House swapping saving some sellers money

Monday, May 19th 2008, 3:43 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

As the housing crunch continues to pressure sellers to get creative, a growing number of services are offering a unique approach to real estate-style matchmaking.

Sherry Crosslin was frustrated after nearly a year of open houses, she was having no luck selling her house and was getting anxious to move out of state.

"It looked like the only way we were going to be able to move that property was to attach it to a box of Cracker Jacks and give it to a kid going down the street," Crosslin said.

Crosslin eventually decided to list her home on several new ‘house swapping sites,' which pair up compatible homeowners so they can trade properties. She met her match, Jerry Stussman, on

"I was very impressed with his honesty and forthrightness," Crosslin said.

House swapping has been around for awhile for vacation and rental homes, but experts said now it's becoming a popular choice for primary residences, too.

On, trade offers have tripled since property posting started in 2006.

Daniel Westbrooks is with and said swapping often allows sellers to get the best return.

"It really works for anybody whether you are upsizing, downsizing or relocating," Westbrook said. "In this market, sellers are typically having a drastically reduce the price of their homes and with this, they are not having to do that."

Once a homeowner registered, the companies send a list of potential matches based on criteria submitted during the registration. Once a property of interest is found, the homeowner then contacts the seller.

Experts said it's important to check the property in person and to get a professional to help close the deal. If one home is valued higher, money is exchanged to make up the difference.

"It's almost impossible to not do it legitimately," Stussman said. "You have an opportunity to get a third party appraisal. The lender has to approve it and the loan has to be correct and you use simultaneous closings. No money changes hands until all that's done."

While Stussman and Crosslin's house swapping work, the National Association of Realtors said be aware: it's not always easy.

"You don't have access to the entire marketplace, so you are only limited to the properties that are in a swapping type of environment," Dale Mattison of NAR said.

Stussman and Crosslin admit the limitations, but are happy with their trade. Crosslin said she saved about $30,000 in realtor fees, and Stussman said he saved $50,000.

Most of the sites are free to use although there are fees for upgrades. Online house trading charges $19.95 per listing.