When there's no way out, try a home swap

In a market where homeowners who need to move feel trapped by plunging prices, Chiara Cavaglieri looks at the web services that may offer a solution

The continued decline in house prices and restrictive lending criteria have narrowed the options for homeowners looking to up sticks, just as the threat of redundancy forces some to relocate to follow work, or downsize their property to save money. With sales at historic lows, thousands of people are likely to be stuck in a property rut, wanting to move but unable to do so.

This is where home-swapping websites can help. Services that began as a way to arrange holiday accommodation have transformed into exchanges for permanent moves. HomeSwapper4-Sale.co.uk and EasyHouseExchange. com may come of age as homeowners try to break through the buying-and-selling impasse.

Often labelled as a bricks-and-mortar "dating service", these sites offer a meeting point for homeowners, who upload details about their properties in the hope of matching them with other homes that suit their needs. Those with matching properties can then get in touch with each other and start making arrangements for a swap.

One benefit is the opportunity to avoid estate agents' fees – up to 3 per cent on the price of any property sold – and since there is no chain, house swapping allows people to make the move quickly, with far less risk of a sale falling through.

"The conventional way to move, via estate agents, is not proving successful at the moment," says Richard O'Driscoll, the director of EasyHouseExchange. "We're trying to unblock the UK's problem and help those people who have to move and are finding it difficult through the normal channels."

This isn't to say that home-swapping sites don't have room for the middle men. Many people still want an estate agent to help with negotiations and to arrange the home information pack (HIP). Indeed, some agents are using the sites to market property on their books if the vendor has expressed an interest in swapping. This way, they market the property more widely and, if a swap goes ahead, they can still claim their commission.

"A problem for both agents and vendors is a lack of viewings," says Ralph Catto, the chief executive of Scout Solutions, the company behind HomeSwapper4Sale. "Many people are no longer looking until they have an offer on their home, which exacerbates the slow market. We drive viewings by actively matching potential swappers. If they agree a deal, they avoid chain stalemates and can be constructive around any price conflict,"

Even if a direct swap is unsuccessful, advertising a property on an exchange site could lead to a sale, he adds. "Where a swap doesn't work, one party may still become the buyer of the other's home, so for both agent and vendor there are two bites of the cherry."

For homeowners, the first step is to register with one of the several sites offering a house-swapping service. Most of these charge a fee to list a property for a set period. At EasyHouseExchange, for example, it costs private owners £49.50 per property for a three-month subscription, although there is a special "free listing" offer in place until June. HomeSwapper4Sale currently charges £19.95 for a three-month subscription. No further fees are levied if a swap takes place.

Each homeowner then provides details and images of their property, as well as a description of the kind of home they wish to move to. At Homeswapper4sale, users must specify preferred location, how many bedrooms they require, the type of home they are looking for (house, bungalow, flat) and their price range. This information is added to the database, which automatically matches sellers. Those who have been selected for a potential swap can then contact each other through the site and arrange any viewings. It is also possible, because people are dealing with others who are in a similar situation, that they may be able to arrange a trial period living in each other's properties – a sort of "try before you buy" arrangement.

If both parties are happy and ready to make the exchange, they are left to continue the process independently. However, a permanent house swap is still a legal transaction and there may be issues to be ironed out before the process is complete, "Even if you are making a like-for-like swap, you are still taking on a new property and all the usual 'due diligence' rules would apply," says Thomas Moran, partner at law firm Speechly Bircham.

The onus still lies with the homeowners to pay the taxes and legal fees, usually through a solicitor. And it is advisable to have a full survey completed to determine the condition of the home. The parties to the swap should also consider checking the market values of the properties involved, and if they have a mortgage, there must be sufficient funds to pay it off. Any price difference between the two homes should be met either with a cash payment, or by obtaining new financing from the mortgage lender,

"Technically, you would have to redeem the mortgage on your old house, but in practice many lenders will allow what is, in effect, a transfer of the mortgage from the old property to the new one, subject to a satisfactory valuation and conditions," adds Mr Moran.

Once the exchange has been completed, both parties will need to pay stamp duty on the full value of the property acquired and register the swap at the Land Registry.

At the moment, one of the biggest drawbacks with the initiative is a shortage of homes available to swap. Without a large volume of houses to choose from, the likelihood of finding a perfect match is reduced, which could mean a long wait or a significant compromise on the house and location.

This may be about to change, though, as more homeowners look for inventive ways to sell their properties. Although yet to make an actual swap, Homeswapper4sale currently has over 5,500 members and 1,873 potential matches in place. EasyHouseExchange has 650 member houses on the site, including both independent properties and homes from developers Bovis Homes and Ballard Homes. The site claims that this number is on the rise.

During the past fortnight, EasyHouseExchange has also introduced a temporary exchange option for homeowners who are reluctant to sell but need to relocate for personal or financial reasons.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam