If your dream is to start a new life in Bulgaria, but you feel you can’t get away because of the depressed UK housing market, or the fact that banks just aren’t lending like they used to then you need to consider a more creative way to buy your dream property in Bulgaria. We all know that there is a shortage of buyers out there for our UK property but this does not mean there is no way out; many people are exploring the concept of house swaps.
Some people are looking to swap because they have work in a different area of the country or because they want more or less space and for some a swap is the only way to avoid foreclosure on a house they bought during the boom at an overinflated price.
One way to avoid leaving your dreams of moving to Bulgaria in limbo is to consider a permanent house swap. This way you can also save money on agency fees, forget about mortgages and lending rates and beat the credit crunch by making your move.
Quest Bulgaria takes a look at a variety of creative options for buying and selling property in Bulgaria in a three part series covering owner financing, lease to buy and house swapping. This might be just what you are waiting for to speed up the right outcome for you.
What is a House Exchange?
With hundreds of thousands of homes for sale advertised on traditional real estate listing services, house swapping is a small niche of the market, but it is growing. Craigslist, a free classified advertisement website, added a "Housing Swap" category about two years ago in response to user demand. It logged 11,000 listings nationwide in June and the company said numbers have doubled from last year. It is predominantly renovated houses that are ready to move into that are exchanging hands fastest and they tend to be priced at around 80,000 to 100,000 euro.
House exchange is literally swapping like for like, sometimes with a small amount of cash on one side to make up any differences. This method of purchase, which is perfectly legal, can be drawn up through a lawyer. The greatest advantage is that neither party has to worry about falling house prices or mortgage lending rates. It literally works on the principle of "I'll buy your house if you'll buy mine" and in America it is the latest trend in real estate marketing.
House swapping is an easy task to carry out; you simply have to post a description of the property you want to ‘sell’ along with a description of the property you are looking for – it’s a bit like online dating; you are simply looking for the perfect match! When you find it both property owners view each other’s homes (although this is not absolutely necessary) and negotiate the swap. You need to engage a lawyer to draw up contracts and to make sure that the sale and purchase occurs at the same time.
Glenda Murray from Yorkshire tells her story, “My partner and I were hoping to sell up and move to Bulgaria so we put our house up for sale back in September. It's a nice house in a pretty village close to a river but the current market crisis has meant that we have had no enquiries whatsoever and this is after knocking a further 18% off the price.” The problems faced by Glenda are common place in today’s depressed economy, but if you are intent on a new life abroad, how can you get out of the rat race? Glenda explains her exit strategy, “I was searching the internet and came upon the idea of a permanent house swap, with someone in Bulgaria, who wanted to return to the UK. It made total sense, because the desire to leave for both parties would be stronger than concerns about falling house prices especially if both sides believed they were swapping like for like. I have found a few interested parties on the internet and am in the process of adding my house to as many house swap sites as possible.”
If conducted properly with watertight legal contracts there are many benefits to this type of sale. Firstly the properties can be in any locations and are not limited to one country e.g. you may swap your end of terrace house in Bradford for a villa on the Black Sea coast. Additionally you don’t have to own your property outright; you can simply transfer your mortgage to the other party providing you feel you are swapping like for like. You will also save on estate agents fees and if it is an outright swap with no money changing hands, then you will save on bank fees and the hassle of securing a mortgage.
The two properties are rarely of equal market value and both parties should get independent valuations on each property. If one house proves to be worth significantly more than the other both parties must agree on a price, which may involve lump sum payments between the buyers.
The market for house swaps, whilst growing is still relatively small, which means that you will get less exposure than if you were to advertise your property with a mainstream real estate agent. Walter Moloney, a spokesman for the American National Association of Realtors says, "House swapping is not a conventional transaction, and not a lot of people know about it."
If you see your dream Bulgarian property for sale with "permanent swap,” "owner financing" or "lease to buy" - then get ready to move!