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By Susan Milton

RISMEDIA, Dec. 19, 2008-(MCT)-Danielle Shupe wants to sell her three-bedroom ranch near Schoolhouse Pond in Chatham. Arthur Broadhurst is trying to sell his three-bedroom house with pool in Palm Coast, Fla. to move closer to grandchildren in Massachusetts.

In this depressed economy, both owners are trying out a new way to sell their houses — through a permanent house swap. Shupe and Broadhurst met through one of the growing number of Internet websites that help match sellers with sellers.

“People who cannot sell their house cannot move and purchase elsewhere,” Broadhurst said. “Trading houses, if structured properly, can make a lot of sense.”

Both found each other through the Cape “house swap” category of the online classified ads on Craigslist.com. A growing number of ads for permanent home swaps are joining ads for swapping homes for vacations and travel.

Four weeks ago, just four ads proposed permanent swaps; this week 10 ads sought such swaps. Other websites also specialize in such swaps, offering space for listings and photo but they don’t yet draw as much traffic, Broadhurst said.

Overall, “I’d say I get one hit a week. This past week I happened to get three on one day,” he said. “Once a month, I have a serious inquiry that’s worth pursuing to the point of trying to get photos.”

As Broadhurst’s experience shows, it’s as hard to find the right match in house swapping as it is in dating for a mate. Potential swappers must listen to a lot of stories to find a deal that could work for both sellers.

Broadhurst, for example, called about Shupe’s Chatham home, but she isn’t interested in his Florida house. She and her husband want to downsize to a one or two-bedroom place in Chatham.

“We did get one response from a man who had two condos, in Brewster and Harwich, but we’re really interested in staying in Chatham,” said Shupe, who lives in Winchester and works as director of human resources for Ray Beam Solutions.

Both she and Broadhurst know what they are doing in real estate. She has bought and sold eight houses, all but two without a broker. He is a retired insurance executive and chief financial officer who has invested in ten houses in the past 10 years. His Florida house is the first that hasn’t sold within days of listing.

Broadhurst said he came closest to a swap with someone who had taken a job in Orlando and who had a Cape house to sell. It was hard to watch over their Cape property from so far away. They were willing to trade for his Florida house which they could use weekends and sell when the market turned.

The deal fell through because the Orlando people needed a mortgage, said Broadhurst. While they could afford it, the bank wasn’t willing to give one for a second home.

It is telling that no one interviewed for this article knew about any successful house swap in today’s market.

House swapping “is too small to be measured as a trend,” said spokesman Walter Malony at the National Association of Realtors. The association doesn’t track such swaps.

Craigslist also doesn’t track ads for permanent swaps, mixed in with swaps for vacations, a spokesman said.

The reason for the rarity in successful swaps isn’t just banking and legal logistics.

“It’s probably good to have a real estate attorney to negotiate this,” Malony said.

Even in a world brought close by the Internet, it’s just not very likely that two people will find each other and have a property that the other one wants, said broker Peter McDowell of Dennis, selling Cape real estate since 1965.

“The odds are tremendous and very much against it, I think,” he said.

Broker Dick Neitz of Yarmouth, in real estate for 38 years, and Barnstable County Register of Deeds John Meade, also a lawyer, agreed with McDowell. None had heard of any house swapping in the Cape market.

The odds may be long but it’s worth taking a chance, sellers said.

“In this market you do need to be creative,” said Cape commercial broker Adam Bauer who listed his three-bedroom remodeled West Barnstable ranch on craigslist. He’s interested in swapping for commercial property or a house rental. He has fielded good offers, including a property on Martha’s Vineyard. “I’m seeing more normal people, your average consumer trying to do this,” he said.

One of them is Paul Goddi who moved to Sarasota, Fla. in 1982 after managing a Mashpee condo complex.

“I liked it when I first moved down here but it’s like God’s waiting room. People wait here to die. People call it Sorrysota,” said Goddi, now 54, and looking for a house on the Cape or anywhere in New England within two to three hours of his family in Massachusetts.

He listed his Sarasota house for sale three years ago. Nothing’s selling in Sarasota and prices are dropping, he said, willing to consider a swap.

“People have offered me a car wash in Alabama and a 400-square foot cabin in the Berkshires,” Goddi said. “I’ve had a lot of interest but haven’t made a real connection yet.”

Copyright © 2008, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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