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Is Home Exchange Right For You?

How do you know if home swapping is right for you? At first, you may not be thrilled with the idea of a stranger staying in your home. Once you participate in your first exchange, you may find it can be a pleasant and fun experience, and save you a lot of money.

Though countless people may be interested in swapping homes, some people are better suited to home exchange than are others. For some, exchanging lifts the financial burden of a hotel, allowing them to afford the places they wish to visit. For others, it is a question of comfort or a lifestyle choice. In certain locations, particularly in rural or underdeveloped regions, home exchange may provide the only available accommodations. For nearly all, it is the opportunity to see a different part of the world from the perspective of someone that lives there, rather than the artificial cocoon of a hotel.

There are many reasons to participate in a home exchange:

  1. Vacation travel (particularly to scenic or resort areas)
  2. Cultural study, to immerse yourself in a foreign place
  3. Business project or consulting assignment in the target area
  4. For family reunions, weddings, births, or to care for a sick or injured family member
  5. To be near particular medical facilities or climate conditions due to an illness
  6. Student or teacher on sabbatical or temporary assignment
  7. To attend a major sporting event

  8. During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, some people decided they preferred to be out of town rather than face the crowds and traffic anticipated from the events. When rental demand was not as high as anticipated, some turned to home exchange to get out of Atlanta. For out-of-town exchangers who wanted to see the games, this was an alternative way to obtain great accommodations.

Self Evaluation

To get an idea of your home exchange tolerance, examine the lists on the next pages. By answering the questions, you get a feel for the characteristics that most closely describe your group’s travel and accommodation attitudes. The more positive answers to the first list the greater your chances of being a good home exchange candidate. The more positive answers to the second list, the greater the likelihood that you would be happier staying at a hotel.

If the thought of strangers in your home, sleeping on your bed has pushed your anxiety levels past the safe mode, this may not be the thing for you. You may want to save money in other ways and stay in hotels when you travel. Of course, other guests before you use the beds you sleep in at a hotel and you still pay for the privilege of staying there. Your exchange home bed has probably only been slept in by one or two other people on a regular basis; compared with the hundreds of people who sleep in the average hotel room bed.

Based on your responses to the questions in the previous lists, if your travel party is compatible with home exchange you should also consider some additional factors. The value of what you offer will affect your ability to attract and negotiate a successful exchange.

Home Exchange Is Right For You And Your Family If:
1 You have a home and are able to host guests
2 There are no restrictions on guests in your neighborhood or home
3 You enjoy traveling and want to save money on accommodations
4 The idea of living the way the locals live seems interesting to you
5 You are open minded about other cultures and the way they live
6 You are willing to ask many questions about your home exchange partner’s home, family, neighborhood, customs, etc.
7 You are willing to answer questions about your home, family, neighborhood, customs, etc.
8 You are willing to put some effort into the search (possibly 20 hours or more) of a compatible exchange home
9 You are willing to dedicate the necessary effort before, during and after the exchange to make it a success
10 You think of the potential home exchanging family as new “friends” you will be happy to host
11 The idea of surprises at your exchange home sounds like fun or a minor adventure
12 Your home is tidy and clean or you are able to make it that way in preparation for guests

Consider a Hotel If:
1 You share a home with others or stay with someone in their home so you have no home of your own to offer exchangers
2 There are restrictions on your home that limit your ability to host exchange guests (e.g. condominium regulations)
3 You can easily afford to stay in the accommodations of your choice
4 The idea of living the way the locals do seems unattractive
5 You prefer familiar surroundings and are unwilling to change your travel routine
6 You do not enjoy answering questions regarding your home, family, neighborhood, customs, etc
7 You are not comfortable asking questions of others about their home, family, neighborhood, customs, etc.
8 You want the exchange to occur with little to no effort on your part
9 The idea of home exchangers in your home is repugnant to you
10 Your home has been described as messy or cluttered by your friends/family on more than one occasion and you like to keep it that way
11 You do not enjoy surprises or anything different from what you have at home
12 Any discomforts, even minor ones, cause you great anxiety
13 You require the amenities of a hotel, such as a restaurant, room service and a swimming pool when

Desirability Factors

Remote and rural areas, large travel groups, smokers, children and pets are all factors that may limit your desirability. For example, if you have a very large travel party (either extended family or with many children), it may be difficult to find compatible exchanges in popular areas. Some exchange offers specifically exclude those who smoke, have pets or small children.

If you live in a rural area or smaller city, there may be less demand for your listing. In relation to pets, many exchangers are not comfortable taking care of other people’s pets. A large number of pets can keep exchangers away.

These factors do not necessarily rule out finding a great exchange, but you may have to be especially flexible on times, places or both. If your exchange is less desirable than the average exchange, and you are limited in your options for travel times and locations, home exchange may not be the right option for you right now.

Excerpted with permission from The Home Exchange Guide: How to find Your Free Home Away From Home by M.T. Simon and T.T. Baker. Available from Poyeen Publishing.


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