It’s the most frustrating Catch-22 of the current housing market: The inventory of homes for sale in Washington is ridiculously low. But many potential sellers are too afraid to list their houses because…the inventory of homes for sale is ridiculously low, and they could very likely end up without anywhere to live. Unless a homeowner is wealthy enough to buy a new place before selling the old one, the risk of getting into the market often just seems too high.
“A lot of homeowners feel stuck,” says agent Liz Brent, founder of Silver Spring-based Go Brent Realty. As this problem has come up among her clients again and again, Brent says she’s started to try to think of creative ways to help solve it. Thus, the idea for her newly launched site, I Would Move if I Could—kind of like Match.com for sellers and buyers—was born.
Here’s how it works: Anyone in the DC area who would sell their house if they only had a guarantee of finding a new one can sign up on the site, which is free to use. A questionnaire asks what kind of home you’re looking for, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want, your desired location and distance to Metro, and so on. Users can include as much or as little information as they want, and edit their submissions at any time. Brent, meanwhile, will look for potential matches—for instance, the young family hoping to upsize from their condo to a four-bedroom house, and the empty-nesters looking to downsize from their four-bedroom house into a condo. If Brent sees a potential match, both sets of homeowners will be notified.
The site is obviously a possible source of business for Brent, who could end up representing one half of the deal (Maryland law prohibits agents from repping both sides of the same transaction). But she stresses that there is no requirement that a homeowner work with her in order to use the service. She also says she would not advise a homeowner to use the site if they have the flexibility to simply list their house now, without knowing where they’ll end up next. “If you do it this way and you are successful, you won’t know what the property would have received on the open market,” Brent explains. The service, in other words, is really geared only toward people who would not otherwise get into the market at all.
Brent also says she has a secondary motive: to learn more about the types of housing people want. For example, in downtown Silver Spring, she says it’s hard to find condos with large living areas—a common request among people downsizing from detached houses. If she can collect data showing there’s a strong demand for these types of units, she envisions being able to use it to make a case to developers to build them.
Of course, I Would Move if I Could won’t make any difference if nobody signs up. “The more people that participate in this, the more we’ll be able to tell if it works,” says Brent. “We’ll see.”
If you’re interested, click here.