What is Home exchange?
Home Exchange is where you swap your home with that of someone else, either simultaneously or non-simultaneously. These days contact is usually made via the internet. The families negotiate duration, dates, what is on or off limits. A car may or may not be included in the exchange. In addition to exchanging homes some home exchangers also offer hospitality. I am heading to France at the end of next month and will be taking up three offers of hospitality. I will also be doing a non-simultaneous exchange in Paris with Fraussie Grouet from Aussie in France. I am so excited about it. Imagine me staying in the Palais Royal.
Home Exchange is not for everyone, but we have found it a rich and wonderful experience and certainly recommend it for like-minded people. Trust and communication is the key to a successful exchange. It doesn't matter whether your home is large or small, modest or luxurious, there are people who may be interested in what your home offers.
Why home exchange?
For me the answer is much more than the obvious cost-savings associated with the scheme.
- You can live as a local rather than just as a tourist. Often you will be in a residential area so you can meet the neighbours, shop at the local shops, use public transport etc. The chance for real cultural exchange and immersion are greatly increased compared with staying in a hotel.
- You will have the added benefit of the inside knowledge of the local area by your home exchange family.
- You will frequently have more space to relax and enjoy. This may include outdoor area.
- You can prepare your own meals, wash your clothes etc. Children can access toys and books, and infant equipment may be provided.
- The advantage of having your home, pets and plants cared for in your absence. This includes improved security for your home.
- The option of access to a vehicle included in the exchange.
I recently instituted a get-together of more than 20 exchangers in Adelaide. All of them spoke of positive experiences. So far we have completed exchanges to Melbourne, Sydney and Belgium. We currently have exchanges for France planned. In addition a number of French exchangers have offered me hospitality when travelling in France this year. They are not planning on travelling to Australia but have kindly offered for me to stay with them. What a wonderful privilege and opportunity to meet the local people. I am very excited about this. In other cases where an exchange was not mutually convenient I will be meeting up with people for a drink or meal. Likewise we will meet and show some French exchangers around Adelaide when they are here staying at other people’s homes. This is such a culturally rewarding opportunity which we greatly value. As one person said at the Adelaide Homelink gathering:
When you get people who love travelling together, there is always something to talk about.
Where to start?
There are numerous organisations on the internet offering exchange programmes. Ideally the one you choose should allow you to search for homeowners in your desired location who are seeking to come to your area or are open to offers. I recommend that you research and peruse the listings of a number of sites. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions on these websites. If you can, speak to family and friends to see if they have any experience or knowledge of the groups. Travel sections in magazines and newspapers often review the various organisations. Some organisations specialise in what home exchanges they offer; eg luxury, over 50 etc
We chose Homelink as it has been operating since 1953 and also provides Local Coordinators in more than 27 countries including Australia. It is possible to telephone toll-free Lisa, our Australian coordinator, and ask questions. Additionally we found that Homelink offered lots of French families who wanted to come to Australia. It also offers the ability to search for non-smokers or people without children if this is a requirement. Contact information is only available to members of the group and there is a facility to contact exchangers within the Homelink database. Homelink also offers a facility to tailor, record and save exchange agreements. Having a formal agreement means that if for unforeseen circumstances the exchange falls through the Homelink Coordinator will assist in locating another exchange.
Future direction for home exchange organisations
The face of home exchange organisation is on the verge of changing with the arrival of CasaHop. It proposes using social networks to help find the perfect home exchanges. CasaHop has not yet been fully launched but you are able to register your details with them. Time will tell whether this method of using social networks is accepted and viable for home exchangers.
I will be covering in future posts some tips for exchanges and preparing the home. In the mean time you may be interested in the following:
- Fraussie Grouet's Aussie in France post 'Our First Home Exchange'