Two or three years ago, a South Florida homeowner looking to move could find a
property, sign the papers and sell an existing house quickly to one breathless
buyer or another.
But the new reality in the region's marshmallow-soft real estate market is
that homes in Palm Beach and Broward counties languish for weeks or months
without a showing, let alone an offer.
That ruins other deals contingent on buyers being able to unload their current
properties. So savvy but skittish homeowners are considering an alternative:
They're turning to the Internet, hoping to find someone somewhere with whom to
trade. In essence, they're willing to buy each other's homes as a way around
the prolonged housing slump that analysts say could last into next year.
Eight months ago, Brian Karpf of Weston started Caretotrade.com, a Web site
similar to Craigslist that lets people buy, sell, trade and barter items.
"I woke up one morning and there were 20 to 25 houses listed for
trade," said Karpf, 25, a third-year law student at Florida International
University. "I had no idea that people could trade houses."
Tarsha Graham is trying. She owns a triplex in Hollywood but expects to move
to Maryland or Washington, D.C., soon. She's less than thrilled with the
prospect of looking for a home there and having to sell her Broward County
So she posted the triplex on Caretotrade.com late last year. Graham hopes to
find a resident of the mid-Atlantic region willing to swap properties. She's
had a few inquiries but none that led to serious negotiations.
"With the market being so slow, it just opens up another avenue,"
said Graham, 37, who owns a social services agency in Miami.
Another likely house-trading scenario might involve empty-nesters who want to
downsize and a young family looking for a larger home. The family trading up
would pay the difference in the values of the properties, then buy the larger
The empty-nesters would use the cash they received from the family to help pay
off the first mortgage and then buy the smaller house. As in any home sale,
the parties negotiate a contract and both buyer and seller would likely seek
"I can see the attraction," said Jon Gelman, a Fort Lauderdale real
lawyer and shareholder in the Greenberg Traurig firm. "Anyone
who's trying to upsize or downsize, there's a concern: are they going to be
able to sell the house they're in? A lot of insecurity makes it hard to sleep
Caretotrade.com now has more than 400 real estate listings, and about three
quarters of those are potential house swaps, Karpf said. Recent postings
include: the owner of a home in Spring Hill, north of Tampa, looking to trade
for a home in South Florida; and the owner of a condominium on Hollywood beach
trying to trade for a home in New York or New Jersey.
Ira Shanes, of Boynton Beach, listed on Caretotrade last year, frustrated
after a deal to buy a house fell through when he couldn't sell his existing
Shanes is concerned about falling prices. He said his three-bedroom home was
appraised two years ago at $419,000; now it's worth roughly $360,000.
"There are just too many houses on the market right now," said
Shanes, 29, who operates a Boynton Beach ultrasound company. "You just
don't know for sure that your house is going to sell [the traditional
There are, of course, potential roadblocks to trading. It's difficult to
arrange if either homeowner owes more on the loan than the house is worth. And
getting strangers to agree to swap properties is a bit of a long shot.
"It definitely is like trying to find a needle in a haystack," said
Gelman, the lawyer.
For that reason, house-swapping remains a novelty. Real estate agents in Palm
Beach and Broward counties say they seldom handle trades. The Florida
Association of Realtors doesn't track the trades because the transactions are
recorded as regular home sales.
Fort Lauderdale agent Marilynn Obrig said trading is a godsend for certain
people, including investors stuck with large properties they can't sell.
Trading down allows them to reduce their financial risks.
Wellington agent Jim Corbin said he has worked only three trades in 35 years
but acknowledges the market's recent slide makes the concept worth
"There are so few buyers out there that anything you can do to find one
is a good thing," Corbin said. "People certainly are being creative
Paul Owers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6529.
read more at http://www.business-foreclosure.com/