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Let's swap homes

In a slow market, some sellers try another tack. Aided by websites that match them up, owners explore trading their properties.

June 29, 2008|Frank Nelson | Special to The Times

Stussman disputes the need for a real estate agent, attorney or other third party to help close the deal. "That's a waste of money," he said, arguing that the use of standard contracts and loan procedures, title companies and third-party escrow is protection enough.

However, he does support the idea of both parties using the same loan, title and escrow companies, when possible, to help deals slide through as seamlessly as possible.

Stussman, who with his wife, Lynn, owns a dozen properties, would like to downsize their portfolio but cannot sell in the current depressed market. So the next best option is swapping, which he believes has some advantages.

Saving commission fees is one: For example, Stussman said he and the owner in Virginia each saved about $30,000 when they swapped.

However, that's not the main motivation.

"It's a question of taking control of your life," he said. "Right now nothing's selling anywhere. Swapping is just another alternative."

E-tours and e-photos

Swappers list their homes online, usually with photos and perhaps virtual tours and videos, along with a description of what they're looking for, the location and price range.

Website owners complain that real estate agents have been slow to see the potential of home swapping. DomuSwap creator David Moskowitz said about 90% of his listings are made up of people selling their own homes, with a high proportion from Florida, Arizona and California, states hit hard by the housing downturn.

GoSwap's Naumov has about 150 listings from owners willing to trade anywhere in the U.S. rather than to a specific location.

"I think that's a sign people are so fed up with this market," he said. "Or perhaps they're retirees and prepared to look at any option."

Hoping to trade up

Although Highland homeowner Bragg is hoping to swap for something 50% bigger in Texas, things could work the other way around for Kerrin Pease, who's looking to exchange a home in Boise, Idaho, for one within commuting distance of his Santa Ana workplace.

Pease and his wife, Glen, who are now renting in Orange County's Aliso Viejo, own a 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bathroom home on 2 acres in Boise. The house is on the market for $649,000 and swap-listed at OnlineHouseTrading.

He thinks any exchange here will likely be for a home about half that size, with a quarter of the land and require additional cash to offset California's higher values.

Self-styled swapper Stussman, recalling the many deals he has explored that fell apart, recommends a good measure of perseverance.

"It's by no means simple to find the right match," he said.

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Home swapping on the Web

For more information on home swapping, go to:

* www.pad4pad.com

* goswap.org* www.onlinehousetrading.com

* www.domuswap.com

* www.daytonahometrader.com

-- Frank Nelson

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The home exchange: What's on offer

Several websites have sprung up to connect owners interested in house swapping. Listings, such as these at GoSwap.org, can include a variety of details.

Los Angeles

Value: $583,000

Bedrooms: Three

Baths: 2 1/2

Square feet: Not listed

Will swap for: Two- or three-bedroom condo on the Westside. Other locations: Oregon, Arizona, Washington. Downsizing.

Norwich, Conn.

Value: $359,000

Bedrooms: Six

Baths: Three

Square feet: 3,200

Will swap for: House or condo in or around Bucks County, Pa. Willing to downsize, swap even, upsize or consider owner financing.

North Miami, Fla.

Value: $800,000

Bedrooms: Three

Baths: Two

Square feet: 2,400

Will swap for: Single-family home in Baton Rouge, La., or Dallas.

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Reno, Nev.

Value: $290,000

Bedrooms: Two

Baths: 2 1/2

Square feet: 1,774

Will swap for: Residential property in Colorado: Boulder or surrounding area; Golden or Arvada.

Source: GoSwap.org

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