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The ABCs Of Home Exchange
In simple terms, home exchange (or house swapping as it is sometimes called) is an arrangement between two travelers to stay in each other’s houses (in their respective countries) for a simultaneous vacation.
For many travelers, occupying someone's house at your desired destination while the owner occupies yours in turn is an economical and fun way to visit other places. The enormous savings in hotel expenses is one big reason.
Aside from the savings, some travelers prefer to live in a real home with big spaces rather than in an expensive and cramped hotel room. Some people want to immerse themselves right away into the community. Some like to cook their own food rather than suffer the bland hotel fare.
Kinds of exchanges
There are roughly three kinds of home exchange. The typical and most common exchange is you and your exchange partner travel and stay in each other's primary residences at the same time.
The second type is for people who own more than one home. Their swapping agreement is usually “non-simultaneous” which means they need not travel and stay at the other’s house at the same time. Exchange partners come to stay in a secondary home, whenever they want, while the owner still lives in his primary home.
A third type of home exchange arrangement is also called a hospitality exchange. The parties involved take turns in staying as guests in each other’s main homes.
Home exchange groups
Today, there are thousands of companies who coordinate the home exchange business. For a reasonable annual membership fee, you are listed in their database and are allowed to do your own search. They facilitate the exchanges between members but do not necessarily run them. Some organizations do not charge anything, but those with fees usually get serious business.
Letters of introductions
Once you have chosen your group, write your invitation letters to prospective exchanger s. Give out a clear description of your home, your family, your place, the town attractions and facilities. Include anything you think is interesting.
E-mail your letters. Write to everyone who owns a house that fits your needs. The more letters you sent, the better the batting average of finding your prospective partner.
Once you have found a prospective partner, the communication has to be more detailed. This is to avoid later regrets. Always be precise on stuff that matters most to you: use of family car, computers and other appliances, allowing of children and/or pets, household helps, payment of utility bills, and other pertinent items.
It is not impolite to ask for references before agreeing to an exchange, including the signing of an informal written agreement outlining the terms of your arrangement. Many home exchange organizations usually have samples that can be used as a template.
Once you had concluded your agreement, it is important to leave your partner such things as contact numbers, including those of the local police and nearby hospitals or clinics, instructions on the use of appliances, places where clean linens are, insurance information in case of accidents, and others.
As a sign of goodwill, your house should be clean, and you left drawers and closet space for your guests to use. If you have valuables, store them away in a safe or maybe close off a room of the house for their storage.
On your end, leave your trading partner's home exactly as you found it. Clean the floors, refrigerators and other appliances you have used, straighten the furniture, etc. You may even leave a token gift (a bottle of wine, fruits) as some kind of a thank-you note.
The success of a home exchange agreement rests on mutual trust between the partners. The rewards can be exhilarating for both parties if things go as planned. Both trading partners save money, both enjoy the times of their lives, and most important, gain a new friend or a set of friends. That last one is priceless.
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