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Swapping homes to beat the property market

June 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The declining housing market has left many sellers frustrated with plunging prices and fewer buyers.Several Internet-based services are pairing up anxious sellers who want to get out of their properties, but not out of the market.

"Home swapping" is a novel way for homeowners to get out of the home they're living in without taking a financial hit on declining property values. It's sort of like a matchmaking service: You swap your home for someone else's.

Jerry Stussman is a longtime resident of Southern California and a veteran homeowner. He gave Eyewitness news a tour of his large home with a beautiful view in Westlake Village, a place he acquired not with cash, but through a home swap.

Stussman says with prices falling fast, it's an incentive for sellers. "It's an alternative to the absolute frustration people have not being able to sell their house," said Stussman.

A growing number of homeowners like Stussman are fed up with the process of selling a home in this market, often at a loss. So they're listing and trading their properties online.

Several Web sites like GoSwap.org, OnlineHouseTrading.com, even Craigslist.org, pair up homeowners so they can swap properties.

It's not for everyone, since both homeowners have to be willing to move into each other's home.

It works best if you want to relocate, often to another state, and the other swapper wants to move into your neighborhood.

If one home is a lot more expensive than another, the difference is paid in cash.

Jerry Stussman swapped another home he owned in Thousand Oaks for a home in Virginia that he uses as a rental property. Now he's considering swapping the Virginia home for another property, either in California or in another state.

Home swappers can save thousands of dollars since they don't have to pay commission when selling their homes.

Stussman says it's simpler than selling one home and buying another. "If I sell this house, I've got to live somewhere while I'm doing that, and if I go to buy that house, I've got to be living somewhere while I'm buying that house. And these escrows and the tensions and the stress. No problem with this -- I'm here until the swap happens."

Jerry took me to the home he bought about a year ago in Westlake Village. He was hoping to keep it, but since the real estate market has been on a downward spiral since, he's changed his original plan.

"We've got it rented now, the market has crashed on it, and because of that, we'll probably swap it," said Sussman.

Most of the home-swapping sites are free to use, although OnlineHouseTrading charges $19.95 to trade your property.


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