The ABCs of Home Exchange®
What is HomeExchangeGOLD?
Home Exchange is the vacation alternative where you stay in my house and I stay in yours. Home exchangers trade their homes at a time that is convenient to both parties. House, chalet, apartment, loft, yacht, boathouse... There are many different stylish options to choose from. Sometimes, home exchangers will include their automobiles as part of the package.
There is a social aspect to home exchange that some exchangers particularly enjoy. Conceivably, you also get a build an international network with HomeExchangeGOLD. Is the idea of home exchange is unfamiliar to you, or even a bit frightening?
Rest assured, there are 250,000+ successful home exchanges every year. Every exchange is unique and the whole concept of home exchange relies on building a relationship of mutual trust and goodwill. It's natural to have reservations about giving up your home to strangers. What if they're not as tidy as you are? Will they be able to work your VCR without breaking it? How can you be sure you're not getting a bungalow instead of the villa they described? As you will see in the following chapters, most of these risks can be minimized to alleviate your worry and fears. And don't forget, the people you're exchanging with face the same risks.
Who are homeExchangeGOLD Members?
An Exclusive Club of like-minded travelers, connecting for safe, friendly and flexible vacations. Professors, retirees, business executives, home-based business owners, designers, doctors, lawyers... Most are fairly well educated, adventurous, reliable, and have an interest in learning more about different places and cultures. Singles as well as couples and families are getting into HomeExchangeGOLD.
The ABC's of HomeExchangeGOLD
Make your travel plans
The world is your oyster, so speak, when you begin to contemplate where you'd like to go. Do you long for a mountain setting? A seaside resort? Do you have your sights set on visiting a city like Hong Kong, Paris or New York? Nail down some dates, keep your options open until you see what's available. If you give yourself the widest possible parameters for your dream vacation, you are more likely to achieve your goal. It takes time to complete arrangements for an exchange, so allow plenty of lead time. You are ready to send inquiries to all the listings you like. In your first inquiry, express your interest in trading homes, let them know a time period that you're interested in, and how long you'd like to stay.
Get to know your partner
The early process of developing a home exchange involves getting to know your potential home exchange partners. Home exchange is wonderful, and we can't say enough good things about it. If you've done all your homework, kept your integrity, and established a good rapport with your home exchange partner, then you'll be just one more happy camper we can rave about.
If your initial contact produces favorable results, then you and your potential exchange partners will start a correspondence with more detailed emails:
- Describe yourself and your family, the type of work you do, and your side interests.
- Describe your home and neighborhood, how near or far away the places are that they may want to visit, and the ways of getting there.
- Pin down the dates you're interested in, how many people are in your party and how many people you would accept in your home, and if you're offering a vehicle as part of your exchange.
- Address any special needs you may have.
- Mention any extra responsibilities you might ask of them, such as gardening or taking care of pets or plants.
- Indicate whether or not you'll accept smoking in the house, additional overnight guests.
At this point, it's time to phone or skype to confirm each other's interest in making the exchange. You'll also get a better perception of the people you're dealing with. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want and to set limits on what you can offer:
- Get personal references
- Ask all the questions you may have
- Resolve any misunderstandings or confusion
- Discuss how the household bills will be handled during the exchange, as well as small emergency repairs, and larger ones
- Review insurance
- Firm up definite dates of the home exchange
- Talk about how each of you will get the key, especially if you will not be able to meet
- Discuss local contacts such as neighbors or friends, and who to get in touch with in case of an emergency
Set up an agreement
When you're completely satisfied with all the arrangements made with your home exchange partner, prepare a written agreement. It should include all the vital information: names and addresses of all those involved in the exchange, exchange dates, items included in the exchange (i.e. car, pool, etc.), any additional responsibilities such as pet care, repairs, other household understandings, contacts, copies of insurance, if requested. Send two copies of the agreement to your exchange partner and request that a signed copy is returned to you. The signed agreement is a firm commitment to go ahead with the exchange.
Bravo! You've found the perfect home exchange partner. Now it's time to put on your hospitality hat. Your home exchange partners will do the same for you. Here's a list of things to consider when putting your home in order for the arrival of your guests:
- Leave written directions or owner's manuals in a handy place for things like TV's, VCR, appliances, alarm systems, heating units, air conditioners, and the vacuum cleaner.
- Make a list of names and phone numbers of repair people.
- Leave clearly written instructions for pet and plant care.
- Make some space in dresser drawers and in the bedroom closet if possible. If not, remember that your guests will have only one suitcase, so don't worry about closet space.
- Be sure there are plenty of clean towels and linens for your guests.
- Stock up on items like toilet tissue, bath soap, and cleaning supplies.
- Store any valuables or lock them away in a closet.
- Prepay your bills.
- Get lawn mowed, pool cleaned, etc.
- If a car is part of the exchange, leave copies of your car insurance and registration.
- Make a list of emergency numbers that include your doctor, a nearby hospital or emergency clinic, the fire department, and the police.
- Leave the name and number of a friend or relative to call in an emergency as well.
- Leave your contact numbers and itinerary in case your home exchangers want to get in touch with you.
- Last, but not least, make sure your home is clean and tidy for your guests.
Many home exchangers put together an information packet for their visitors: Leaflets describing local attractions, maps of the area, local street map with places of interest, public transportations. Point out your favorite restaurants, market, bakery and local stores... and places to avoid.
Another thoughtful touch is to have an arrangement of flowers on the dining room table and a chilled bottle of wine or champagne in the refrigerator for their arrival. If children are involved, include some cold drinks for them. Having a friend or neighbor meet your home exchange guests will add a level of comfort and security on both your parts. This type of warm reception can make a great difference for the start of a relaxing and memorable vacation and home exchange experience. The three R's of home exchange: Responsibility, Respect, Relax!
When you first arrive at your destination, be sure to locate the information package. This should tell you a lot about what you need to know. Take note of what items you use from any available food supplies so you can replace them before you leave. Basically, staying in someone else's home is like living in your own household. Use the same common sense as you do when you're at home. Things like locking doors when you go out, closing windows in case of rain, unplugging electrical appliances during a lightning storm, and taking off your shoes if they're wet and muddy before entering the house are automatic to most people.
When your stay is over, consider the following before you leave your exchange partner's home:
- Replace food and other supplies you have used, such as sugar, spices, coffee, and tea.
- Wash linens or put them away, according to the agreement. Put items that you've moved back in their place.
- Leave a note with any important incidents that have transpired, such as phone calls or callers. If you've had a problem with something in the home, you may want to include that in your letter.
- Place keys in their specified locale.
If applicable, leave money for long distance phone calls or any other reimbursements you've worked out beforehand, like the cleaning service.
A small gift, a token of your appreciation, is always a welcome surprise. Leave it on the table with a thank you note and perhaps a word or two about something special that happened during your stay.
The Golden Rule of home exchange is to treat your host's home as if it were your own and leave it the way you found it, if not better. Most importantly, always bear in mind the three R's of home exchange: Responsibility, Respect, Relax!