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Home Exchange – The First Practical Steps
Of course, the theme is the same: choosing an exchange partner home that is near-perfect for one’s needs, near-perfect for one’s desired destination and with a near-perfect relationship with the partner-exchanger.
As told by experienced home exchangers, a successful exchange is a healthy combination of chemistry, flexibility, honesty, clear communication, and a bit of luck.
The following are the basic time-tested steps.
Choose a reputable home exchange group
After ejecting your horror of having strangers stay in your home, and deciding to go and live in that stranger’s home yourself for your vacation, choose a good home exchange group.
Today, the Internet is the place to look for one. If a group has less than a few thousand members, chances are they are new. For someone new like you, it is best to stick to an experienced group.
Check out their listings. Do the listed locations interest you? Are they worldwide? What about testimonials? How is their customer support? Are new listings added daily? Do they offer other resources like articles, newsletters, sample contracts, videos, etc.?
Join the list and market your home
After paying your dues, write a detailed description about your home, yourself, your location, even your neighbors. Keep it honest, even if you play up your assets like a swimming pool or a big yard, perhaps.
Include other places of interests like beaches, parks or places for sports, local attractions, where to find a bank, restaurant recommendations, where the best cappuccino and the best croissants are, where to buy groceries.
Be clear with your requirements (children, pets, facilities, etc.) but be polite in your explanations.
Photos are a MUST, especially in today’s digital age. What cannot be explained is seen. Don’t be shy showing the ocean view or the quaint look of your street, or the city scene from your terrace.
Send out messages right away to everyone who fits the bill. Start with the people who have indicated a preference for your destination and dates. If you don't receive a positive reply, expand your target to include those people that have indicated they are open.
Communication is the key
Once you get a positive answer from a prospective exchanger, you have to communicate with each other often. Ask a lot of questions. Decide whether you were made for each other.
Never presume the other person is like you or have the same needs as you. Discuss nitty-gritty things like allergies, handling utilities, appliances, cooking, and other worldly matters as payments of utility bills, phone calls, and Internet use. Agree on a policy on who will pay damages for accidents, perhaps, including insurance coverage on things.
Of course, a good match is someone with your similar interests. If you have children, a family with children is best. Retired people adjust best with other retirees.
Once you had linked up with a suitable partner, it is best to continue your communications. If you have communicated often enough and are open to one another, by the time you arrive at the other person's home, you are not strangers anymore.
If everything had been set and agreed upon, send an e-mail asking for a confirmation of what is agreed.
Most experienced exchangers swear they never use one, but it is good policy to put in writing what was agreed upon. People forget. Written records stay. This can include who is liable in case of accidents, who pays any insurance deductibles, arrival and departure dates, number of persons swapping, how to handle a trip cancellation, and so forth.
This list is by far incomplete because other details such as preparing your own house for your guests, or how to pack up for your trip to the other house are not included.
But the most important part had been done and you are on your way to a wonderful vacation. What’s more, you know your home exchange partner is going to have the same. What could be more perfect?
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