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Duluth family asks for someone to trade houses with

Katie McKinnon says she's willing to try unorthodox solutions to problems, even though she knows they might not always pan out. The 32-year-old Duluthian's latest effort is advertising for a house swap to meet the needs of her growing family. McK...

McKinnon-Farkas family
(Derek Montgomery / News Tribune) Keira McKinnon (clockwise, from left), Katie McKinnon, Calliope Farkas and Jacob Farkas gather outside their home in Duluth. The family hopes to swap it for a larger one. McKinnon recently placed a Swap Shop ad in the News Tribune seeking interest. She is pregnant with twins and believes their two-bedroom home is not large enough for six people.

Katie McKinnon says she's willing to try unorthodox solutions to problems, even though she knows they might not always pan out.

The 32-year-old Duluthian's latest effort is advertising for a house swap to meet the needs of her growing family. McKinnon placed a two-week classified ad in the Duluth News Tribune asking for possible partners willing to trade a three-bedroom house of equal or lesser value for her two-bedroom East Hillside home.

"It would be great if it would work out," McKinnon said. "You never know if you don't ask."

With twin boys due in March, McKinnon, her fiance, Jacob Farkas, and their two daughters,

8-year-old Keira and 1-year-old Calliope, are exploring options other than selling their home for less than they bought it for two years ago. McKinnon, a day care worker, and Farkas, a chef, have a monthly mortgage payment of $1,000, based on the $126,000 they paid for their home in 2006. But with the downturn in the real estate market, they now figure their home is worth about $110,000.

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"The worst part of the mortgage issue is that we have to pay [the entire amount] at one time a month," McKinnon said. "We wanted to have them break it up, because after we pay it, then what do we have to live on?"

Pat Johnson, owner of Focus Real Estate Group LLC, said house swaps are rare because of the difficulty of matching interested parties, as well as possible mortgage complications.

"Mortgage companies won't let you swap mortgages like they used to in the 1970s or '80s," Johnson said. "Now there is a qualification process."

Johnson added: "I'm not sure this will catch on. I've heard about it once in a while. It's a matter of chance. It's, 'I like your home' and then, 'I like your home.' That doesn't happen very often."

McKinnon, however, wants to make a deal without paying a real estate commission. She is willing to take on a fixer-upper or move outside of Duluth. A week into the advertisement, McKinnon has received one call about a possible swap.

McKinnon brokered an earlier deal for a child-proof space heater for her day care center. The retail price of the heater was $500. That was too much for McKinnon, because she also had to pay to apply for her child-care license. She called the space heater company, told the representative about her situation -- and got the heater for $350.

"It worked out," McKinnon said. "Who knew someone would do something so nice for someone else?"

The McKinnon-Farkas family tries to live within its means with furniture from Goodwill and few meals eaten outside of their home. Their few splurges are swimming at the YMCA or an occasional delivered pizza. They've even pushed back their wedding date to the summer of 2010 to save money.

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"I'm happy if we have food, clothing and a home to live in," McKinnon said.

But that doesn't stop her from dreaming of a swap.

"I picture this little old couple with a big house, and they can't take care of it anymore," McKinnon said. "That is what's in my head."

ANDY GREDER is a general assignment reporter for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5218 or by e-mail at agreder@duluth

news.com.

Related Topics: HOUSING
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