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In Detroit, Swapping a House for a Car Is a Great Deal

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MOTOR CITY
DailyFeed

When you’re involved in a barter, you’re usually looking to at least break even. Those with enough savvy can even manage to trade up. Or, in the exceptional, world news-making case, a dealer with forethought, time and can-do spirit in spades can swap a plastic office supply for a home.

Like 25-year-old Kyle MacDonald who -- after twelve months and fourteen transactions that included a fish-shaped pen, a Coleman camp stove, a Cintas cube van, and Alice Cooper -- managed to turn a single red paperclip into a two-story 1920s farmhouse.

It also makes the news when an exchange goes the other way around. Not exactly as devastating as losing a piece of property to a piece of plastic, but what about swapping a $96,000 house for a $6,750 minivan?

In what may be one of the most telling scenarios about the underwater state of the Detroit real estate market -- a market so bad that Habitat for Humanity is having to turn down donation offers from home owners unable to sell -- a 36-year-old mother of six let go of her four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Russell Woods, one of the city’s better neighborhoods.

What for? A 2006 Chevrolet Uplander with 85,000 miles and a Kelley Blue Book value of between $5,000 and $8,500.

But lest you think the home owner got the raw end of the deal, LaWanda Flake wasn’t actually looking for a profitable return on her investment when she offered her house for a car on Craigslist. Reportedly fed up with Detroit’s unreliable public transit, the mom needed a trustworthy mode of transportation for her family far more than this house.

As was to be expected, her online ad brought in a flurry of offers including a 1996 Bentley Brooklands worth around $20,000 and a 1996 Corvette. She went with the Chevy minivan for practicality's sake.

To be fair, Flake technically didn’t lose any money in the trade. In fact, she walked away $3,150 richer. While the city appraised her house for nearly $100,000, she acquired it in a foreclosure sale for a steal of $3,600.

In essence, it’s really the previous home owner who -- after presumably paying fair market price for the house -- is getting a severe dose of insult added to his or her injury.

Meanwhile, Flake found a new three-bedroom home for her family, which she purchased with a $4,000 land contract.
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