Home Exchange? Home Away?
For several years Blonde has been “planning” to do a home exchange. This planning has entailed thinking that it would be really cool if someone with a fabulous place contacted Blonde and said “we would be honored to have you come stay at our castle in the glorious location you’ve been dreaming of and in return can we maybe sleep at your place in Boston one night”? Blonde would say “OK,” call Brunette and head to the airport.
This may be hard to believe but that approach did not yield so much as one home exchange! Outrageous really.
Fast forward and at the TBEX travel bloggers’ conference in Girona this past September Blonde and Brunette met Nola of NewTakeTravel. Nola has done more than 20 home shares and is quite the expert on it. Blonde got very excited about the concept once again but still didn’t do anything about it. Finally the time has come to take action. Nola has been kind enough to answer some of Blonde’s basic questions about preparing for a first home exchange in this blog post.
Blonde: How do I decide what site to list my home on? I want to attract fairly snooty people who will have nice places to exchange. (Is it relevant that I live in a small travel trailer?)
Oh seriously, you thought a little travel trailer would derail me!? Homes, RVs and boats are all exchanged, though admittedly there are a lot more homes than RV’s and boats.
Almost anyone with a home that is clean and in good repair can do an exchange: a rural retreat might be just what a writer is looking for and empty nesters with a big suburban house may be delighted to vacation in a studio apartment in the heart of a city.
There are many home exchanging (a.k.a. home swapping) web sites. Each offers different features, from home swap insurance and concierge services to free second-home listings. For several reasons I only recommend web sites that charge for membership, usually a flat fee of USD $80-200 per year.
Check out my guide to home exchange websites, here.
Blonde: OK, got it. From looking at the sites I see that every one has pictures on them. (Doesn’t anyone make their bed right in Prague?) Do I need to take pictures of my place? If so, of what – outside, living room, etc?
You don’t even buy lettuce without looking at it first. Why would you be interested in a home listing without pictures when you’d be sleeping there?! Exactly: you wouldn’t.
Everyone wants to know where they’ll be hanging out and sleeping, so photos are what they –and you!– will look at first. Yes, tidy your home and make your bed first. Include a photo of every room and patios or yards, too. An exterior picture is optional but can work to your advantage.
Blonde: OK, I hid most of the mess and took pictures. How do I know which ones to use? For example here are two of my bedroom. Which one do you think I should use and why?
I can safely say that offering cash and, uh, bedroom accessories would definitely set you apart. Perhaps you could start a home exchange web site of your own with a ‘bedroom accessories niche’? (I haven’t seen one, but then I haven’t looked for one, either…)
The first picture is great. The furnishings are lovely and the room looks inviting and comfortable. I even like the brick buildings visible through the window: quintessential Boston!
Blonde: How should I describe my place so people will see that it’s clearly superior to anything else in Boston? Should I mention the in-ground swimming pool and 24/7 household staff (even though neither is true)? Or is just better to trash talk the other Boston listings?
Save the trash-talk for your ‘hood walks, Blonde. Describe your home, its features and its location, and the amenities and sights in your area. (Need ideas? Check out your local tourism website.) Also advise whether or not a car is needed and, if applicable, transit services they could use.
Don’t misrepresent your home. As much as you want to attract exchanges you equally want people to be satisfied with their stay in your home –and they should be if you have shown and told them what to expect.
Blonde: Do I need to lock away my box of sex toys? (Whoops – wait a minute! I wondered when I’d gotten those. Now that I look again I see that they’re the cat’s toys. I’ll never think the same way about a stuffed catnip mouse again. ..) Anyhow, will people steal my possessions?
Your toys should be safe. Catnip on the other hand…
You’re not the first to ask! Being confident with an exchange is about knowing some good home exchanging practices and remembering that you’ll evaluate every offer you receive independently, with the option of declining.
When asked about the safety of home exchanging, experienced swappers are quick to reference mutual respect: “I’m in your home and you’re in mine.” Then they talk about all the communication they have with an exchange partner before an exchange, and that they wind up feeling like friends before the trip even starts. There are some insurance options, too.
The bottom line is that it is a goodwill arrangement. Put away valuables that you would simply never want to risk in a safe, locked closet or locked room. Leaving them with friends is another option.
After learning the ropes and doing 25 exchanges without any problems at all, I have no hesitation exchanging my home despite there always being a chance one could go sideways.
Remember that no one is forcing you to home exchange! You’ll only accept the swaps that you’re comfortable and confident with anyway.
Blonde: OK, I have the boring pictures you liked the best up there, a brilliant truthy description of the place and I’m ready to go. Do I wait for people to contact me or do I reach out to them? Do I have to look for people who say they want to come to Boston?
No! Although some home exchangers explicitly list destinations they want to visit, most say they are interested in any destination. So, send an offer and see what happens! Whether Boston is on their list or not, they might be tempted by an offer from you.
And here’s another tip: seriously consider offers you receive from places that aren’t on your wishlist. Even ask them to wait a few days while you do a bit of research into the destination they’re offering. Sometimes those unexpected offers can lead to the most incredible adventures!
Blonde: Thanks, I think that’s as much as I can absorb at once. I’ll probably have more questions before I do an exchange . Is there somewhere I can go for more information?
I love hearing from the home-exchange-curious! You’ll find home swapping information and first-hand experiences on my blog site and I’m happy to answer questions. Leave a comment or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
Blonde: Just remember, people coming from my blog don’t expect to be treated very nicely – don’t spoil them!