprehensive now, the market will eventually recover.
Do you think that it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself? Or do you think that we are in for many more years? Let us know what you think below, on our twitter page or in our community forums
The views expressed on the blog portion of this site represent only the opinions of the author and may not necessarily be the opinions of Realestock.com
Whether you are looking for a green prefab, or whether you just want a raffle ticket for a foreclosed house (I kid you not), here is a round up of some of the more interesting stories in the news this, and last week.Luxury Real Estate News
Once again I seem to be talking about Donald Trump. Either a), I have developed some kind of obsession, or b), Donald Trump is up to a lot this month. However, this article in the National Post focuses more on DonaldTrump Jr., and the new Trump building that is being constructed in Toronto.
How would you like to buy a $600,000 house for $100? Sounds too good to be true? Some people in the U.S. are so desperate to sell their houses that they are raffling their homes off. But does it pay off?