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GoNOMAD MINI GUIDE: Vacation Home Exchanges

By Maurice S. Clarke, CEO, Holiswaps

Ever thought about trading your home with another family for a few weeks? The idea is not new–it’s been around for over 40 years–and appeals to hundreds of thousands of travelers worldwide. More than just a lodging alternative, home exchanges offer travelers a chance not to make new contacts and friends in countries across the globe and substantially reduce the cost of a vacation.

But how do you swap your home for someone else’s? Where do you find homes to exchange and what’s involved in living in someone else’s home while they live in yours? This GoNOMAD MINI GUIDE can get you started swapping!

Finding a home exchange

In order to participate in a home exchange, you must be a member of a home exchange agency or network. In other words, in most cases, you must be willing to put your home on the block for trade as well. Traditionally, home exchange and swap offers are listed in directories published by agencies in countries worldwide.

There are both exchanges–your home for someone else’s at the same time–and trades–also an exchange, but not always at the same time or with the same family. Listings are classified by type, size, etc. The larger agencies offer as many as 10,000 listings worldwide, and listed homes must pay a membership fee ranging from US $100 to US$300. Some of these services will manage and coordinate the swap, while others leave it up to the parties involved.

Newer Internet home exchange agencies offer similar services, but have the advantage of instant updates for properties, on-line listings and information via email, which is cheaper and faster than phone or regular post. Listing costs for these web services is often lower–US$30-$60 per year.

The better services offer potential swap partners the opportunity to add more information to their listings, including travel info, nearby activities and attractions and more, and also offer on-line FAQ’s, email newsletters, discussion groups, email assistance and tutorials.

Who swaps homes?

Home trades and exchanges appeal to a wide range of travelers from retirees to couples to young families. Most home swappers are couples with children, however, there is a growing increase in the number of single home swappers.

Another trend is in the number of second homeowners who opt to exchange their vacation home for another property. This type of swap accounts for 20% of home swaps and is an ideal way to make use of otherwise unused time in a vacation home. It also allows for greater flexibility between swappers, as the exchange need not take place at the same time.

Research shows that the number of people who want to stay in a swap home exceeds the number of swaps available by 10:1. Therefore, it is sometimes easier to offer your home as an exchange to ensure that you find a partner. It is also important to be somewhat flexible on dates.
Once bitten by the home exchange bug, many people choose to swap homes in different locations every year. Some have made over 50 swaps over several years.

The current record is over 80 home exchanges made by a retired couple from the US who are well into their 70’s! Although the majority of home swappers trade once a year, it is possible to fit two or three swaps in a typical year. Even local trades are possible–and practical–for those who don’t want to travel far.

Should You Exchange Your Home?

Home swapping needs to be considered carefully. Many people believe their homes are not "good enough" to be traded–especially when compared to some of the outstanding properties available. But in truth, all most home swappers want is a good, clean, safe home near a certain area that will accommodate the number of people traveling in reasonable comfort. Concerns about security can be relieved by recognizing that your swap partner has the same concerns you do. After all, you are going to live in their home, too. All concerns should be addressed between swapping partners prior to the swap. If, at any time, you are unsure about your swap, you can cancel.

Before you swap

Start the swap process early--several months before you plan to travel. Last minute rushed deals can be tricky. It’s also vital to exchange emails or letters setting out the terms of your swap. Work out details of dates, cleaning, etc.

Sometimes a home swap can come with a car, which is a great benefit, but work out those details beforehand and check your insurance. If you plan to let your swappers use your car, make sure it’s in good shape and your insurance is up to date.
It’s a good idea to leave a "Guest Book" in your home with important and useful information about your home, it’s operations, emergency numbers and nearby attractions. Make sure there is a friend or relative nearby who can greet your swap partners when they arrive, check up on the house and be available for emergencies.

Also, take advantage of your contacts with your swap partner to exchange information about the region, nearby attractions and other "local" favorites. If you have children, let them be in contact with your partner’s children, if possible. It helps ease their concerns about someone else staying in "their room," and they may even become friends. In fact, many families report developing long-lasting friendships with their swap partners.

So, next time you want to save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars when you travel, take advantage of the most interesting, and inexpensive, lodging alternative around–home exchange!



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