HomeLink USA Home Exchange News

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Members Seeking Local USA Home Exchanges

Now that we are beginning to see a brighter future for home exchange travel, our Members have let us know they are beginning to consider home exchanging closer to home for the coming months.

With this in mind, we are providing this resource page for helping you find an exchange within the US.

Below are direct links to homes being offered for exchange from HomeLink USA Members seeking USA home exchanges.
Their HomeLink listings are sorted by US Regions where you will also see the US destinations they are seeking.

Of course, each state comes with its...

Members Seeking Local USA Home Exchanges

Now that we are beginning to see a brighter future for home exchange travel, our Members have let us know they are beginning to consider home exchanging closer to home for the coming months.

With this in mind, we are providing this resource page for helping you find an exchange within the US.

Below are direct links to homes being offered for exchange from HomeLink USA Members seeking USA home exchanges.  Their HomeLink listings are sorted by US Regions where you will also see the US destinations they are seeking.

Of course, each state comes with its own travel advisories and restrictions, so please consult your and your potential exchange partner's state's travel guidelines and also the CDC website for safe travel guidance.

USA Members Seeking Local USA Home Exchanges

Please contact us if you wish to be added to this list and also when you wish to be removed from the list.


Midwestern United States

Illinois:

Chicago, IL;  Seeking:  Florida | Maryland | Rhode Island | Atlanta, Georgia

Ohio:

Cleveland, OH city retreat;  Seeking:  Washington | Oregon | California | Utah | Colorado | Montana

Northeastern United States

Connecticut:

Stamford, CT;  Seeking:  Northeast USA, but will consider all offers

District of Columbia:

DC Outerbelt:

Bethesda, MD;  Seeking:  North Caroline | South Carolina | Virginia

Manassas, VA;  Seeking:  Great Smoky Mountains area, Tennessee | Wisconsin | South Dakota | North Dakota

Mclean, VA;  Seeking:  USA | USA NE

Maine:

York Beach, ME;  Seeking:  San Francisco Bay Area, California |New Orleans, Louisiana

Maryland:

Annapolis, MD;  Seeking:  Nantucket, MA | Vermont | New Hampshire | Finger lakes, New York | Adirondacks, New York|New York City,  New York |Charleston, SC

Massachusetts:

Brookline, MA;  Seeking:  California | Illinois

Duxbury, MA near Boston;  Seeking:  United States

Swampscott, MA near Boston; Seeking:  Seeking the entire United States, especially in the Eastern Seaboard | New York City, NY | Washington D.C. | USA West Coast | Hawaii.

Westford, MA;  Seeking:  Eastern United States

New Hampshire:

Grantham, NH;  Seeking:  Coral Gables, Florida | Miami, Florida

New Jersey:

Califon, NJ; Seeking:  United States

Madison, NJ near New York City;  Seeking:  California | Maine | South Carolina

New York:

Brooklyn, NY; Seeking:  California | New Mexico | Portland, Oregon |USA

Brooklyn, NY;  Seeking:  New Orleans, Louisiana | Northeast, USA

Lake George, NY;  Seeking:  Western United States

Manhattan, NY;  Seeking:  United States

Manhattan, NY;  Seeking:  Santa Barbara, California

New York City, NY;  Seeking:  New York | California |Connecticut | New Jersey | Maryland | Washington DC | Massachusetts | Virginia | Rhode Island | Vermont

Pennsylvania:

Ambler, PA;  Seeking:  Western United States

Hidden Valley, PA Mountain Retreat;  Seeking:  United States

Philadelphia, PA;  Seeking:  Eastern United States

Vermont:

Killington, VT;  Seeking: New England

Virginia:

Dumfries, VA;  Seeking:  West Virginia | South Carolina | Western Pennsylvania | Western New York:  Dates:  April 1 - October 31, 2021

Hayes, VA, Southern Chesapeake Bay; Seeking:  Great Smoky Mountains area, Tennessee | Wisconsin | South Dakota | North Dakota

Leesburg, VA;  Seeking:  United States

Richmond, VA; Seeking:  Hawaii | Colorado | New Mexico


Southeastern United States

Florida:

Daytona Beach, FL;Seeking:Boston, Massachusetts | NYC, New York | San Francisco, California

Florida Keys, Tavernier, FL;  Seeking: Colorado | United States

Fort Myers/Sanibel, FL;  North Carolina | South Carolina | Tennessee

Gulfport, FL;  United States

Homosassa, FL Gulf Coast;  Seeking:  North Carolina Mountains

Longboat Key, FL;  Seeking:  California | Oregon | Washington | Arizona | Washington DC | Maine

Merritt Island, FL;  Seeking:  North Georgia | North Caroline | Tennessee Mountain Region | Maine | Open to all USA offers

Miami, Coconut Grove, FL;  Seeking:  Pacific Northwest | Southwest | West | Northeast

Miami, Coral Gables, FL;  Seeking:  United States

Miami, FL;  Seeking;  Seeking:  Southeastern United States

Naples, FL;  Seekiing:  San Francisco Bay Area, California | New Orleans, LA

New Smyrna Beach, FL;  Seeking:  California

Orlando, FL;  Seeking:  Florida | Los Angeles, California | United States

Orlando, FL;  Seeking:  United States

Ponce Inlet, FL near Daytona Beach;Seeking:  Montana

St. Petersburg, FL;  Seeking:  USA, especially the Southeastern States

The Villages, FL;  Seeking:  Mill Valley, California for November or Thanksgiving, 2020 | Connecticut for December or Christmas, 2020

Georgia:

Savannah, GA;  Seeking:  Eastern United States

North Carolina:

Highlands, NC; Seeking:  United States

South Carolina:

Beaufort, SC;  Seeking:  South Carolina | Georgia | North Caroline | Florida

Clover, SC (Charlotte area);  Seeking:  Virginia |North Carolina | South Carolina | Georgia| Preferably a beach or mountain area | Open to other US States


Mexico
Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico; Seeking:  Pacific Grove, CA | Mountain View, CA | San Diego, CA


Western United States
Arizona:

Flagstaff, AZ;  Seeking:  Southern California: Los Angeles, San Diego | Northern California | Southwest United States: New Mexico 

Sedona, AZ;  Seeking:  California | Oregon | New Mexico

Surprise, AZ;  Seeking:  Coral Gables, Florida | Miami, Florida

Tucson, AZ; Seeking:  Vicinity of Palm Beach County, Florida

Tucson, AZ;  Seeking:  United States

California:

Bolinas, CA;  Seeking:  Hilton Head, South Carolina | Savannah, Georgia | Sanibal Island, Florida

Boonville, CA, Wine Country; Seeking:  New York | New Mexico| New Orleans, Louisiana| Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod, Massachusetts | United States

Carlsbad, CA;Seeking:  United States |Vermont |Massachusetts | New York, New York | Colorado

Clio, CA;  Seeking:  Hilton Head, South Carolina | Savannah, Georgia | Sanibal Island, Florida

Fair Oaks, CA;  Seeking:  Atlanta, Georgia | Beaufort, South Carolina | Willamette Valley, Oregon

Groveland, CA near Yosemite; Seeking:  United States

Joshua Tree, CA;  Montana | Colorado | Utah | Arizona | California | Oregon |New Mexico

Kensington, CA (Near Berkeley); Seeking:  Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Los Angeles, CA;  Seeking:  United States

Murietta, CA; Seeking:  Jackson Hole, Wyoming | Branson, Missouri | Bozeman, Montana | Denver, Colorado | Washington | Oregon

Novato, CA, Marin County; Seeking:  Hilton Head, South Carolina | Savannah, Georgia | Sanibal Island, Florida

Novato, CA, Marin County; Seeking:  Summer: Maine | New Hampshire | Vermont;  Winter: Hawaii | New Mexico | Arizona

Palo Alto, CA;  Seeking:  Oregon | Arizona | Nevada

Pope Valley, Wine Country, CA;  Seeking:  Hawaii | New York | Boston, Massachusetts | New Orleans, Louisiana

Santa Barbara, CA; Seeking:  United States

San Diego, CA;  Seeking:  Northwest USA | Southwest USA

San Diego, CA; Seeking:  Washington | Oregon | Northern California

San Francisco, CA;  Seeking:  Tennessee | Washington DC | New Orleans, Louisiana | New Mexico | Hawaii

San Francisco, CA;  Seeking:  California | Michigan | Bloomington, Indiana | Dallas, TX | New York City, New York | New York State | USA

San Francisco, CA;  Seeking:  Hawaii | New York | Boston, Massachusetts | New Orleans, Louisiana

San Francisco, CA;  Seeking:  California

Santa Cruz, CA;  Seeking:  California | Oregon | Washington | Arizona | Nevada | Utah

Sonoma, CA;  Seeking:  United States | New York City, New York | New England

Tarzana, CA;  Seeking:  California Coast | All US Parks

Thousand Oaks, CA, near Santa Barbara; Seeking:  Florida | Idaho | United States

Wilseyville, CA; SeekingWestern USA within driving distance of our home

Woodbridge, CA; Seeking:  Western USA within driving distance of our home

Woodland, CA;  Seeking:  Colorado| Utah | Oregon

Woodland, CA;  Seeking:  New England | Texas | Florida | Charleston, SC | Outer Banks, NC  |San Diego & Palm Springs, CA | Las Vegas, NV | Arizona

Colorado:

Boulder, CO; Seeking:  Arizona | Oregon | California | New Mexico | Wyoming | Montana

Boulder, CO;  Seeking:  United States

Outside of Vail, CO;  Seeking:  Arizona | Oregon | California | New Mexico | Wyoming | Montana

Montana:

Bozeman, MT; Seeking:  United States

New Mexico:

Santa Fe, NM;  Seeking: Outer Banks, NC |  Jackson Hole, WY | Portland, OR | Austin, TX | Any area around National Parks

Nevada:

Carson City, NV;  Seeking:  Washington | Oregon | Utah | New Mexico | Arizona | Idaho | Wyoming | Montana | California

Oregon:

Bend, OR;  Seeking:  New York | New Mexico| New Orleans, Louisiana| Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod, Massachusetts | United States

Bend, OR;  Seeking:  Oregon Coast: Brookings, Gold Beach, Bandon, Reedsport, Florence

Lake Oswego, OR, near Portland;  Seeking:  Western USA within driving distance of Portland

Texas:

Mercedes, TX;  Seeking:  San Antonio, Texas | San Francisco, California |Florida Keys | Hilton Head, South Caroline | Myrtle Beach, South Caroline | Alaska |Montana

Washington:

Belfair, WA,  Puget Sound;  Seeking:  USA National Park areas

Kirkland, WA;  Seeking:  Montana | Colorado | Utah | Arizona | California |Oregon | New Mexico

Lynden, WA;  Seeking:  United States

Lynnwood, WA; Seeking: Oregon | Idaho | Washington

Mercer Island, WA;  Seeking:  United States

Seattle, WA;  Seeking:  United States

Stevenson, WA;  Seeking:  United States | Pacific Northwest

~~~

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HomeLinker Questions Related to the Pandemic

What's going on with Homelink [during the pandemic]?

The pandemic has significantly affected the home exchange industry, however, despite this temporary downturn, we continue to receive positive, hopeful and caring support from many of you.
This has gone a long way toward making sense of this unprecedented time and we send you our heartfelt thanks for your encouragement.

We immediately provided guidance about sorting out existing exchange agreements during the beginning weeks of the pandemic, which many of you followed.
If anyone needs help with an exchange,...

HomeLinker Questions Related to the Pandemic

What's going on with Homelink [during the pandemic]? 
The pandemic has significantly affected the home exchange industry, however, despite this temporary downturn, we continue to receive positive, hopeful and caring support from many of you.  This has gone a long way toward making sense of this unprecedented time and we send you our heartfelt thanks for your encouragement.

We immediately provided guidance about sorting out existing exchange agreements during the beginning weeks of the pandemic, which many of you followed.  If anyone needs help with an exchange, please contact us.

We continue to receive renewals from members each and every week, which we sincerely appreciate! 

In an effort to help account for the time we have not been able to enjoy our wonderful way of travel, we are extending memberships that have been active or have lapsed during the pandemic by 4 months, free of charge.  Below is some guidance on various membership scenarios that we hope you will find helpful.  As always, please contact us with any questions you may have.

Current Members:  For those of you whose membership has remained active during the pandemic, we are happy to add 4 months to your current membership or add the 4 months when you choose to renew your membership.

Current Members Considering Letting their Membership Lapse:  Of course, we understand your hesitation to renew your membership at this time and want to let you know that we retain all account information, including previous member correspondence for 5 years after a membership has lapsed, so you won't have to start from scratch upon your return.

Upon your return, we will add the 4 months to the 1, 2 or 3-yr membership option chosen.  We will also partially refund your membership payment to reflect our discounted, early renewal rates.  All current members can view these rates after clicking the "Renew" link found in the upper right corner of the page after logging in.

Former Members Whose Membership has Lapsed During the Pandemic:  As mentioned above, we retain all account information, including previous member correspondence for 5 years after a membership has lapsed, so you won't have to start from scratch upon your return.

Upon your return, we will add the 4 months to the 1, 2 or 3-yr membership option chosen.  We will also partially refund your membership payment to reflect our discounted, early renewal rates.  All current members can view these rates after clicking the "Renew" link found in the upper right corner of the page after logging in.
                                                                        
Are people actually finding exchanges?

Over the course of the pandemic, we have stayed in regular contact with our HomeLink colleagues worldwide and a few months back, our respective HomeLink members began to show interest in home exchanging close to home.
 
To help expedite this new focus on local travel, we introduced our local page,Members Seeking Local USA Exchanges.
 
There are currently about 100 offers for exchange on this page.  Many have been there since this was first introduced last Summer.
 
If you wish to be added to or deleted from the list or perhaps have your destinations updated, please contact us and we will take care of your request directly.
        
                                             

International exchanges in 2021 or should we wait until 2022?
This is a difficult question to answer, as we are all in the same predicament of not knowing how this will unfold, especially in regards to international travel.  Although we know have vaccines going into arms, the variants continue to evolve, pushing the prospect of international travel further into the future.  Karl & I have decided we will wait for another month or two before reaching out to our fellow HomeLinkers abroad, asking about potential exchanges and it looks like 2022 is the earliest international exchanges will be more likely to occur.

Of course, we continue to recommend consulting travel advice from your local government website as well as national authorities, such as the
CDC, on safe travel abroad.
 

We plan to keep you posted on any new plans and guidance on all of this as soon as they develop.  We thank you in advance for your continued patience and understanding as we work our way through this trying and unprecedented time.

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The Spirit of HomeLink Shines in the Face of the Pandemic

Below is a home exchange story sent in from one of our longtime members.
Their experience showcases how the Spirit of HomeLink shines even in the face of the pandemic.
They write:
We flew to Australia in early February 2020 before the threat of CV-19 had emerged.
After touring there, we took a cruise on Holland American, landing in Auckland, NZ on 1 March.
Our home exchange host, picked us up at the pier.
In the car he informed us that he had decided to forgo his trip to our home in [California] because of the developing CV-19 threat.
But he honored...

The Spirit of HomeLink Shines in the Face of the Pandemic

Below is a home exchange story sent in from one of our longtime members.  Their experience showcases how the Spirit of HomeLink shines even in the face of the pandemic.

They write:

We flew to Australia in early February 2020 before the threat of CV-19 had emerged.  After touring there, we took a cruise on Holland American, landing in Auckland, NZ on 1 March.  Our home exchange host, picked us up at the pier.  In the car he informed us that he had decided to forgo his trip to our home in [California] because of the developing CV-19 threat.  But he honored his exchange commitments by offering his beautiful Auckland home followed by some time at his beach house south of Auckland.
 
We stayed with him for a while and then struck out on our own.  He gave us his new Audi sedan and we traveled all over the North Island.  We had planned to spend two weeks at his beach house before returning to [California].  But his son, who is a physician..., recommended we fly home while we could.  [They] then drove us to the airport with the intention of a non-simultaneous exchange in [our California home] when CV-19 is behind all of us.
 
Luckily, we jumped on one of the last flights not cancelled, arriving home in mid-March.  We have stayed locked down for the balance of the year and have avoided catching the virus.  We cannot say enough good things about [our Auckland exchange partners] and the quality people like [them] who are members of our HomeLink club of exchangers.
 
At age 82, we are afraid to do another home exchange until a CV-19 vaccine is in general distribution.  We have loved home exchanging 16 times, mostly with HomeLink.  Although, we are not renewing at this time, if we are still physically able to travel when CV-19 pandemic is behind us, we will sign up again.
 
Thanks for all you do.
All the best,
[Name omitted for privacy]

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Concerns About Your Home Exchange Plans During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Dear Fellow HomeLinkers,
At the moment many of our fellow HomeLinkers may be concerned about the Coronavirus and the impact that may have on your home exchange travel plans and those of your Exchange Partner. HomeLink therefore suggests the following:

a) that you first consider your own personal situation e.g. age, medical condition, the virus situation in the country you have arranged an exchange etc.,

b) discuss these considerations with your Exchange Partner and try to reach an arrangement as to how best to deal with the exchange keeping in mind all local...

Concerns About Your Home Exchange Plans During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Dear Fellow HomeLinkers, 

At the moment many of our fellow HomeLinkers may be concerned about the Coronavirus and the impact that may have on your home exchange travel plans and those of your Exchange Partner. HomeLink therefore suggests the following:

a) that you first consider your own personal situation e.g. age, medical condition, the virus situation in the country you have arranged an exchange etc.,

b) discuss these considerations with your Exchange Partner and try to reach an arrangement as to how best to deal with the exchange keeping in mind all local advice from the Health Authority and the Government.

Given this unprecedented occurrence, rest assured that whatever agreement you reach with your Exchange Partner, there will be no negative consequences in relation to your membership with HomeLink.

Please don’t hesitate contacting us if you would like to discuss this further.  We are all in this together and we are here to help!  Our email address: 
katie@homelink-usa.org

Here is a
direct link to the CDC.

Be well and take care.
Karl & Katie

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Considering Postponing Your HomeLink Home Exchange Plans?

Dear Fellow HomeLinkers,

We appreciate the fact you may have had to cancel or perhaps postpone your exchange due to the Coronavirus.
If so, rest assured that whatever agreement you reach with your Exchange Partner, there will be no negative consequences in relation to your membership with HomeLink.

Postponed Home Exchange:
If you have postponed the home exchange with your Exchange Partner and would like to retain the current Exchange Agreement Form (EAF), we recommend you agree to the new dates as soon as they are known via your ongoing...

Considering Postponing Your HomeLink Home Exchange Plans?

Dear Fellow HomeLinkers, 

We appreciate the fact you may have had to cancel or perhaps postpone your exchange due to the Coronavirus.  If so, rest assured that whatever agreement you reach with your Exchange Partner, there will be no negative consequences in relation to your membership with HomeLink.

Postponed Home Exchange:
If you have postponed the home exchange with your Exchange Partner and would like to retain the current Exchange Agreement Form (EAF), we recommend you agree to the new dates as soon as they are known via your ongoing conversation with your Exchange Partner at our internal message system.  This will serve as a proper addendum to your existing EAF. 

You can also delete the existing EAF and create a new one once your travel dates are known.  You will find instructions for deleting an existing EAF in the section below.

Cancelled Home Exchange:
If you have cancelled this exchange and would like to delete the form, navigate to the form at your "Our Exchanges" area and click the link found just below the form,  "Cancel this exchange agreement" link corresponding to this EAF.  Once you click the link, you will be prompted with a text box to explain the cancellation reason, which you should both receive at your message area.  We are happy to do this for you, just let us know.

We wish you well during this trying time and please don't hesitate contacting us with any questions you might have.  We are here to help!


Be well and take care,
Karl & Katie
katie@homelink-usa.org
800-638-3841

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Old School Home Exchange Staying Relevant: Interview with two HomeLink Country Owners

Old School Home Exchange Staying Relevant: Interview with two HomeLink Country Owners By: Dawn Zerly, ShareTraveler.com
HomeLink is one of the oldest home exchange networks, founded in 1953. They have a unique way of running the service with independent country owners, but a centralized website and close coordination between the countries. Then network also offers a Youth Exchange option where members can swap kids, usually for a few weeks of language immersion. HomeLink has updated their technology, but otherwise hasn’t changed much over the years. I talked with Inga de...

Old School Home Exchange Staying Relevant: Interview with two HomeLink Country Owners

Old School Home Exchange Staying Relevant: Interview with two HomeLink Country Owners By: Dawn Zerly, ShareTraveler.com

HomeLink is one of the oldest home exchange networks, founded in 1953. They have a unique way of running the service with independent country owners, but a centralized website and close coordination between the countries. Then network also offers a Youth Exchange option where members can swap kids, usually for a few weeks of language immersion. HomeLink has updated their technology, but otherwise hasn’t changed much over the years. I talked with Inga de Ruiter, the Netherlands HomeLink country owner, and Caroline Connolly, the UK country owner, about the history of HomeLink and what they love about its unique structure. (Inga was kind enough to speak with me in English.)

Country Owners
ShareTraveler: Inga, you have been running HomeLink for the Netherlands since 1991, tell me how you got started.

Inga: My father, Renger de Ruiter, started a national home exchange service back in 1979. This idea was based on memories from his early childhood, even before WWII, when his family (6 siblings) spent a few weeks in the house of his uncle and aunt every summer. They were living in Schevening, at the seaside. My dad was living near the Veluwe, a national park in the east of the Netherlands, a perfect holiday location for his uncle and aunt. If it wasn’t for this home exchange, my grandparents would never had the finances to spend 2 weeks at the beach every year with all their children.

He started from scratch but within a year his Dutch home exchange organization grew to over 400 members. This may not seem like a lot, but in 1979 the phenomenon of home exchange was still unknown in the Netherlands. The idea of strangers in your home (sleeping in your bed!!) was quite unusual to many people. Moreover, there was no internet.

Marketing was limited to paid advertisements in daily newspapers. It was only after the first positive exchanges between his first members that journalists could be approached in the hope that they wanted to write something about home exchange. It was these stories that convinced more and more people that home exchange could be an option for a comfortable but less expensive holiday.

Renger discovered by coincidence that there was also an exchange organization in England. Remember it was 1980, you could not simply Google at that time. The first contact with HomeLink in England was quickly made. From that moment on our exchange holidays became a sort of business trips. He has been visiting members in dozens of places and trying to make them enthusiastic to start their own home exchange business and join Homelink. With success!

When I started working with my father in 1991, I knew most of my colleagues. I was the first in the row of 2nd generation organizers. Later on, my colleagues in Italy, Canada and New Zealand also transferred their businesses to their children. HomeLink is therefore run by people who have known each other personally for years and years. Although we are working by ourselves, most of us from our home, I have colleagues around the world. We keep in touch by mail and Skype. And every two years we meet somewhere in Europe.

ST: Caroline, you run HomeLink UK, how did you get started with that?

Caroline: Back in 2004 I was working for large corporate American company after having my first child. My request to work part-time was turned down so I was looking for something new. A series of lucky coincidences ended up with us buying HomeLink UK from the then owners who had run it for the past 17 years and were looking to retire. I joined 15 years ago and only Avril in South Africa is newer than me! It’s such a nice business to run dealing with really lovely, generous-spirited people that organizers tend to stay for many years.

ST: Can you explain the HomeLink system of having each country owned and run separately?

Inga: HomeLink runs a website which is owned by all organizers as we all belong to HomeLink International Associates. At our annual meetings we set new goals, discuss new projects and share our experiences with each other. The Board takes care of day to day decisions. The IT group coordinates all work regarding the website. I am a member of this group. We not only translate website problems and wishes we hear from our members but also from co-organizers to the IT employees.

Caroline: Each HomeLink country organizer owns and runs their own national business. So none of us are employees. I think this responsibility for our own members gives us a very strong commitment to them and a strong sense of loyalty from them in return. I routinely get Christmas cards and postcards from members, and emails telling me about their exchanges.

That sense of loyalty and belonging is really important. It’s so far removed from the commercial feel that is increasingly prevalent these days. I had a report of a cancellation a week or so ago as a result of a serious health condition so I sent out an SOS to some of my UK members asking for help in finding the affected Australian member an alternative exchange. The Aussies were inundated with offers and fixed up two exchanges covering 7 weeks within a week of my email. Some of the UK HomeLinkers I emailed were offering spare rooms and granny annexes without any plans to travel to Australia. They just wanted to help. What a lovely bunch of people!

The other advantage of being in the same country as our members (mostly), is that we’re very well placed to get to know them and help them out with any issues. While some questions are the same wherever you live, some require local knowledge. For instance, I can tell you all about car insurance for home exchangers in the UK (such as which companies will offer coverage) but if you ask me about car insurance in the US, I would be much less able to help so that’s when I would contact my US colleague for advice. This network of local organizers has worked well over the years and enables almost all members to pick up the phone and talk to a HomeLink organizer in their own language.

ST: How do the country owners coordinate their work?

Caroline:
All organizers follow a common set of rules. We have an annual general meeting where we discuss projects and put forward proposals which are then voted on and changes implemented. There is a lot of communication between organizers and it’s a system that works well based on many years’ home exchange experience.

Inga: In case of problems between two members we contact each other and try to mediate and/or offer a solution. As we are both representing a member of our own, we take complaints very seriously. Fortunately we don’t receive many complaints. I am pretty sure that this is because of our traditional home exchange values of mutual trust and hospitality, respect, sharing and friendship. We don’t value homes or members with balloons nor points, as we think this commercial trend is not what HomeLinkers are looking for.

HomeLink members

ST: Are the majority of your members concentrated in one region of the world?

Caroline: The bulk of our members are the old western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. When you have an organizer in a region then historically they’ve drummed up interest in their area. In other areas the members are primarily expats. It would be lovely if we could have more unusual destinations but that’s much harder without someone on the ground.

ST: Has HomeLink’s membership grown over the past few years?

Caroline: We’ve been fairly static. Certainly we’ve had a good month this month. It’s quite a busy marketplace now.

ST: Is your current increase in membership coming from former HomeExchange members?

Caroline: Our suspicion is that it’s to do with HomeExchange. We have certainly had a lot more new 30 days free trials this month, but that might be a result of all the social media we have been doing recently. I suspect we will know a lot more when that 30 days is up.

ST: I heard a rumor that HomeLink is offering a discount to former members of HomeExchange if they want to switch networks. Can you tell me about that?

Caroline: We have discussed this within HomeLink and there is broad agreement that we’re very happy to offer a discount to former HomeExchange members in recognition that some feel compelled to join another organization before their current membership has expired. To take advantage of the discount anyone can contact their local organizer via the Contact Us button on our website at www.homelink.org to find out more.

Plans for the future

ST: Is HomeLink still adding new countries?

Caroline: My count shows we have an organizer representing 22 countries. We haven’t added any new countries recently, but our new website set up makes this much easier, so I think it’s quite possible in future. If a member wants to join in a country where there is no organizer then the website directs them to join via a country based on nationality, language or culture. So for example, most ex-pats join in their mother country and others join in a country which speaks their language.

ST: I believe there was a major website overhaul sometime in 2017. Were a lot of things changed then?

Caroline: It was more recent than that. In October 2018 we launched our completely revamped website, which was nearly a year in the making. This was primarily to make it mobile-friendly. However as every page was redesigned, we took the opportunity to improve the usability based on member feedback.

As we’re all very aware at the moment, launching a new site can be a fraught process but we were delighted with how smoothly the roll-out went. We’ve had very good feedback from members. One long term member I spoke to on Saturday described it as “very intuitive,” which I hope means we’ve done a good job!

ST: Does HomeLink have any plans for new features or other growth plans?

Caroline: We do have some plans but these are at the early stages so I can’t say anything about them. The website is constantly evolving and we have a number of mini-projects underway which we’ve developed with input from our members.

Because there are 20 of us, we do things by agreement. Perhaps we’re a little bit more conservative. But I think the local organizer network gives us a huge advantage in terms of member support. I look after about 10% of the membership and when you’re looking after that number you can genuinely give them personal service. There is a real sense of connection, and I think that’s why we do have a very loyal membership.

I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I’ve got 4 children and they do lots of activities so I’m always meeting and talking to people. In 15 years only two people that I know have actually joined. 80% of the people I’ve talked to say that’s a great idea, but 2 people in 15 years joined. That for me explains why its such a challenge to commercialize home exchange. Not enough people will take the plunge and try it. And that’s why I think the local organizers work well. You can support your members and expand through word of mouth.

ST: Where do you hope to see HomeLink in 5 years?

Caroline: I think we’re in a good place to expand. I hope we will just slowly grow. I think we will stay true to the traditional home exchange. We’ve had discussions about points but there is a genuine nervousness about the whole commercialization of the relationship and what that does to the members. I don’t think we have any immediate plans to talk points, but I think we’re in a good position to grow slowly and steadily.

I think we’re quite different with our organizers, it’s an unusual structure that has advantages and disadvantages. From a member point of view, to be able to pick up the phone to someone in your country and talk in your language. It’s the opposite of big corporate. I think that’s why I like doing it. It’s just a really nice business to run.

Inga: In 2023 HomeLink will celebrate its 70th anniversary. I hope, in 5 years, HomeLink still proves that it deserves an undeniable place in the world of home exchange. I think we will, as I see us slowly growing again after years of increased competition by more commercial web-orgs. As the pioneer, we have put this sustainable, alternative but also luxury way of holidaying on the map. By sticking to our original principles, we not only place (mutual) reliability in the hands of our members, but we also allocate ourselves as an organization.
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Long Term Swaps Offer Cultural Immersion: An Interview With Fellow Home Exchangers

Long Term Swaps Offer Cultural Immersion By Meg Pier, BestCulturalDestinations.com
With Long Term House Swaps, Travelers Experience A Destination’s Culture Through Local Lens
Are you a traveler who is keen to experience a destination through locals’ eyes? To get under the skin of a culture and celebrate its uniqueness, as well as feel part of our universal shared human condition? And get free lodging in the process?
Then a long term house swap might be right up your alley!

A group of European teachers seeking to travel cheaply during their summer break founded...

Long Term Swaps Offer Cultural Immersion: An Interview With Fellow Home Exchangers

Long Term Swaps Offer Cultural Immersion
By Meg Pier, BestCulturalDestinations.com

With Long Term House Swaps, Travelers Experience A Destination’s Culture Through Local Lens


Are you a traveler who is keen to experience a destination through locals’ eyes? To get under the skin of a culture and celebrate its uniqueness, as well as feel part of our universal shared human condition? And get free lodging in the process?  Then a long term house swap might be right up your alley!

A group of European teachers seeking to travel cheaply during their summer break founded Intervac International in 1953, offering the opportunity to barter homes through their network. A New York teacher had the same idea and created “Vacation Exchange Club”, now known as HomeLink, (HomeLink.org) in 1953 as well...

While cost-saving may have been a primary motivator early on, this mode of travel has become an effective grass roots form of cultural diplomacy. In an era where some governments are pursuing isolationist strategies built on fear and designed to keep people from other countries out, home exchanging offers a way to foster international relations that is based on trust.

Joie and Syd of Virginia and Florida are participants of HomeLink, and began home exchanging in 1985 and have made at least 140 long term house swaps since then, with more than half of those outside the U.S.

“Each exchange is unique,” Joie observed. “Being in a home for two to four weeks, you learn a lot about the couple and their culture. We try to meet our exchange families by inviting them to our home a day early or by going to their home a day early.”

House Swapping Offers Benefits Both Practical & Social

Those brief introductions can reveal cultural differences that, while minor, could be cause for confusion or even taking offense, as evidenced by a discussion Joie & Syd had with hosts in Aix-en-Provence, France.

“The French family was home when we arrived and in a conversation that afternoon they asked if we noted any differences they should be aware of while in the U.S.,” Joie explained. “We pointed out that Americans expected to be acknowledged in passing even if they did not know the person. We had experienced the opposite in France—unless the person knew you, they would not acknowledge or even look at you. We explained that this American Midwestern habit of a greeting even applied when passing others by car with a simple as raising a finger off the steering wheel. The French family found this U.S. custom amusing and strange.”

Karl Costabel, owner of HomeLink USA, says: “We are, and I suspect will remain, a niche market. Our main demographic is the psychological profile of the individual: They must be easygoing and open to the idea of turning over their home to a stranger. There is little middle ground. When a person hears about this, there are two common reactions, either ‘This is great, how do I join,’ or ‘You’d have to be totally deranged to offer your home to a stranger.’ I tell people openly that if they have any concerns about security they should not join as they would not be able to enjoy their vacation.”

[Another home swap company] agrees to a point. “The idea of a stranger in your home isn’t just a potential concern; it is probably everyone’s primary concern if it’s their first experience. But by the time homes are actually exchanged, the person is anything but a stranger,” he said, citing all the information posted on each homeowner’s page on the website, the extensive communication leading to an exchange, and the ability to check references.

For a mainstream vacation alternative, [they] sees home exchange as being at the tipping point of acceptance. [They] said 10 years ago [their] membership was skewed to teachers and retirees but today it’s also newlyweds, empty nesters, young families, and people with teenagers. Many have taken to the concept wholeheartedly.

“The popularity of home exchanging reflects major trends that are changing how we travel,” said [Another Home Swap Company]. “We are all closer today, the world is shrinking due to technology like computers, phones and low-cost air travel. We are all becoming neighbors.“

“In a hotel, or even in many [vacation rentals], you have no way of knowing what country you are in by the decor,” he observed. “With home exchanging, you stay in a home that someone actually lives in, and the local culture is visible through the spices in the kitchen and the books and CDs on the shelves, the art on the walls, and even by the architecture of the structure itself.”

Ana, of the Portuguese island of Madeira agrees. She has done 28 home exchanges in the past 13 years with [Another Home Swap Company] and found the structure of some of the homes she has stayed in to reveal aspects of the history and culture of that destination.

“In Amsterdam, we stayed in a very tall and narrow building, right in the center, next to a hotel and in front of the main museum, the Rijksmuseum,” she said. “My husband and I were traveling without our daughters, so it was just the two of us and we had five levels all to ourselves. It was very strange to be on the computer on the 5th floor, go down to the 1st floor to go to the toilet, go up to the 3rd floor to wash my hands (the bathroom was split into two parts on two different levels) and then back to the computer on the 5th floor. All because back in the sixteenth and seventh century, Dutch authorities levied taxes from citizens based in part on the width of their houses!”

“For my family, the greatest cultural difference was when we traveled to NY, as all our other exchanges were in Europe,” she explained. “We stayed in a beautiful penthouse on 96th Street with a view over Central Park. For us, it was very interesting ordering in Mexican food. Of course, we also order food back home, but I had never been given so many choices over the phone and I was very surprised to also get disposable plates and cutlery and napkins with our order.”

“The experience made me realize several cultural differences between NY and Madeira. In NY, ordering food in seems much more common and all kinds of restaurants seemed to have that option. Everything in the apartment we exchanged to was much bigger than back home… except the kitchen, which was tiny according to our standards. It looked like people don’t cook their own food as often as in Portugal. Back home, I might order food once a month or even less than that.”

“I realized restaurants would only delivery within a certain number of blocks, which makes sense given the number of people on each block,” she continued. “In the whole of Funchal there are 150,000 people, and any restaurant that makes home deliveries covers at least the whole city.”

“The size of a city block in NY is still mind-boggling to me.” Ana said. “The building we stayed in didn’t feel that big compared to others in the area—and it had 400 apartments! It was the biggest building I have ever stayed at although it was not big by NY standards. My own apartment block where I lived in at the time had 14 apartments and it is the biggest on my street! I lived in Old Town Funchal, in a street that is actually 700 meters long and the oldest one in Madeira, dating back to the fifteenth century.”

Home exchanging offers not only cultural perspective but the ability to get the scoop on an area from locals—and make friends in the process.

“The benefits to home exchanging are practical and social,” said Laura of Westfield, MA. “By the time you get there, you already know the best bakery, the museum that is a ‘must-see,’ the road to avoid. If you want, you can meet everyday people, the exchange family’s friends and neighbors. We’ve been invited to wonderful dinners, been toured around town, and sipped wine in evening neighborhood get-togethers. We are still in touch with several of the families.”

Lisa of Lexington, MA said, “The people who own the house we stayed at in St. Lucia are restaurateurs, and we got to know some of their staff. I spent a lot of time talking with a woman who came to the house every day to wash the napkins from the restaurant. Meeting her was one of the most interesting aspects of being there for me. We were roughly the same age, and had a tremendous amount in common, although our lives are completely different.”

Scott of Cambridge, MA, who with his wife, Laura, and two children has been home exchanging for more than 15 years, heard about the concept from a fellow parent while dropping his kids off at school. [His] family have traded homes in Venice; Lucerne, Switzerland; Toulouse, France; and Iceland, Greece, and Hawaii.

He listed the reasons they are committed exchangers: “Traveling with kids is, of course, expensive. It saved us tons of money. Having a kitchen is great. I love to cook. We could stay abroad longer. We were visitors rather than tourists. We were integrated into communities.”

[They] “paid it forward” while enjoying a month in Hawaii two years ago. [He] had approached a couple whose Maui home they had stayed in a decade earlier. The couple declined a second exchange, saying they were afraid of spending time away from home; one of their mothers, Ivy, was 95 and frail and living in a downstairs in-law apartment. [He] reminded the couple that his wife is a physician and in an emergency they could be counted on. They accepted.

“We stayed in their gorgeous house and Ivy joined us nightly for ice cream and we got her fish dinners from a take-out place we all liked. In the morning we spent time with her feeding the tropical songbirds,” [He] said.

Home-Swapping: An Introduction to Cultural Traditions & Nuances
In making a home exchange, people often commit to a visit of two-four weeks—which means slower travel that is not a “drive-by” or rushed experience affording only a superficial glimpse of a destination.

“Home exchanges are more than trips,” said Claudia  of San Diego, who with her husband RJ has done nine exchanges in the last five years with HomeLink. “They are revelations. Our recent exchange to Victoria and Vancouver, Canada, is just one example.”

“Our first day in a community is often spent just walking our new neighborhood. In Victoria, we strolled the beautiful and historic downtown area,” she recalled. “I glanced down at the marina and saw a graceful canoe with that iconic pacific northwest Indian artwork on it, along side the usual retinue of yachts, sailboats, etc . This was our first clue. We only put together how deeply integrated the area was with their First Nation populations as we settled into our very Victorian exchange home.”

“As we passed through the month we saw street signs in both English and First Nation dialects,” she continued. “We noticed that in our neighborhood, local children had picked bottoms of telephone poles to paint, emulating the beautiful totem poles that seem to grow out of the landscape. Saturday morning TV included First Nation cartoon characters celebrating a potlatch ceremony. Aboriginal art graced everything from gift shop postcards to wall murals.”

“Victoria offers an entire museum, The Royal BC Museum, which pays tribute to the local indigenous population, the Coastal Salish and other Pacific Northwest tribes,” Claudia said. “This museum houses incredible examples of totem poles, masks, clothing, and other artifacts-colorful wooden pieces of British Columbian history. Amazing modern First Nation artists are featured as well, leaving visitors with a sense of who these people were and who they continue to be.”

Claudia & R.J. of San Diego were able to appreciate the First Nation culture in British Columbia more thoroughly through their extended home swap.

“What an unexpected revelation—this layering of cultures in such an authentic way,” she reflected. By contrast, we were struck by how little Native American culture has been blended into mainstream American culture.”

“For example, we have never seen a Native American cartoon character,” she said. “Unless close to a reservation, Native American artwork is absent from gift stores or popular culture. These are superficial examples, yet point to the lack of “presence” and assimilation Native Americans typically have in our county.”

“Home exchanging, wherever you go, is the opportunity to live with the community,” Claudia said. “Looking underneath the typical one- or two-day turnaround in an area can be startling—in a good way. We are always surprised how different, and delightful, the local cultures are compared to what our inexperienced impressions were. It is amazing how much we don’t know and how fun it is to learn on a little bit deeper level.”

“What other mode of travel could be this deep?” she asked. “Home exchanging is, almost by definition, a seamless way to understand, enjoy and gratefully accept other cultures.”

Craig of New Zealand had the opportunity to immerse in a time-honored French cultural tradition while on a HomeLink exchange in 2016.

“Our first exchange was in France, where we stayed in a grand old family home in a small village named Mathieu, near Caen in Normandy,” he said. “Our French exchange partners had asked several of their groups of friends to contact us to make us feel welcome.”

“A few days after we arrived, we received a phone call from one couple who lived nearby and who invited us to their home for aperitifs a few days hence, “ Craig explained. “Of course we gratefully accepted their kind invitation.”

“However we had never experienced French aperitifs occasions before and had no idea what it entailed—but I had a feeling that there would likely be a considerable amount of etiquette and convention associated with these occasions,” he said. “I guessed it would be somewhat different to inviting some friends around to our home in New Zealand ‘for a few drinks’.”

“I spent quite some time searching the internet for the etiquette of French aperitif occasions. There was a wealth of suggestions available—the do’s and don’ts, what to take and what to not take by way of a gift, which flowers were acceptable and which were not, how long to stay, things that would be best not discussed—and so on. It was great fun doing the research.”

“We walked with some trepidation to our guests’ home and, despite some small language difficulties, we had the most marvelous time—it was wonderful fun. Lovely, friendly gracious people.”

“A further few days later, we had a similar invitation call from another couple and again we accepted. We went to their home and had a similar experience to the first one except these people had the most outrageous senses of humor and we spent the hour or so in fits of laughter. Again lovely people.”

“A few more days, and a third call. This time from a couple who lived in Paris, friends of our exchange partners, who were staying with other friends nearby. Of course by this time we considered ourselves to be ‘experienced, old-hands aperitifs-goers—so this time it was our turn: ‘Would you like to come here for aperitifs with us’?”

“The third couple duly arrived and quite quickly we were all much at ease. They apparently did not embrace the ‘only two drinks’ rule—we had a ball. It turned out that he was a very high-ranking French civil servant who had involvement with New Zealand at times in his earlier career. They were a very interesting and convivial couple and we enjoyed their company immensely.”

“Later we reciprocated with individual aperitif invitations to the first two couples to come to our exchange home. These occasions were a delightful introduction to a very French custom and we felt honored to have had the opportunity to experience it. Apart from anything else, it was fun.”

Joie & Syd [with HomeLink] also got a similar chance to experience an authentic dimension of another culture while home swapping.

“The parents of our exchange family lived next door and invited their close golfing friends and us for tea one day,” Joie recalled. “One of these guests invited us to their home the next day and asked if we had ever ridden in a “narrowboat”. When we said ‘no’, she said she owned one and invited us to go out with her the next day.”

A narrowboat is made to fit the canals of the United Kingdom; the first of these played a key part in the economic changes of the Industrial Revolution and were drawn by a horse on a towpath. By the end of the 19th century it was common practice to paint roses and castles on narrowboats and their fixtures and fittings. This tradition has continued into the 21st century.

“Syd got to steer the boat under the bridges and, at one point, the canal actually went over the top of the road!” Joie said. “Each couple at the tea invited us to their home and all were friendly and helpful. By letter and phone, we kept a friendship going for years.”

Joie also observed that cultural differences can occasionally create confusion and snafus in the exchanging process.

“A doctor from North Carolina wanted to have a family gathering at our home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina so we exchanged for his home on the Island of Evia in Greece,” she said. “Before going to the Greek island, we met the doctor at one of his homes in North Carolina. He totally ignored me and wanted to only converse with Syd. I kept asking him logistical questions we needed to have answered in order to find his home. He kept telling me ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry.’ ”

“We had never gone to a home exchange without a key or clear directions to find the location,” she said. “The doctor told us to go to a particular restaurant and ask for ‘Jacque’. Well, we had multiple flight disruptions that significantly delayed our arrival on the island, and our luggage got lost in the process. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was after midnight and no “Jacques” was there, because the restaurant was closed. We finally found some taxi drivers and despite the language barrier, they knew the name of the doctor whose home we wanted to find.”

“The taxi driver took us up a twisty road going up a mountain and brought us to the home of the doctor’s caretaker,” Joie recounted. “The taxi driver shouted ‘Maria!’ out into the silent darkness! He did it twice, and finally an elderly lady appeared in her beaded doorway. We explained ‘no bags’; while she spoke no English, she clearly understood us, as she went inside and came back out with her deceased husband’s pajamas for Syd and a new nightgown for me. She took us to the doctor’s property, and Syd & I dropped into bed and fell fast asleep.”

“The next morning we opened the shutters and lo, down in the courtyard stood Maria, a friend of hers who spoke English, a card table, a dish of figs from her tree and a homemade coffeecake,” Joie said. “We had a lovely breakfast with them.”

“Our cultural takeaway from this exchange?” Joie asked. “Don’t believe Greeks when they say ‘don’t worry,’ and appreciate the innate kindness of the people.”

Alexander and Maaike of the Netherlands have made more than 15 HomeLink home exchanges, with three of those being with homeowners in Boulder, CO. Their experience of day-to-day American culture was nuanced but revelatory.

“Every Thursday night in Boulder is the crazy bike ride; people bike in funny dresses and the route develops,” Alexander said. “I watched the bikers and I liked the event for its positive energy and social nature. I wanted to bike with my wife and daughter. Two mountain bikes were available in the home, but no option for transporting a child. In the park, I saw a family of four and the youngest child was sitting in a two-seated bicycle for children.”

“I decided to have a chat with this family, and the chat lasted two hours,” he continued. “The next week, we did the Thursday bike ride together, and my daughter and the family’s daughter shared the child’s bicycle. During this home exchange vacation, we became friends and spent a lot of time in each other’s houses.”

“Our lives somehow become integrated and we became part of each other’s logistics,” he said. “Suddenly you know someone else’s agenda for the day, you eat together, take the kids to the sports clubs, meet their friends and parents. Our new friends owned companies and I learned a lot about the staff members and about taking risks. We let the dogs out and ate pizza at eleven o’clock at night and were present when the au pair was picked up by her boyfriend for an evening out. Our family became somehow integrated with the other family, however this never was never actually discussed. My wife and the woman of this family shared a special interest and later, she and my wife became business partners.”

While on their second home exchange in Boulder, Alexander & Maaike enjoyed another instance of serendipity in a simple encounter.

“We visited the farmers’ market in Boulder center—the atmosphere was almost like one of these movies made about Woodstock festival,” Alexander said. “By walking through the market, I thought ‘How can I fit in, how can I be part of this? By buying a piece of organic cheese?’ As I was wondering this, my daughter found a stuffed mountain lion that was on display at the local police department booth. Finding this stuffed animal resulted in us talking to the volunteer for two hours with a cup of tea sitting on the stairs. He instructed my daughter how to avoid encounters with mountain lions. Moreover, he pointed us to his favorite hikes in the area and he spoke about his personal experiences on these hikes—which influenced our own experience in a positive way.”

On another visit to Boulder, Maaike got a glimpse of a cultural tradition not unique to that area, but one she would not necessarily have encountered without home exchanging.

“I was invited to a Seder meal by another Boulder family,” she said. “We learnt a lot about how one family celebrates Seder, bits and pieces of the Jewish faith, and family celebrations. Without our home exchanges in Boulder, this fantastic hospitality would not have been something that easily would have crossed my path as a tourist otherwise and I was very grateful for the friendship and cultural insight. “

Alexander’s interest in home exchanging extends beyond his own experience. As an international academic, he made this mode of travel the subject of his doctoral dissertation. From that perspective, he came to the conclusion that home exchanging is the antithesis of “McDonaldization,” a commercial process in which everything becomes commodified, mass-produced, and standardized in a constant drive to increase efficiency—one that results in predictable experiences. Alexander’s study identified home exchanging as a de-McDonaldization network, bringing back the human dimension to travel lodging and changing it from a transaction to an interaction, with participants experiencing valuable, transformative, unique experiences.

The number of home exchange platforms has grown since [HomeLink] founded more than six decades ago. Some companies now offer options beyond a simple reciprocal home-to-home swap that include a system that awards your home points based on its size and location, and non-simultaneous schemes that allow a third party to stay in your home on the basis of a previous exchange with another participant. And now there’s home exchanging for the elite, which has an initiation fee of $2500 and requires participants to own a luxury vacation home, and invitation-only group.

HomeLink owners Karl & Katie Costabel plan to stick to their knitting.

“We have no plans to shift from offering our members the same traditional, reciprocal, non-monetary home exchange opportunities we’ve been offering since our inception some 66 years ago,” Katie said. “This traditional type of home exchanging is what our members prefer and have come to expect.”

Whether the evaluation is anecdotal or analytical, the consensus is that home exchanging is a unique way to forge connections with your fellow man that are both global and local. With a plethora of programs to choose from, you’re sure to find a match suited for your personal style.

What are you waiting for?  Begin your cultural immersion as a home exchanger!

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Love to travel? Read more for great home swap info!

Love to travel?, Try Trading Places By: Sharon Cutler, Boulder County Home and Garden Magazine
If you love to travel but crave the comforts of home, a home exchange might be right up your alley. Along with the amenities of a home, an exchange lets you take more vacations because you don’t have to pay hotel and car-rental fees. A home exchange is when you trade your home with someone else’s. It’s usually coordinated through an established network that charges a nominal annual fee to connect you with members around the world. The concept has been around since the...

Love to travel? Read more for great home swap info!

Love to travel?, Try Trading Places

By: Sharon Cutler, Boulder County Home and Garden Magazine


If you love to travel but crave the comforts of home, a home exchange might be right up your alley. Along with the amenities of a home, an exchange lets you take more vacations because you don’t have to pay hotel and car-rental fees. A home exchange is when you trade your home with someone else’s. It’s usually coordinated through an established network that charges a nominal annual fee to connect you with members around the world. The concept has been around since the 1950s, when queries were mailed and responses could take weeks. By comparison, today’s exchanges are a breeze with connections made and contracts signed online.

There are countless home-exchange networks to choose from; just Google “home exchange” and take your pick. To start your journey, simply join a network, create a listing that showcases your property and location, and start dreaming about where you want to go. There are no limits. Search for homes that fuel your fantasy with the perfect locale and number of bedrooms and baths, and are available during your travel dates. Then email the network members to see if your plans mesh. Once you agree on an exchange, your adventure begins. But be aware: As your geographical boundaries expand, you may find yourself becoming obsessed with magical places you never knew existed!

Besides the opportunity to travel to extraordinary destinations, the advantages of a home exchange are many. You get a travel base that’s an actual home, with separate bedrooms for the kids, a fully equipped kitchen, a yard, a potential pet, and perhaps even a car.

And the best thing about a home exchange is it’s free. Well, not exactly. While no money changes hands during a home exchange, a certain amount of sweat equity is required to prepare your home for a swap. There’s the obvious, of course, like stashing valuables, wiping crumbs out of the silverware drawer, vacuuming dust bunnies under the beds, and clearing space in your closets and dressers.

But it’s the not-so-obvious behind-the-scene tasks that can make or break a swap experience. Here are tricks my family has learned that have helped pave the way for successful exchanges. Katie Costable, the U.S. representative for HomeLink International, also weighs in with her advice.

HELP WITH DIRECTIONS
Your guests are apt to arrive hungry, weary and sans GPS. If your home is off the beaten path or difficult to find, supplement your written directions with photos showing the more obscure turns and landmarks.

CREATE A GUIDE
Create a notebook so all information, “even tips on how to get quirky appliances to work,” is in one place, Costable says. “And leave it in plain sight.” Don’t forget to include favorite restaurants, local attractions and important phone numbers, including emergency contacts, doctors and even neighbors who are willing to answer questions.

TALK TRASH

Let home-swap guests know what to put in the garbage, recycling and compost bins. Make sure the bins are clearly labeled, and tape a note with the pickup schedule on each bin.

TIPS FOR TECHNOPHOBES
If your guests are from another country, English will likely be their second, or even third, language. Mastering your electronics and appliances can be daunting, if not impossible, without a little help. Provide instructions with photos showing which buttons to push and in what order to push them.

STAY CONNECTED
Another must for your home guide is your Wi-Fi password. “This definitely needs to be in the notebook,” Costable says. And if your modem often crashes, be sure to provide reset instructions.

GROW A GREEN THUMB
Move all your indoor plants to one area to make watering a breeze. You can do the same with outdoor pots. “If you don’t have an automatic sprinkler system, be sure to write down the watering schedule,” Costable says.

LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Provide tips on what to do, where to go and what to avoid. For example, your home-swap guests will want to know not to drive eastbound on I-70 on a weekend afternoon during ski season.

START A CONVERSATION
“Know the questions to ask and the details to exchange before the swap,” Costable suggests. Pay attention to details, like when your guests are arriving, how they’ll receive the key, what kind of gas your car takes, areas that are off-limits, if there are pets that require care, and any other expectations.

MAKE SPACE
It’s tough to make space in overflowing closets or overstuffed drawers. If clearing them out is more than you can manage, invest in a few portable clothes racks to put your clothes on and store the racks in another room or in the basement. Unpack dresser drawers into boxes and stack them in an unused corner or beneath the bed.

STASH VALUABLES
Remember to store personal papers and valuables in a safe place. The easiest solution is to lock everything in an extra room or closet. If that’s not possible, try hiding them in your crawl space or attic, moving them to a safe-deposit box or taking them to a friend’s for safekeeping.

ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES
“Leave a small gift for your home-exchange partners, like the makings of a meal or a premade meal with heating instructions,” Costable says. That makes guests feel welcome and sets the tone for a successful exchange.

Setting up a home exchange takes a little time, but it’s not complicated. Whether your dream destination is an apartment in the Alps, a flat in Finland, a cottage in Curaçao or a bungalow in the Bahamas, you’ll find your perfect home exchange if you’re willing to invest the time and energy to make it happen.

And chances are, you’ll make some new friends in the process.

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