FAQ : Frequently asked questions

Why does Canada have a separate web site?
What makes HomeLink different? Most Home exchange companies just have one web site. This is the special difference with HomeLink. In HomeLink we pride ourselves in our service for our members. Visit us often for special promotions and items of interest to Canadian exchangers. Leanne Graber – Owner, HomeLink Canada, North Vancouver BC, 604-987-3262. Or just ask us to phone you.

How does Home Exchange work?
There are many benefits to home exchanging, including cost savings, meeting new people, discovering new places and cultures, forging friendships around the world, and living like a local.

How do I arrange an exchange?
When you become a member you receive full access to the details of all members in the HomeLink community, to which your home details will be added. As a member, you simply contact other members whose exchange listing interests you, and that begins the dialogue. It pays to be proactive and send messages to all listings that interest you. You will also receive messages from other members. Your membership confirmation email from HomeLink will contain brief instructions on how to start using our website.

How far in advance should I start seeking an exchange?
As a Canadian member, if you are planning a trip to Europe you would be advised to start planning early. Members from Australia or New Zealand will often start planning up to a year ahead due to distance and so should you.

How many exchanges can I make?
You may exchange as many times as you like, as long as your HomeLink membership is valid. We recommend stringing together several short exchanges if you are traveling to Europe – after all, it costs nothing!

Who pays for what during the exchange?
Generally, members continue to pay their own utility bills at home (heating, water etc.) while on an exchange. If there are any extra-ordinary expenses such as long-distance phone calls it should be written in the Exchange agreement form. If a car exchange is involved, exchangers agree to reimburse the vehicle owner for the excess portion of any insurance claim. These conditions should be set out in the HomeLink Exchange Agreement Form.

Can I exchange a second (or third) home?
Yes! You can either use your second home as your only exchange home, or list both your main home and your second home. A second home can make it easier to organize Non-simultaneous Home Exchanges which makes exchanges “Down Under” much easier. Members can list additional homes separately FREE of charge.

How long do exchanges typically last?
All durations from weekends to several weeks, and long-term or sabbatical exchanges. It depends on what you and your exchange partner arrange. Because all home listings allow members to specify their preferences, you can easily identify exchange partners looking for similar exchange periods as you.

Do I have to own my home to exchange?
No. Exchanging homes is like inviting friends to stay at your home while you are away — much like a bi-lateral homesit. There is no financial transaction between home exchangers, and exchanging homes is not considered as sub-letting. If you are a renter, you may want to check with your landlord and consult your rental agreement first.

Can I exchange in Canada?
Exchanging within Canada has become very popular and is, of course, much more economical!

Is there an exchange contract?
Yes. HomeLink provides a simple contract for both parties to set down their terms of the exchange, and all agreed logistics, such as date and time of arrival, number of people involved, exchanging keys and so on. The HomeLink Exchange Agreement Form also includes a section for specifying the terms of Car Exchange.

Is my home insurance affected by having exchangers?
Generally home insurance providers are happy that your home is occupied while you are away. If in doubt you should check with your agent or broker.
Auto/Home Insurance

Can I exchange my Strata / condominium unit?
First, we recommend that you consult your particular provincial Strata / Condominium Property Act.  Example : Strata Property Act for B.C.
Next, direct your concerns and questions to your own Strata Council, where you should seek a clear distinction between the two transactions : rentals, which involve monetary remuneration (i.e., payment) versus the type of home exchanges that HomeLink International provides which are totally free, i.e. there is no payment by the guests to the owners for the temporary accommodation.
Here are some reports we’ve collected, where Canadian members outline their Strata bylaws regarding home exchanges.

What are the different types of Home Exchange?

1. Home Exchange (simultaneous)
This is by far our most common type of home exchange. You stay in your exchange partner’s home while your exchange partner stays in your home. Durations are variable and exchanges often take place during the holidays or school vacation.

2. Non Simultaneous Home Exchange?
This brings a lot of flexibility to the community, being able to accommodate exchanges at times which may not be personally convenient for you. There are a variety of circumstances when this might occur. For example, if a HomeLink member is not free to stay in your home for the dates you suggest, yet they are still be able and willing to accommodate you in theirs – this is a Non-simultaneous Home Exchange. This often occurs when a member has more than one home, however multiple home listings are not a requirement. A Non-simultaneous exchange may also be arranged if you are able to stay with friends or family while your exchange partners stay in your home.

3. Weekend Home Exchange
Perfect for visiting nearby cities or attractions, a weekend exchanges enable you to seek potential Exchange Partners interested in exchanging homes over the course of a long or short weekend.

4. Long term Home Exchange
Exchange Partners interested in exchanging for more than a 3 month period of time will use this type of exchange. Many members arrange multiple, back-to-back exchanges to accommodate their long-term travel plans, or home exchange world tours.

5. Sabbatical Home Exchange
Sabbatical exchange is a semester or year-long exchange between university professors.

6. A hospitality exchange allows you to welcome fellow HomeLink members to stay in your home while you remain there to enjoy their presence and/or vice versa. Members do this for a number of reasons. Some new HomeLinkers prefer hospitality exchanges to ease themselves into this new world of travel. Others take up hospitality exchanges because over the course of their correspondence, they have formed a friendship and would enjoy having each other as guests. Another reason is that one member may be keen to go to a specific area but the approached member is not able to reciprocate an exchange at that time they may offer hospitality exchange in order to facilitate the other member’s travel plans. Whether or not a Hospitality Exchange is reciprocal is left completely to the discretion of our members. This is why the Hospitality Exchange Agreement Form is “one-sided”. Should members choose to reciprocate, a second Exchange Agreement Form is to be initiated by the member offering Hospitality.

7. Youth Exchange
With Youth Exchange, you send your child or teenager to live with another member (during school vacation or over the summer) and then you welcome their child into your home.This is a fabulous way of introducing children to the mind-broadening (and maturing!) experience of international travel, and living in a different culture, with a different family. It is a great choice for experienced exchangers, in particular those who have swapped with and met the other member before.

8. Home sit offered / needed
This is a non-reciprocal scenario where you either offer to live in another member’s home in their absence or have another HomeLink member stay in your home while you are away. Homesit is great for those who want to travel but want the reassurance of having someone care for their home in their absence. It is also a wonderful way for members to see the world and make themselves useful to others, while living like a local.

9. Hospitality offered
A friendly arrangement between HomeLinkers to host visiting members for one or two nights

Who exchanges their Home?

What type of people are HomeLink Members?
The majority of HomeLink members are professionals – doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, business executives, retirees, etc. Many are families with young children. All of them share a taste for exceptional vacations / holidays, and enjoy the comforts of being “at home” away from home, while saving 100% on accommodation costs.

Is Home Exchange appropriate for familes?
HomeLink home exchange is ideal for families, large and small. All families wanting to travel face many challenges, both economical and organizational. With home exchange, you won’t be paying for vacation rentals or multiple hotel rooms you will be saving money on restaurants by being able to prepare meals in your exchange home, and you will benefit from the equipment left by your exchange partner (clothes washer and dryer, baby equipment, toys…).

What if ……Common concerns

1. How can I trust my home to a stranger?
Home exchange is a trust-based arrangement and as such attracts trustworthy, honest people. Your home is much safer when occupied by your exchange partners, than if left empty. And don’t forget, while your exchange partners are in your home, you will be in theirs – this, in itself, is a reassuring factor. Further, the HomeLink community reduces risk by running a “closed system” in which members exchange only with other paying HomeLink members. In the end, the decision to swap with a particular exchange partner is yours. As you get to know each other through discussing and organising the exchange, your exchange partner becomes less of a stranger. Many members forge lasting friendships. If you are concerned, we recommend you exchange with an experienced member until you feel more comfortable with the process. If you are still concerned, why not first try a Hospitality Exchange, where members arrange to host each other in their homes.

2. What if I need assistance during my exchange?
HomeLink has local representatives around the world. Should you need assistance during your exchange, please email or call your local representative. If they need to involve the HomeLink representative in the country you are in, they will request their assistance and explain your situation to them.

3. I have pets and a garden…
Who will look after them? While many members do enjoy looking after their exchange partner’s pets, and do not find it troublesome to water the garden occasionally, you cannot in all fairness impose this upon them. Remember … like you, they are on holiday. They may have long day-trips planned, or simply do not want to commit to a routine. So if you need extensive pet care or garden work, be sure that this is very clear and accepted by your exchange partner. Even if you arrange for a neighbor or family member to take care of your pets, you should still let your exchange partner know of your furry, feathered or finned friends in case they are allergic to certain animals.

4. Who would want to stay in my home?
Remember that members are generally coming to NZ for a holiday. Don’t worry if your home is small. If it is in a holiday destination or main centre or maybe a farming area as long as it is clean and well presented it will be fine.

5. Does HomeLink have a “code of good conduct”
Yes. We ask all HomeLink members to abide by the 10 Principles for a Successful Home Exchange, and always to act in good faith. The sense of mutual responsibility, honor, and respect encouraged by the 10 Principles is the cornerstone of HomeLink’s successful home exchange tradition, built over more than 60 years.

6. Who can see my password & email address?
No one can see your password. Not even your local HomeLink representative or the website administrator. Your email address will however be accessible to HomeLink and may be used to inform you of potential home exchanges you may be interested in, or other news related to home exchange. Receiving such information is on an opt-in / opt-out basis.

Preparing your home for exchange

1. Is there a standard for cleaning your home before an exchange?
Standards of cleanliness vary, so make sure that floors are vacuumed and mopped, refrigerator emptied and cleaned, stove and oven grease-free, bath and shower free of mold and grime, windows see-through, and surfaces dust-free.

2. How can I best explain how things work around the house?
Compile a clear, useful “Guide to Your Home and Surroundings”. This should include information on local activities, instructions for household and electrical appliances, pet and plant care, details of garbage collection, etc. Phone numbers of a recommended doctor, dentist, babysitter, good restaurants, and helpful friends, are always welcome. Here is a sample/template for you to download and print.
HomeLink House Guide For Guests” (pdf)
HomeLink House Guide For Guests” (word.doc)

3. Should I leave a welcome gift for my exchange partners?
Yes! It has become a HomeLink tradition to leave a small gift of welcome: a bottle of wine or champagne, a local specialty brought from home. Also the makings of a first meal are always welcome after a long journey.

4. Is the HomeLink database always current?
Yes! New members are added daily and current members are constantly updating information regarding their travel plans. And quite importantly, unlike the “new” breed of internet-only exchange networks, HomeLink does not artificially inflate our total membership numbers by keeping expired listings online. Our members’ listings are removed as soon as they leave the community. With HomeLink, you won’t waste time trying to contact expired members whose listing information has been kept “live”. HomeLinkers update their own details regularly. When you search our database, it is possible to see the current status of each fellow member: what periods they are available for and what destinations they are interested in exchanging with.

My Home Exchange listing

1. What is my Home Exchange listing?
Your ‘exchange listing’ is a page devoted to your home with a detailed description of its location, amenities and surroundings. It also includes information about your travel plans and about you and your family. It is what your potential exchange partners will see when they search for an exchange in your area. If they like it, they will contact you to propose an exchange.

2. How do other members find out about my listing when I join?
As soon as your listing has been published in our on-line database, it will be added to our list of “Most Recent” home exchange offers which is regularly consulted on the Search page. It will also be included in email Listing Alerts and sent to members who are actively searching for an exchange in your area. Furthermore, there is no better way for members to know about your listing than by contacting other members yourself through our secure messaging system. So be bold and send out your offers straight away!

3. At what point will my listing be published on the HomeLink site?
When filling out your listing you will see a gauge indicating its degree of completion. In order to ensure the high quality of our network, HomeLink members should complete 90% of their listing before it is published on the site. This means filling in all mandatory fields, the postal code, street address, dates and destinations and photos will put you over 90%. Remember, the more complete and attractive the listing, the more exchange offers you will receive!
Photo tips for a “stellar” listing
Comment puis-je améliorer mes photos?

4. Can I list multiple homes with HomeLink?
Yes, if you have a holiday home or apartment it is to your advantage to list it. People will see at a glance that you can be flexible with arrangements. You can either use your second home as your only exchange home, or list both your main home and your second home. A second home can make it easier to organize Non-simultaneous Home Exchanges which makes exchanges “Down Under” much easier. Members can list additional homes separately FREE of charge.

5. How can I make my listing more appealing?
Be sure your listing has a nice selection of photos (see How can I improve my photos). Have your exchange partners sign your Guest Book after each exchange. Be sure your Dates and Destinations are filled in and up to date. Complete as much information in your Profile as you can : add a description and fill in details about you and your family. Review the ‘Affinities and Affiliations’ section and be sure that you select all of the items that correspond to you and your family.

6. How can I improve the photos on my listing?
Photos are the first thing prospective exchange partners look at when considering an exchange. Listings with great photos receive more offers. Six simple tips can make all the difference: 1. If you have great view, show it as your first photo 2. Light it up – brightness lends depth and colour variance to the scene. Sunlight is best, but if it’s a dim day, just turn on the overhead light and lamps. 3. Shoot into a corner – this shows the range of space and adds dimension to the photo. 4. Clean the scene – De-cluttering is key, as it will make your place feel more livable and extra things won’t distract in the photo. Just be sure this is a true reflection of how guests will find your home. 5. Highlight the amenities – take pictures of what makes your place unique and comfortable: patio, BBQ, 6. Take exterior photos – they help people imagine what coming home to your place will look and feel like. A view of a local attraction is a very good idea. People coming from overseas may not know what your area offers for tourists.
Photo tips for a “stellar” listing

7. What is a listing alert?
A Listing Alert is a weekly message sent to you upon request, informing you of new listings that correspond to your selected Dates and Destinations. For example, if you are searching for a two-week stay in California in June (and if you request a Listing Alert on that) you will be informed of all new listings proposing a home for exchange in California for two weeks in June.

8. Why is it important to fill out specific dates & destinations?
So you can receive exchange offers that correspond to your travel plans. These do not have to be too specific as you may not know them. A close indication would be appropriate. If you simply want a surprise you can indicate the you are ‘Open to dates and destinations’

9. What is the ‘Response rate’?
Each member’s listing shows a percentage figure called the Response Rate. This figure reflects the rate at which each member responds to messages received in the HomeLink messaging system. A high response rate attracts more home exchange offers than a low one. So, in addition to being polite, it’s to your advantage to respond to each request that you receive.

Arranging an exchange

How far in advance should I begin seeking and exchange?
If you are travelling to the Northern Hemisphere then you should start planning well ahead. A year ahead is recommended if you plan to string together several exchanges. If you are exchanging locally then a speedier exchange can be arranged. It pays to remember that your exchange partner is also planning and booking air fares etc.

What about Home Insurance?
Generally home insurance providers are happy that your home is occupied while you are away. If in doubt you should check. We have never heard of any problems
Auto/Home Insurance

Should I complete an exchange agreement form?
Yes, because putting your exchange agreement into writing allows you to avoid misunderstandings regarding dates, where the keys will be when you get to your partner’s home, number of people who will be in your home… The Exchange Agreement Form allows you to have all of that in one simple document that you can print out and take with you (and if necessary, use as a justification should anyone question your presence in your exchange partner’s home). In addition, filling out the Exchange Agreement form will allow you to fully benefit from the HomeLink system of support.

Is it possible to find a last minute exchange?
Yes! Use the “Short Notice” button on the Search page to display all last minute exchange-offers that correspond to your search criteria.

What if I am having difficulty finding an exchange?
Make sure that your home listing is up to date and complete with attractive photos of your home and surroundings. (see “How can I make my listing more appealing?”) Also, be flexible in your travel plans. Experienced exchangers find that being open to all offers they receive is the best way to find exciting exchanges. Also, remember that your local representative is always available to provide you with advice. Home exchange is fun and we are committed to assisting our members through the entire process! We will be very disappointed if you are having trouble and do not contact us.

Providing feedback after an exchange

Why should I complete an exchange evaluation form?
The Exchange Evaluation Form is a tool that allows HomeLink to continuously maintain the standards of its network. After each exchange, you will be invited to give your feedback on important issues such as the “Did the exchange home correspond to the description given in your member’s listing?” and “Was the home clean upon your arrival?” The evaluation form also allows you to share a personalized comment on your exchange experience with your local HomeLink representative.

What is the Guest Book?
After each exchange formalized through the use of the Exchange Agreement Form, you will be invited to sign your exchange partner’s Guest Book. Signing the Guest Book, means writing a recommendation for your exchange partner. Your comments will appear on their listing and help them receive more exchange offers. Recommendations include, for example, information on how you enjoyed their welcome, their home and surroundings.

How many people want to exchange in Canada?
It varies but usually around 1000-plus in any one year. This is a dynamic web site and changes from day to day.