Michelle Wulfe and her husband had plans to move from their home in Big Bear City in Southern California to retire in Arizona.
They bought a home in Kingman, Ariz., and the real estate market there tanked soon after. They found that they liked it better back in Big Bear, and so they moved back home and kept their Kingman property on the market.
"The minute we moved the market fell … so we moved right back into our old house. Now we have two homes."
That was about a year ago. The Kingman home is still for sale. Wulfe said she decided to try a different approach to marketing and she advertised the home on Pad4Pad.com, a Web site that is intended to facilitate house swaps.
Pad4Pad is one of several sites that allow sellers to advertise where they are hoping to move next, so that they can link up with buyers using the site.
If the buyers and sellers agree to "swap" homes by purchasing each other’s property, the transactions are structured much the same as with any real estate sale and purchase — though buyers and sellers may choose to work with the same title company to close both sales on the same date and make for a smoother transaction.
The Wulfes provide a detailed description of their Kingman, Ariz., property on the site, along with a link to a virtual tour of the home. They are hoping to swap this property for a single-family home in the Portland, Ore., area, where they have family ties. They would consider homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range in Portland, and their Arizona home is listed for sale at $329,000.
"We would like to get an investment property that we could rent out until we want to move," Wulfe said.
Since posting the property to the Pad4Pad site about two months ago, Wulfe said she has had about 10 responses through the site.
"We’ll probably have more success with a swap. In the year that we had it with a Realtor, it was shown once," she said. So far the responses have not been fruitful but Wulfe said she is still hopeful.
"So many people are stuck — they can’t sell their home and they need to move for different reasons," she said.
Greg Holt, CEO for Denver-based Pad4Pad, said he conceptualized the site as a frustrated home seller. "I’ve had my home on the market for about the last year with really no success at all," he said.
"One of the things I noticed as I was getting feedback from my real estate agent … people coming through our house all like it, but they had homes to sell and they just couldn’t sell them.
"My wife said in passing, ‘Too bad we can’t find people in Fort Collins who want to move to Denver.’"
The site is intended to be friendly for real estate agents and brokers to use, he said, and the site can accept bulk feeds of property information.
Individual agents can claim properties that are added to the site by brokers, and the agents can add information about where the home seller is seeking to move to, and the price range and property type they are seeking in that market area. It is free to post listings at the site.
Holt refers to the site as "a real estate listing site with a twist … we want to be a little bit more of a proactive tool." Agents can register at the site and enter their contact information for inclusion in a searchable database at the site.
"I think the market conditions are fueling the fire for alternative marketing ideas, and swapping right now just makes a lot of sense when there are no buyers out there. It helps turn these buyers into sellers," he said.
The site is powered by advertising, and Holt said Pad4Pad does not participate in any of the house-swap transactions or charge any fees for closed deals. "We really don’t get involved in the deal — we just want to bring the folks together."
Many of the properties at the site are in Florida, where the market has been hurting, Holt noted. "They’re looking to get out of there in droves." Arizona, Colorado and Illinois also seem to be popular states for sellers looking to move from, he said.
The site launched in February and more than 5,000 properties have been posted to the site since launch, Holt said, adding that there are plans to add about 300,000 more properties to the site from three sources.
Properties ranging from the sub-$100,000 range to multimillion-dollar homes have been advertised on the site, and users can post condos, townhomes, single-family homes, land and multifamily properties.
DomuSwap.com, another house-swapping company, features about 4,774 properties, with about 1,528 of the properties in Florida. The Sarasota, Fla.-based site was created by Infoblazer, a software development and consulting company.
David Moskowitz, the creator of DomuSwap and president of Infoblazer, said he has heard some interesting stories from site users about successful swaps, including an instance in which the swappers shared a U-Haul for their respective moves.
DomuSwap, like Pad4Pad, is a free site that seeks to generate revenue through advertising at the site. The site was launched about a year ago, and about 90 percent of the listings are posted directly by homeowners, he said.
There have been about 30,000 inquiries through the site to those who have posted properties at the site.
"I think there are a lot of people who are just stuck, who would like to buy but they can’t," he said. "Finding a house you like is not a problem — it’s selling your existing house."
A housing market in a severe slump is not necessarily a good thing for the site, he said, as a swap won’t work if both parties are looking to downsize. But he said a slightly down market may be ideal for the site.
"The market this is looking to capture is not even the people who are actively looking to relocate, but people who might just fancy the idea. There are 40 million people a year who relocate," he said. The site draws about 1,500 to 2,000 users a day, he said.
Markets like Florida, California, Arizona and Michigan, which are experiencing housing downturns, seem popular among sellers who are looking to swap for homes elsewhere, Moskowitz said. "When the market’s down, people who are living there get nervous and want to sell."
Another site, GoSwap.org, features real estate and other types of items. The owners of a 2,660-square-foot home in Kapaa, Hawaii, dubbed the "Pineapple House," for example, are seeking to swap for a home in Provence, France, or in Huntington Beach, Calif.
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