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Can't Sell House? Try Permanent Swap

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Can't Sell House? Try Permanent Swap

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Can't Sell House? Try Permanent Swap

Can't Sell House? Try Permanent Swap

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Since the economic downturn, Craigslist has posted new online classified ads: permanent house swaps. People trying to relocate, whose houses have lost so much value that they don't want to sell, instead look to swap permanently with people in a desired location who have houses with comparable value.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you want to trace some effects of the economy, look no further than the online service Craigslist. There are more listings for roommates and rideshares when you go through the Craigslist classified ads. More people are selling used items and giving away less for free. And the nosedive in the housing market has led to a new kind of Craigslist post. Instead of selling their homes, people are looking to swap them - permanently. NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

SYDELL: John and Jolene Moore(ph) live in what anyone would think was a lovely home. It's in a suburb about a half hour east of San Francisco. It's big - 3,500 square feet, five bedrooms, plenty of room for the three kids and the two dogs.

Unidentified Female: She'll do this for hours.

SYDELL: The problem for Jolene Moore is that she's always owned her own home, and this one is a rental.

Ms. JOLENE MOORE: I don't even have pictures hung because I keep feeling well, we're probably going to be moving again.

SYDELL: The Moores do actually own a home. It just happens to be on the island of Maui, where they lived for four years until they got sick of island living.

Ms. MOORE: Because you start to get a little bit of island fever.

SYDELL: The Moores sold their business in Maui, moved back to the Bay aea, and put their house on the market just as the market went south. They paid close to a million dollars for their island home, but no one would pay that much now to buy it.

Mr. JOHN MOORE: And at the same time, we tried to get renters in there. While - with Aloha Airlines going out of business, the whole economy in Maui has gone way down. And so we can't get renters, and we can't sell it.

SYDELL: So the Moores have been paying $4,000 on their mortgage for the house in Hawaii, and $4,500 in rent in California. Faced with this dilemma and concerned about their finances, the Moores realized they had to be creative. About three weeks ago, they had an idea. What about a permanent housing swap?

Mrs. MOORE: There has to be somebody living here in the Bay area that wants to move to Hawaii, who wants to do what we did by experiencing island life.

SYDELL: The Moores would be happy to give up the title to their house in Maui and take title to a home in the Bay area worth about the same. So they put an ad up on Craigslist. They thought it was an original idea, but they're actually part of a trend.

Mr. JIM BUCKMASTER (CEO, Craigslist): For the first time, we're seeing ads for people who are looking to permanently swap their residence for someone else's.

SYDELL: That's Jim Buckmaster, the CEO of Craigslist.

Mr. BUCKMASTER: And whether that's because the difficulty of arranging financing, or just because they're tired of dealing with brokers and mortgage people or what it is, I don't know. But we've never seen that before, so that's been interesting.

SYDELL: On Craigslist, there are even some real estate agents offering to broker housing swaps. The Moores have had some interest, most recently from a retired dentist looking to move to Maui. As for the permanence of permanent housing swaps, CEO Buckmaster says this could simply be a phase that will end when the housing market bounces back - whenever that may be. Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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