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House Swaps Picking up in Slow Real Estate Market

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By Kevin Turner

homeowner-webRISMEDIA, February 24, 2009-(MCT)-About two weeks ago, Leonard and Blynda Masters moved into Kathleen Jordan’s Fort Caroline home, and Jordan and her four sons moved into the Masters’ home, about four miles away. No, they weren’t doing it for a reality TV show. The two homeowners bought each others’ homes, swapped keys, closed on the same day and moved in on the same day using the same moving company.

The phenomena of home swapping, while nothing new, is gaining increased attention as frustrated home sellers look for more ways of finding buyers.

The Masterses had their 2,660-square-foot home on the market for six months, but after it didn’t sell, they dropped the listing and decided to stay in their home. Jordan had listed her five bedroom, four bath, 3,975-square-foot waterfront home for a few weeks when she decided to have an open house in December.

The Masterses stopped by on a lark, Blynda Masters said. They loved it, she said, but decided they couldn’t buy it if they couldn’t sell their house. Jordan’s Realtor, Donna Warpool, suggested the swap.

Jordan, recently divorced, had one child who had moved from home, one that will soon and three others. Warpool remembered the Masterses’ house, she said.

“I knew their house was something like what Kathy was going to be downsizing to,” Warpool said.

But Jordan would have to want to buy the Masterses’ house for the deal to work.

“We prayed about it, that she would like the house,” Masters said. Jordan visited it and decided she wanted it, she said.

The Masterses’ Realtor, Dennis Lang, his wife Kathy, and Warpool worked to make both new mortgages work although none had brokered a swap before, they said.

Jordan said that like the Masterses, she appealed to a higher power that the deal would work.

“I prayed it would sell so fast my head would spin,” she said. “My head did spin.”

Today, there are a number of Web sites that specialize in “matchmaking” swaps between buyers and sellers with sites that showcase both the details of a sellers’ home and the details of the home they seek to buy.

Sergei Naumov of St. Augustine is creator of three-year-old GoSwap.org. Since December 2007, it has ballooned from 90 listings to more than 9,700 user accounts. Naumov said there were 63 active listings for Jacksonville homes and 17 listers who seek to swap homes with someone in Jacksonville.

“Any seller, in any market, is really just a future buyer,” Naumov said.

Listings are free if a lister refers four other users, but otherwise cost $20 a year, he said.

Another home swap site, the two-year-old OnlineHouseTrading.com, is based in Tampa. Company President Brian Stroka said it, too, has blossomed recently. It has 783 trading profiles for Jacksonville and 623 profiles for people saying they seek to trade into the Jacksonville area. The site allows people to view profiles for free and charges users $29.95 for detailed listings.

“We’ve seen it increase a lot in the past four to six months,” Stroka said.

Copyright © 2009, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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