We’ve come a long way in the two or so years since the emerging of swapping on the internet. Through extensive media coverage, I must think a larger percentage of the population, or at least home owners and sellers with their eyes open for such stories, are aware of swapping. However, the results haven’t proved as promising. Sure, there are a few anecdotes of swaps that have taken place. These more often than not, took place on Craigslist, with several on Domuswap and Onlinehousetrading. I am not aware of any other successes.
The lack of numbers for swapping, compared to the overall size of the market, are staggering. There are about 4 million or so homes listed in the US. At best, swap listings number in the tens of thousands. At its peak, Domuswap contained about 6000 listings. OnlineHouseTrading claims about 60,000 listings but I question what percentage of those are actual paid, active listings and not just one abandoned once the need to pay becomes apparent. In any case, these numbers are just a drop in the bucket.
As I said almost two years ago in various interviews, successful swapping is a game of numbers, large ones. We need large numbers of listings to make successful swaps given the low probability of any two properties being a suitable match. This reasoning, of course, implies that most people that try swapping will be unsuccessful. I believe this is true, unless the numbers become really large. By large, I mean, every house listed and even those that aren’t listed. We need to know what EVERY homeowner, those selling or potentially selling, would be willing to swap for. That is the end game for swapping and what we are trying to do.
Over the past several months, I have become more and more convinced that the only way for swapping to be successful is for it to be embraced by the large, national Real Estate companies, like Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and ReMax. These organizations can very likely facilitate swaps entire within their domain of lists. The advantage here is having a Realtor on either side of the deal to shepherd the process along. While I might like the looks of a potential swap in another state, I am unlikely to take a plane trip on a longshot of a possibility. However, it there was a Realtor on the other end, who could be my eyes and ears on the ground, so to speak, I might proceed down that path. I don’t have all the answers as to how to make something like this work, but I know that this is where to start. I am still dumbfounded that none of the national Realtors I mentioned have embraced swapping, given the large number of unsold homes, and potential commissions, sitting in their inventory. Anyone listening out there?