EVERY BUILDER KNOWS THERE are many moving parts in the construction of a house. But now a service gaining industry traction is helping ease complications from perhaps the least predictable moving part: the new home buyer. Builders have had little control over the fact that most buyers cannot afford to close on their new home until—and unless—they sell their existing home. That has left countless buyers stuck at home until their existing home closes, while builders wait in limbo to finalize their end of the sale—and get paid.

Move-Up America, however, has found a promising solution. The Austin, Texas-based firm provides a service designed to better synchronize the closing of the new home with the selling of the old (or contingency) home in a way that benefits the builder as well as the buyer.

Coordinating closing dates has obvious benefits for buyers. It reduces common hassles, such as having to move into a rented apartment while the new home is completed. More importantly, the buyers' fear of paying two mortgages—if they move into their new home before selling their old residence—is removed.

COORDINATED CLOSE: Move-Up America's CEO, John Horton, is building a business helping builders and buyers synchronize closing dates. However, the key to the Move-Up America program is a financial transaction system that promotes synchronized closings while actually relieving the homeowner of multiple real estate commissions, so buyers frequently get a rebate if they sell their home using the program. “Buyers probably save, on average, 5 percent,” says Ken Trainer, division president of Ryland Homes in Austin.

The program was the brainchild of an Austin builder acquired by the Calabasas, Calif.-based Ryland Group a decade ago. Ryland spun off the program for liability purposes after purchasing the smaller builder.

“The beauty of the Move-Up program is that they work with traditional Realtors,” says Trainer, so listing the contingency home involves nothing peculiar or fishy to the buyer. “The program is managed through the builder, but both the buyer and the builder benefit,” Trainer adds.

Realigning Realtors Under the Move-Up program, says Trainer, real estate agents focus on the timing, which is what the builders want, rather than on their own commissions. A home priced too high might languish on the market, but the real estate agent might be reluctant to urge the sellers to lower the asking price out of concern for losing the customer—or a higher sales commission.

IN SYNCH: Move-Up America's John Horton stands with a display of some of his builder clients. According to Move-Up America's John Horton, a former Realtor who has been with the program since 1995 and is now its CEO, the builder pays the buyer's real estate agent. The commission is 3 percent of the sales price of the new home. In return, the Realtor agrees to charge nothing for the resale of the contingency home. “We typically save the seller about 75 percent of the normal commissions for selling a home,” he asserts. “All these Realtors work with a regular brokerage, but we give them volume,” he says, explaining why agents agree to use the program.

Because of the savings on the commission, sellers can afford to price their homes more competitively than otherwise, according to Horton.

Move-Up can function a bit like a brokerage house, he says. Much of what Move-Up employees do is intercede or mediate between sellers and real estate agents over delicate issues such as the pricing of the home, he says. “Builders have contingencies with Realtors all over town. They just hope for the best. We bring a degree of accountability and assurance to the builder” that the sale will occur on time, Horton says. “Our No. 1 function is to remove the contingency in the sale of the contingency home.”

Catching On From a larger perspective, says Trainer, “Move-Up's real service is that it identified the concept to builders as an area in which buyers needed assistance.”

Big builders are clearly taking notice. Beazer Homes USA, Centex Corp., KB Home, Morrison Homes, Pulte Homes, Ryland, and Wilshire Homes are among the nation's biggest builders currently working with Move-Up America. Mike Newman, vice president of sales and marketing for Morrison Homes in Dallas-Ft. Worth, one of Move-Up America's initial partners, remains an advocate. “By leveraging this service, buyers are able to attain a new level of housing and save thousands of dollars in the process,” he says.

Known until recently as National Builder Services, Move-Up America currently offers its services to home builders and contingency home buyers in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. “We're expanding to Florida and Colorado, and Nevada [Las Vegas] soon,” says Horton.

Move-Up, through March of this year, has saved 1,947 home buyers more than $10 million since 2000, according to the program's publicist, Patti Hill. She speaks from experience. Hill recently used the program herself to move into a new home. “One of the biggest fears [I had] is the double mortgage. They took that fear away,” she says. Like almost half of movers today, Hill says she wanted to move to a bigger home. “It's double the space—and double the mortgage,” she notes. Not only did the program allow her to avoid paying two mortgages, but she also will get a rebate check after she closes on the new home for a part of the real estate commission. And her existing home closing was a snap—20 minutes from start to finish.

In a typical month, Move-Up America delivers more than $275,000 in rebate checks to new-home buyers. The largest rebate thus far has been $15,000 to a single-home buyer in Charlotte.

Horton continues to look for ways to expand the company's reach with customers and builders. It recently launched a Web site, www.moveupamerica.com, which will soon feature a builder section, says Horton, where builders can check progress reports online.

Simultaneous home closings may remain one the most elusive goals in the housing business, and it would appear Move-Up America is closing in on that for builders and their buyers.