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Is there an alternative to selling?

By Chris Smith
Newsbeat reporter, Wolverhampton

Having trouble selling the house? What about throwing in a free gift, swapping it or even raffling it off? With property prices falling all the time, some owners who are really desperate to sell are coming up with some bizarre options. Newsbeat went to Wolverhampton to find out more.

For sale signs
The credit crunch has hit home-buyers - and sellers - hard

It's a drizzly day in Wednesfield on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.

There are plenty of For Sale signs dotted around, but nobody seems to be viewing - and it's not just because of the weather.

Up the street the estate agent who's trying to shift some of the houses and flats sitting on the market is sheltering in his small office with a cuppa.

Martin Oliver's leafing through a pile of property details: "Here's a nice-looking two bed semi, it's been on the market for more than a year now," he said.

"It was on for £125,000; they've already had to drop the price to 112. I've also got this flat in a great part of town.

"They used to sell for £130,000 a year ago - the owner just had to turn down an offer of £95,000."

He says it's a bad time for anyone trying to shift a property: "They're very frustrated; but they will have to drop the prices further if they want to sell."

So what does he think of some of the other options some desperate house-sellers are turning to?

Option 1 - Hold a raffle

Sounds a bit mad, but it has happened - people who can't sell their place the normal way try and raffle it off. A family tried it earlier this year, selling tickets at £25 a pop to win their estate.

It's a good idea because… You'll probably get in the local paper.

It's a terrible idea because… It almost certainly won't work. The law around this is a bit of a grey area: basically you're not allowed to hold your own lottery; you have to try and dress it up as a competition by throwing in a general knowledge question. As far as we know, nobody's ever managed to move a house on using this idea.

Martin says: "It's never happened in Wolverhampton to my knowledge - I've known one or two people who've thrown holidays or cars in, things like that, but never a raffle. My advice would be not to - and I certainty wouldn't get involved with that."

Option 2 - Home under the hammer

This option seems to be popular on daytime TV. There always seems to be someone picking up a bargain at a property auction. But does it work well if you're the seller?

It's a good idea because… No sitting on the market for ages - you find out in one hit if anyone wants to buy it or not.

It's a terrible idea because… You could end up selling for well under the odds.

Martin says: "At the moment it's mostly repossessed properties, or properties with a structural problem, something like that. It is an option, but probably only for somebody who's really desperate to sell, and prepared to sell at much below market prices. I don't think it's for the average person in the street."

Option 3 - Swap shop

You need to move, somebody else needs to move too. Why not just swap houses? Not just the plot of that film with Cameron Diaz, it has actually happened in real life too. There are now websites who say they're having good success rates organising swaps between people with similar value properties.

It's a good idea because… It's a quick and easy solution, if you find a match.

It's a terrible idea because… It relies on being lucky enough to find someone with a property worth about what yours costs, who just happens to live where you want to move to and also wants to move to your old neighbourhood. And you'll still need to arrange a HIP (Home Information Pack) and pay stamp duty.

Martin says: "It is something that can work quite well, even in better markets than this. We did arrange one of these earlier on this year. A person living in a three-bedroom property swapped with a couple in a two-bed who wanted to start a family. It only helps a certain amount of people, but it can happen and it's quite a useful thing."

Option 4 - Rent

The rental market's shot up recently. That's partly because first-time buyers can't find a mortgage to buy that first place - but it's also because some homeowners are renting their places out rather than selling them. Renting for a couple of years looks like a good option to some people who want to wait until things pick up again.

It's a good idea because… You can move relatively quickly, and you keep your own property as an investment for when prices go back up.

It's a terrible idea because… The rental market's competitive, so you'll need to make sure you get the place you want. And what if you can't find tenants for your own place or the rental income doesn't cover the mortgage?

Martin says: "I think there's a lot more properties out there for rent, and it is an option for some people. Particularly we've had people who've got together and both owned a property. They can't sell one, so they rent it out. Or people who've had to move with work but can't sell their old place, so it becomes a rental property for them. It is a good option for people in the short term for a year or two, until things pick up again."

Option 5 - Wait

Many people will just choose to wait this one out. If you can, hanging on for a year or two might turn out to be a good option.

It's a good idea because… Some forecasters say the downturn will be shallow and short. If you can catch the right moment as things start to move upwards again, you could sell your place and even get a decent price on your new one.

It's a terrible idea because… You might not be able to wait. What if you need to move for work or family reasons, or can't make your mortgage payments any more?

Martin says: "I think it will get better, but banks are the key. Until first time buyers can get sensible 95% mortgages again at a sensible rate, I don't think things will improve. But once that happens, things could change quite rapidly. Then I think we'll get to the stage where buying a property will be at least as cheap as renting. Once the banks come back into the market again, things will start to pick up. I think it's a case of hanging on in there."

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