Can’t sell your home? Try a swap.

By swapping homes, owners can avoid real estate agent fees

Can’t sell your home? Try a swap.

It’s the latest strange twist from the U.S. housing meltdown. Thousands of Americans are discovering that no one wants to buy their homes—at least not at a reasonable price. But some just have to move. So here’s their creative solution: rather than selling and then trying to buy, they just find someone else in the same position and swap.

These aren’t temporary home swaps of the sort that vacationers do. They’re permanent, with each party taking legal title of the other’s property. In a recent listing on the Vancouver Craigslist site, for instance, a realtor posted an ad for a “4-bdrm, 2-bath home on a corner lot in a desirable area of Torino in Port St. Lucie, Fla.,” complete with “marble and granite countertops and upgraded appliances.” The owner is looking to trade it for a place in Vancouver, and is “open to suggestions.”

Similar ads are now appearing daily on Craigslist and a host of other sites devoted to swaps. Most listings are placed by Americans wanting to relocate to another state, but some hope to trade their undervalued luxurious poolside homes with Canadians.

David Moskowitz launched the U.S.-based house swapping site DomuSwap last year after having problems selling his own Nokomis, Fla., property. He says people like the idea of swapping because they can avoid real estate agent fees (though you still need a lawyer to finalize the deal), and because you can buy and sell property in one smooth transaction. “The simplest cases are where both people own property and they exchange deeds,” says Moskowitz. “In some cases a difference is paid, where one party owes the other money if the homes have different values.”

Moskowitz says he sees realtors getting in on the action by charging to broker swaps, and he may very well be right. After all, with the U.S. housing market mired in the worst slump it has seen in decades, there’s plenty of them out there looking for work.

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