Stuck In Your Home? Swap It

With two kids, Melissa Petrocco and her husband needed more space, but couldn't move until they sold their 1,900-square-foot townhouse outside Atlanta. CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports that it sat on the market for nearly two years.

"We really thought in this market, we're going to be here forever," Petrocco said.

Across town, Lyca Shan wanted to downsize from her four-bedroom home, but had little food traffic at open houses.

"My whole plate of cookies was still there. I know that was a bad sign," Shan said, laughing. "I was like, 'There's no cookies gone and those were good cookies.'"

So Shan got creative, and swapped sweets for a new strategy. So did Petrocco. They each heard about online trading sites where the idea is simple: I'll buy your house if you'll buy mine.

"Basically, it's like a dating Web site for houses," Petrocco said. "Really."

On Dec. 1, Petrocco listed her townhouse - and her wish list for a new home in the same suburb - on onlinehousetrading.com. Less than two weeks later, she was matched with Lyca.

"Melissa's house popped up on there, and I was like, no way, this looks cool," Shan said.

Just two weeks after that, Shan bought Petrocco's house and Petrocco bought Shan's. Two closings at the same time.

Petrocco never though she'd be using a "dating service" to sell her home.

"But it's a brilliant idea," she said.

It's an idea that seems to be gaining steam in a dismal housing market. For example one of the housing swapping Web sites, goswap.org, had 90 listings in 2007. It has nearly 10,000 now.

"The areas that have been hit the hardest in real estate, such as the South, those are the areas where we have most of the listings," said Sergei Naumov, goswap.org's founder.

One sign of just how anxious - and desperate - many sellers are: when Wallace put up an interview request on goswap.org, CBS News received more than 100 e-mails, like one saying "Pick me! Pick me!" and got dozens of calls.

Dan and Leslie Thomas are hoping to sell their five-bedroom home in Canton, Ga., so they can move to wherever their daughter Jennifer ends up playing college basketball.

They were lucky online once before, meeting through Match.com.

"It worked out once, why can't it work out again?" Dan Thomas asked.

About a half-dozen sites are devoted to permanent house swaps, but it's unclear how many successful deals have taken place. Users don't have to report back when they make a trade.

"This is easier than finding a wife," Dan Thomas said. "This house trading is easier than that."

Some comfort, perhaps, for stressed-out homebuyers in recessionary times.

For more information on housing swaps, visit:
  • www.onlinehousetrading.com
  • www.goswap.org
  • www.domuswap.com
  • www.craigslist.org
  • www.house4trade.com
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