IT’S A QUESTION lots of people have wondered – who are the couple behind the Win A Megahome competition and why have they decided to sell their Hampshire house via an online contest rather than through an estate agent?

The answer, says Mark Beresford, is very simple.

“Like a lot of other couples in our age group we know we’ll soon be rattling around in our home, as two of our children are preparing to work in London.”

And while there are a thousand reminders of the happy family life they’ve enjoyed over the last 12 years – from their children’s lively bedrooms to the kayaks they’ve used on the River Avon, to the cinema room where they’d enjoy film nights one a week – they both felt it was a good time to make a change.

The decision to sell also coincided with the news that they had been allowed planning permission on a plot of land they’ve owned for many years near Sharon’s elderly parents’ in West Sussex. “My brother and sister live near there and so do some very good friends of ours,” says Sharon.

It will be nearer to London for Mark’s work – turning round struggling companies – and cut down travel times for the whole family.

But there’s another reason, too. Because of the eye-watering rates of stamp duty now applicable on homes like their Huf Haus, with its heart-stopping views of the river valley below– the offers they received when they tried to sell conventionally just didn’t stack up.

They knew that houses could be sold via competition – it’s not a raffle because you have to answer a question as well as pay for the ticket, says Mark – and decided to give it a whirl. A very big whirl, as it turned out.

“We engaged two sets of lawyers; one to oversee the general terms and conditions of the competition and to ensure it complies with consumer and trading laws,” says Mark. “Then we had to get a specialist London lawyers (they have engaged a household name firm) to ensure we complied with Gambling Commission rules.”

The first question in their competition was regarded as ‘too easy’: “We had to think of another,” says Mark. But the lawyers’ agreement was crucial because you can’t run a contest like this without a payment provider. “And the payment provider won’t touch you until it’s all agreed that you comply,” he says.

Then they engaged another firm to assist with the actual prize draw – it’s totally random, like the Premium Bond selector – and started letting people know.

They anticipated people would find it hard to get their heads round the idea of winning a home for £25. “We’re disruptors, this is different and very non-conventional so we can understand that,” says Mark, although, he points out, national newspapers also run competitions to win a houses. “But we know of three similar competitions which have completed this year so it is happening a bit more. Judging by the interest we’ve seen from people, I think it will happen a lot more.”

If their experience is anything to go by, it will. They have already received around 20 inquiries from people about running a similar competition to sell their properties, from as near as Sandbanks, to as far as Antigua, and have started building a platform which will allow them to do this.

But who is buying the 250,000 tickets, which will be sold until December 31 when the competition closes?

“Quite a few of our friends have told us they’ve bought them!” reveals Sharon. They also know that many people in the area immediately surrounding Avon Castle and Ringwood have snapped up the chance. People in Southampton, London and the M3 corridor seem keen, too. “We think people are buying them for their grandchildren as gifts, maybe even wedding or Christmas presents,” says Mark.

Because of the strict rules, if not enough tickets to trigger the house prize are sold (170,000) then there will be a substantial cash prize.

Mark hopes the competition will allow someone who wouldn’t normally get the chance to enjoy a property like theirs to live in it. They won’t have to worry about stamp duty because it’s part of the competition prize but they would get an opportunity afforded to very few.

More than anything both want the house to become a home for a couple or family who will enjoy it as much as they have. “I believe your home is where your family is,” says Sharon. “And we have loved being here.”

*You can enter the competition here: