House swaps can be beneficial for both parties as their needs change, writes Donal Buckley

Ian Hickey is looking for a perfect match — a Bray person who will swap houses with him. With the help of a mortgage he is also willing to pay about €80,000 as a sweetner to his perfect match.

But the other’s houses must be a larger period house which they are willing to swap for his 1,000sq ft (92sqm) Bray terraced house.

The Hickey family have compiled a brochure of their own house to entice someone to swap and distributed copies to possible houses.

“I’m looking for the perfect match between ourselves and an owner of one of the nearby red-brick period houses. They may wish to trade down but stay nearby,” he explains.

“Their houses may be too cold and big for them and they may not be able to afford improvements,” he adds.

Ian bought his house at 4 Lauderdale Terrace, Vevay Road, Bray, in 1999 and over the years devoted a lot of enthusiasm towards its refurbishment. The two-bedroom period terraced house has also been extended.

“It was a labour of love and I am willing to do the same with a larger house,” he adds.

The living room has been extended and the roof over the dining area has been lifted to install a window which catches the westerly light in the evening.

A bath and shower room has been installed at ground level. The modern kitchen has been fitted with an electric hob/oven and dishwasher.

To the rear is a sunny and sheltered south-facing rear garden.

Ian says the house suited him as a bachelor pad. “I married Suzanne three years ago and after our son Daragh was born we found the house is too small for children,” he says.

He estimates it is worth about €280,000 and he wants to move to a house of about double that size in areas such as Meath Road, Sidmonton and Galtrim roads.

“Unfortunately houses on these roads very seldom come to the market and I hoped that the brochure might prompt someone to consider moving,” he says.

One local resident who lives in Wyndham Park, which was targeted in the brochure drop, is impressed.

“It’s a terrific idea. There will come a time when I will want to downsize. If it was five years down the road I would give this serious thought”.

Ian hopes to acquire a house which might be valued at about €360,000 and needs to be done up as he might not be able to afford such houses in good condition. One house, 9 Galtrim Road, sold early this year for about €520,000 through Sherry FitzGerald. Another, No 4, recently went sale agreed through HJ Byrne for a price understood to be over the €350,000 asking price.

Swapping homes makes sense for people on the move. Usually people have to sell their existing house first and move into rental accommodation while they shop around.

Furthermore rents are higher for short-term lettings, but those who go for the annual lease may forfeit their rental deposit should they buy their dream home before their 12 months are up.

Very few can buy first as banks are reluctant to give a second mortgage when the first has not been paid off.

Reductions in stamp-duty in the last Budget also make swapping more feasible than it was in the previous 12 years when tax changes effectively stamped out swaps.

Now with stamp duty at 1pc a person swapping a €200,000 home for a €400,000 home would pay €4,000 while the person trading down would pay €2,000.

The house price register has also made it easier for swappers to have a more accurate idea of the value of their properties especially for those urban areas where similar houses sell regularly.

However, the property price register does not give full details of the sizes and the nature of the deals.

For instance the register may show a much different price for house deals where a family member has bought from parents or siblings or where houses come with land or part of them have been used for a home business.

Estate agent Harry Sothern of Sothern Real Estate Alliance has been an advocate of such house exchanges for years and he says he has acted effectively as a match maker.

“The key to the perfect match is that both parties are happy that the other house is the one that they want and that they are both agreed that the values placed on each house is fair,” he adds.

The Carlow agent also splits his fee for brokering a swap so that both parties pay less than the usual 2pc fee plus VAT.

He declines to act as match maker for swappers outside of Carlow and advises such swappers to seek the advice of local agents who may know of houses which suit their needs.