Swap This House

Homeowners anxious to sell are resorting to house trades




Angela Heider has her profile online, but the married mother of four isn't looking for a date. She's looking to trade her house.

The Heiders live at The Point Lake and Golf Club, but the family is looking to sell their 5,600-square-foot house. The problem: the Heiders are having trouble selling. So they're considering house swapping in the area for a smaller place and a lower mortgage.

Same for Bill Law, a Lake Norman businessman who spends much of his time in Florida. He's got a million-dollar-plus waterfront home he wants to trade for a condo. If he's successful, it'll be his fourth house swap.

144.9
average days on market for Charlotte area homes in March 2010.

It's a concept that's long been popular with vacationers (e.g., someone in LA swaps her beach home with someone in the Florida Keys for a period of time), but permanent home trades are becoming more common because of the slumping housing market. In a house swap both parties have to agree on the value of what they're trading. If there's a difference, the party with the lesser value has to give up some cash. Other than that, a swap is a lot like a sale. In most cases, homeowners try to swap for a similarly valued house, but it doesn't always work that way, which is why flexibility is key. "This is not for someone set in old ways," says Greg Holt.

Holt faced a situation similar to the Heiders in February 2008, prompting him to create pad4pad.com, which connects potential house swappers. He has almost 200 homes in the Charlotte area listed on his site and he now has clients across the country. Holt says that his site gets up to 150 to 300 hits a day with two to three new people signing up to swap daily.

Heider says she's hopeful because the home switching site has generated more interest than her Realtor, but until then, the Heiders wait, hoping for the next great swap. —M. B.

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