A home exchange expert from the U.K. explains how you can swap homes to slash the cost of a vacation or holiday around the world.
Ever thought of trading your home with another family for a few weeks? Well, the idea appeals to hundreds of thousands of families world-wide--offering them a chance to not only make new contacts and friends in countries of interest, but substantially reduce the cost of a vacation break.
The idea is not new--it's been around for over 40 years. It's simple--just go and live in someone else's home while they live in yours.
Traditionally swap offers are listed in a world-wide published directory. Trades are classified usually by codes denoting type and content of accommodation. The bigger services offer as many as 10,000 swaps world-wide. Membership costs vary from $100 US or so to around $300.
Some organisations will even manage and co-ordinate the exchange, but usually these are for top range properties where money saving aspects are less critical than the more usual self-organised trade.
In more recent times, swap organisations have come online. The Internet offers a more instant update of new offers as they register, tourist info and contact via e-mail--which is both faster and cheaper than regular mail or telephone.
The better organisations provide members the opportunity for "free expression" when listing their offers, rather than forcing them into standardized categories. The opportunity often exists for potential swap partners to access local travel information about cities, states and countries through hyperlinks from members' listings.
Listing costs are lower, around $30 US for a years listing, and as more and more countries and users connect to the Internet, rapid growth seems assured for these organisations.
E-Mail newsletters, discussion groups, downloadable FAQs and tutorials complement a wide range of Internet/PC facilities available freely for subscribers to Home Exchange organisations although facilities can vary between services.
Home swapping needs some careful thinking through first, and most swap agencies offer good advice based on the experience of members. Many people think their own home is not good enough to trade when they see the quality of many properties on offer. In truth, most people want a good base that's clean and tidy and holds the family numbers in reasonable comfort. They can then explore the country or area of their choice, with the benefit of the advance knowledger they got through preliminary contact with their exchange partner.
The first trade is perhaps the worst, as you go through plenty of "what if" queries, such as "will my swap partner trash my home?" In truth, your potential trading partner is possibly going through the same trauma, if, like you, they are first-timers.
If possible, swap with someone who has done it before if it's your first time. Ask for a reference from their previous trade partner; this will do a lot to remove your worry.
Standards of tidiness are wide and can annoy some people. It's as well to get most things out in the open before agreeing a trade, and, if you are unsure about any aspect of an agreement, ABORT. Some reservations are natural, and home swapping does not suit everyone--especially born worriers.
It's vital to swap e-mails or normal snail mail letters setting out the terms of the trade. Allow a few months to organise. Last-minute rushed deals can be tricky. It's useful to have a guest book full of useful info about the home and the area to help visitors. Make sure there is a friend or relative on hand to check up, deal with any problems or queries, and, ideally, be there on arrival.
Once bitten by the bug, many people trade every year, and some have made over 50 swaps over many years. The record is 80+ by a USA couple now aged well over 70. Although the majority trade once a year, it is possible to fit in 2 or 3 trades in a typical year. Even local, in-country swaps are practical for those not keen on wider travel.
Research shows that people wanting swaps outnumber by 10:1 those offering swaps, so it seems vital to offer your home as a trade to ensure you get offered an exchange in reasonable time. Trying to find the "perfect match" may reduce the chance of a swap, so being flexible on areas, dates and accommodation will increase the chances of finding, if not an ideal match, at least a good, successful trade.
Home swapping appeals to all types: retirees, business professionals, families... In the main, husband/wife or partner and children comprise the typical swap family; fewer single people trade, although there has been a notable increase.
A big growing trend is 2nd vacation home ownership--this provides some 20 percent of trades, for what are often unused time periods in a vacation home. This offers a better flexibility in time slots, as each swap need not be at the same time.
If you want to save a few hundred if not thousands of dollars on a vacation break, take a serious look at vacation home exchanging as a useful alternative to traditional hotel or rental breaks.
Maurice S Clarke is the CEO of Holi-Swaps, an Internet web site specialising in home exchange, offering advice, listings, travel and tourist info. to subscribe to the Holi-Swaps free monthly newsletter, Trading Places, send any message to: mailto:email@example.com
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