Beginners Guide to Home Exchanging
“Save money and enjoy someone else’s home“
Written by a HomeLink Member … It really says it all (well most of it)
Mature, open minded, friendly, trusting, adventurous people for Home exchanging.
If this is you, you could very well be a successful Home Exchanger.
No doubt you are very comfortable with your home, it’s yours and it suits you in many ways as you go about your daily life. You may have a library of books, you can play your music or your piano, you can barbecue and enjoy your garden, chat with your neighbours and make use of what your local community offers. Did you ever stop to think that there are many thousands of home owners similar to you in other countries who would love to exchange their home for yours for an extended holiday ?
By the time my husband and I graduated to having more time on our hands for holidays we had already raced around the globe seeing fleeting glimpses of well known places and were ready for in depth studies.
We had friends who enjoy exchanging homes and we began to ask questions. It is all out there on the internet but there is nothing to beat word of mouth.
Home Exchanging is simply down to joining an organization which lists homes for exchange, searching their list of homes for one that will suit you and making contact with the members. This new holiday experience has taken us on wonderful journeys and here are some tips for beginners.
How to choose a web site
As with anything you get what you pay for and word of mouth is a good way to find out if a product or service is any good. Our friends recommended HomeLink which was established in 1953 and has over 13,000 paying members in 68 countries. What’s more it has a base right here in North Vancouver, Canada. This seemed to make sense as there are so many organizations in the USA that it makes your head spin. It is advisable to join a site which has an annual membership fee then you will know that all members are legitimate and serious about finding an exchange. Besides that you do not want to waste your time looking at listings that no longer exist.
Allow plenty of time.
At first we had no idea how long it would take. It’s advisable to take a year for planning especially if you are looking for a popular place like France or Italy. After the first year the flow on effect takes hold. Although Canada is lucky to be in demand, it is certainly easier to find exchanges in countries such as Australia, the USA, Europe and the UK. It seems that the whole world wants to go to Italy and the Italians just have to sit back and wait for the offers to flow in. There is a growing trend for UK residents to have Holiday homes in various parts of Europe and if you have a holiday home then why not exchange yours for theirs. These transactions are very easy to arrange.
Be flexible if you can
We had our hearts set on a holiday in Spain one year and ended up in the Arizona desert in a fabulous home which was on of our best experiences ever. There are some wonderful homes but its often a question of timing and availability .
Trust your instincts
The basic premise of home exchange is that you will find like-minded people who share your values and with whom you are comfortable in exchanging your home. Through emailing or phoning it soon becomes obvious whether you have a rapport or not. Just trust your instincts and if something doesn’t feel right then its not. If they have a large family and you are a retired couple then obviously your homes and lifestyles may not be compatible. The beauty of Home Exchanging is that you live like a local amongst the community but you do want to be comfortable in their community.
We have just been contacted by a French member who has a house boat moored on the Seine just 20 miles South of Paris. I could live with that for 2 weeks ! Unfortunately we have completed our arrangements for next year. Being able to exchange on a non simultaneous basis may find us on the Seine in 2016.
I was surprised that so many people I contacted seem to be relatively wealthy (two homes) well traveled, retired professionals. I can’t emphasise enough how much I enjoyed the process of ‘list looking’ and exchanging emails with fascinating people. It was nearly as good as traveling itself !
It certainly seems, from the friends we have made through Home Exchanging that it has nothing to do with ‘saving money’ but rather it is a type of person who is open to sharing this kind of experience. Saving money is just the added bonus and quite frankly you save an awful lot !
House keeping matters
The Organization you join with will have contracts for you to sign regarding use of your home and car. If they do not, then don’t join with them. These cover the intentions of both parties in the exchange so that there is no misunderstanding. It is extremely rare for a problem with an exchange but should things go wrong then you will have full support from your local representative.
It is customary to take a small present for your hosts (normally something representative of Canada) and leave a welcoming present in your home such as a bottle of local wine. There’s a famous story of an Australian exchanger who locked up his Porsche and wine cellar only to arrive at his hosts home to find a Bentley and a wine cellar at his disposal. I could say he should have done his homework !
Timing for a typical home exchange in Canada is usually 2 to 3 weeks. Overseas visitors will spend time with you and then perhaps move on to more exchanges in other parts of the country or USA. Of course if you are planning a trip ‘Down Under’ then it is usually for a longer period – perhaps a month. Exchanges within Canada have become more and more popular. Our pattern now is to alternate years for a long exchange trip to Europe
Home exchanging can be an extremely rewarding travel experience that deliver new friendships and takes you to places you have never been before in more ways than one.