Trading houses online

June 3, 2009 8:42:21 PM PDT
The tough economy has made it increasingly difficult for people to buy or sell a home, but a variation on the traditional approach is generating a good deal of interest online. Housing numbers are on the upswing, but there are still those a bit hesitant about diving back into real estate. But if a job or a life change doesn't allow you the luxury of waiting for the market to thaw, many are turning to an online alternative.

"Like everyone else, we didn't want to take a major loss so we kept the house hoping we would get a buyer and the market kept going down and down," Charles Leeder of Vorhees said.

Charles and Pat Leeder's dream of retiring to North Carolina continued to dwindle, as well. After two years, they decided to take their house off the market.

"It got to a point, no matter what we did, lowering the price, it just reached the point we decided we weren't going to give the house away," Charles said.

So Charles, who is a licensed realtor, started searching for some creative alternatives. That's when he came across, a site for people looking to trade or swap houses.

"It looks like it has potential and we're hoping to find someone who is in a similar situation," Charles said.

Co-founder Brian Stroka says the site is for people apprehensive to buy before they sell.

Although online house swapping does not offer any real tax advantages or savings, it does give homeowners some peace of mind. If two homeowners have something each other wants, they can make the switch.

"It works for anyone who wants to move, if you want to upsize, downsize or relocate any reason you want to move, our service is for you," Stroka said.

Here's how it works, post your home's information on the site and then information on the type, price and location of the home you want to move into. You can put your trading profile on the site for free or opt to pay $29.95 for some advanced features.

"We're likened to a dating service for real estate sellers; we match people up to buy each other's homes," Stroka said.

But does the site work? Stroka says he's had many success stories, but the Leeders still have their Vorhees house on the site. The couple says it may be worth the wait.

"This is an easy way for two people to make a trade without having to pay for real estate commissions and everything else involved which eats heavily when you're talking about several hundred thousand dollars worth of house," Stroka said.

But the Philadelphia Association of Realtors has some concerns. It says buyers must be careful because it's hard for average homeowners to figure out the true value of their property. Since the swap is being done online, it may be difficult for potential buyers to determine the condition of the house they are interested in. That's why Stroka says it's important to follow some traditional rules of home buying.

"You need to do your due diligence; you don't want to buy a property you haven't seen. You need to do your inspections and an appraisal, all the same things you would do for a normal transaction," Stroka said.

Even the Leeders have concerns about this new method, but they still hope it's a better alternative to losing money on their house or putting their retirement on hold.

"We're not expecting to find an exact match. My intent is to find a spot that we can move into that's a nice spot in a decent area," Charles said.

CEO of suggests if you use the site and find a match, use the same title company and real estate attorney to make sure both transactions close at the same time so you're not stuck with two different mortgages. Remember, all the same real estate laws apply. This is more or less a different strategy to buying and selling your home.


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