Can't Sell Your House? Swap It!

Kelli Clifton and her 14-month-old daughter, McKenzie, stand outside their lake home in Ortonville, Mich., June 20, 2007. Clifton and her husband are looking to swap their three-bedroom ranch for a larger home near good schools. The Cliftons still have their home for sale on the conventional market, but also put their house up for swap on Craigslist community Web site, where they've posted messages on the "Housing Swap" forum describing the house they've got and the one they hope to get. (AP Photo/The Detroit News, Charles V. Tines) ** DETROIT OUT ** AP/C.V. Tines, Detroit News

A tough real estate market that has seen homes languish with for-sale signs in their yards has pushed some Michigan homeowners to try to swap their residences.

Home swaps more typically are used by vacationers, who arrange to temporarily exchange homes. But owners looking for bigger — or even smaller homes — are trying to set up permanent swaps, The Detroit News reported Saturday.

Rob and Kelli Clifton want to swap their three-bedroom ranch on Lake Louise in Ortonville, about 37 miles northwest of Detroit, for a larger home near good schools. The home offers with 55 feet of private shoreline, a big backyard and a new kitchen.

"It's not like we haven't tried our best to sell this house," said Kelli Clifton, whose home also remains for sale on the traditional market. "We've offered everything, dropped the price. If this does the trick, that's fine by us."

U.S. home prices fell for a fourth consecutive month in April, with all regions showing the effect of the housing slowdown, according to the most recent figures in a housing index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's.

Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, San Diego and Washington, D.C., showed the greatest year-over-year declines in prices. Meanwhile, prices rose in Charlotte, N.C., Seattle and Portland, Ore., versus last year but those increases were moderating.

Elaine and Allen Putvin, of Macomb County's Shelby Township, are ready to downsize. They want to trade their four-bedroom colonial where they raised three children for a smaller home closer to Allen Putvin's job.

The Putvins also still have their home for sale on the traditional market. But like the Cliftons, they put their house up for swap on the Craigslist community Web site with details of what they hope to get.

In May, the Detroit-area's Craigslist had one or two swap listings each week. As of Friday, 13 such ads had been posted in the past week. On Saturday, the "Housing Swap" section had at least five more posted.

A swap would work with both sides agreeing on a price and cutting checks to each other. But the owners can avoid the chance of getting stuck with two mortgages as well as real estate commissions.

Real estate agents, however, note that swapping limits the choice of houses to buy. And while the homeowners may save money on commissions, they often spend money on an attorney to help close the deal.
  • Joel Roberts

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