Swap your space

By Al Pefley bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX) - It's no secret how slow the real estate market is right now. Everybody knows it's in one of the worst slumps in decades.

Some sellers are struggling while others have found a new way to deal with the challenges of the housing market.

Amy Novak is a stay-at-home mom with three small kids, and they love their house west of Lake Worth. "We have a nice big kitchen; we have new appliances."

They like it there, but they need to move. Amy's husband, David, took a job in New Jersey recently, and she's staying behind with the kids in Lake Worth waiting until the house sells. "We're just a typical family trying to sell our home."

They're living hundreds of miles apart. There isn't a buyer in sight for the house, and they're eager to move up to New Jersey and get the whole family together again under one roof. "It's very difficult. We're not seeing him often because he can't take off time from work. We miss being together. It's sad. My kids miss their dad."

Since they put the five bedroom house on the market in December, they've had several showings but no offers. So, now, they're ready to try something else. They're thinking of trading or swapping their house. They figure if they can't find a buyer, maybe that's the next best thing. "We need to relocate. I definitely think it's worth looking in to. You might get really lucky."

Amy and her husband put their name on a Web site, OnlineHouseTrading.com. It's kind of a matchmaker site for homeowners.

All they need is somebody with a house in central or northern New Jersey who wants to move to South Florida, and the Novaks might swap or trade houses with them. "This is something very new to me. I really didn't think we'd have to go this route."

Their real estate agent, Gary Garramone with United Realty Group, has been trying to sell their home. He says trading or swapping might work. "You want to try as many viable alternatives as you can in a market like this. It can't hurt and you just never know."

Some agents have even started running newspaper ads urging people to consider trading their house with someone down the street, across town, in another state or even overseas.

"It's just such a simple idea, and its time has come, said Cheryl Linck, a broker with Illustrated Properties.

Real estate agents say swapping houses helps people who are unable to sell and getting discouraged.

"They're frustrated. Their attitude, 'What do I do next? What's the next step? Help me," said Illustrated Properties agent Alawn Rockoff.

An agent can help find a homeowner who'd be willing to swap by calling agents in the city where their client wants to move. Or the homeowner can do it themselves, and find a house on a home-swapping Web site.

One possible drawback is your choice of homes may be limited because there may only be one or two people in the place you want to go who want to move to your city or neighborhood. "You have to find just that right house on both sides, and that isn't easy," said Linck.

The Novaks plan to keep their house on the market and try to sell it the conventional way. But, at the same time, they're looking for someone in New Jersey who will swap or trade with them. They say with the housing market at a standstill, they're "sold" on the idea of trading or swapping.