Perhaps you have seen the movie “The Holiday,” where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet decide to get away from it all by swapping homes? Or perhaps you have heard a friend mention a home exchange program for families. Regardless, you’re curious. What exactly is a home swap or home exchange, and how does it work? We went directly to the source, asking HomeExchange.com’s President Jim Pickell to answer our questions and help us understand if home swaps are right for us.
Q: What is a home exchange?
A: Home exchanges are based on this simple concept: “You stay in my house, and I stay in yours.” It does not have to be at the same time. If both parties agree to stay at each other’s place at different times, it works. .
Q: Is home swapping safe?
A: HomeExchange has been in business for 24 years and we’ve never had any major incidents with safety. This said, the trust that our members place in us is not taken for granted. We take many precautions to make our community safe. Among others, this involves a highly qualified Member Support team with representatives offering 24/7 support in all our key countries and languages, a secure message system and constantly improving trust and safety procedures.
Over a million home exchanges based on reciprocity have been facilitated by HomeExchange.com, with countless success stories and unforgettable family vacations.
Q: Why is HomeExchange membership only? What are the benefits of becoming a member?
A: HomeExchange has always operated in the spirit of a club as we think that best reflects the community spirit of exchanging. In becoming a member, you have access to the other members through the internal message system. We help our new members to get to know how it works, prepare their first home exchange, and enjoy the quality and friendliness of the community.
It can appear as a commitment in the first place (a limited commitment though: $150 per year is hardly the price of a night in a hotel), but it makes total sense once you start to receive inquiries such as: “Hey, we are Andrea and Juliana and our children Tom, 7 years old and Cristina, 4 years old, living near Firenze, Tuscany. We have a lovely house just 30 minutes from the city with four bedrooms, a garden and plenty for toys for the kids. Would you like to exchange with us for two weeks in July?”
Q: What comes with a home swap?
A: Plenty of goodies typically come with the house! It starts with immaterial benefits like a warm welcome, a basket of local specialties, the best insider’s travel recommendations you’ll never find in any guidebook, and all the amenities (toys, bikes, surf boards, etc.) Car exchange is optional. About 20 percent of home exchanges include a car exchange, obviously a bonus very appreciated by families. Overall, feeling like an invited guest is a priceless benefit.
Q: Besides homes, what else are people swapping?
A: Anything someone can sleep on or in. We have all sorts of boats, RVs, treehouses, primary AND second homes (some members can enjoy two residences of their exchange partners during they stay), beach cabins, mountain chalets, penthouses, houseboats, pagodas, chateaux (yes, for real!), and even a house on the beach in South Africa called the Sandcastle, which really looks like one.
Q: What about pets?
A: With HomeExchange, you can leave your pet at home and have a loving family to take care of him, as you will take care of theirs. Members can specifically seek homes that are pet-friendly and agree to watch each other’s pets while swapping homes.
Q: How do families find homes with toys, bikes and fun things for the kids?
A: It is easy: find another family to exchange with! The options are nearly unlimited: out of over 65,000 listings in 150 countries, more than half are families with kids. Go visit the listings in the destination of your choice. The pictures, descriptions and profiles will tell you a lot about what you can expect. You will soon find not one, but many happy families to exchange with you.
Q: How far in advance should someone book a home swap?
A: To be on the safe side, and be sure that you will get exactly the place you want and the dates of your choice, we recommend you start looking three months ahead of time. However, if you are open to opportunities, and do not stick to a specific destination, you can organize a home exchange in no time. Several of my exchanges were coordinated after the local mountains received a few feet of powder. After storms I sent some inquiries to Mammoth, Park City and Big Sky and ended up with great exchanges at all three mountains!