Archive: House-Swapping Stories
Some travelers want to be at home in a foreign country. They do this on a shoestring by swapping houses with Europeans. Is this workable and worth the trouble? What are good sources for home exchanges?
I am very pleased with and highly recommend HomeExchange.Com. I believe they're the best of the many of the Internet-based home exchange services. The format is superior and the site very easy to use. They also have many international listings. The featured listing page is very fun and many of the homes are fabulous.
You get the privacy of a members-only service. And my listing with them does not contain my name or email address, yet they have a way for anyone to contact me directly. This protects my privacy yet makes my listing available to all.
I have had many responses to my listings and have completed several
exchanges to Europe over the course of 2.5 years. We were delighted by
the experience and our exchange partners also had a great time.
Laguna Beach, CA USA 02/12/99
When we posted our listing, we didn't know that TEACHER SWAP, INC. had
an email address. Now that we've become unpaid intermediaries for this
fine group, we'd like to forward the email address to the world: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark and Joyce Mellander
Freestone, CA USA 02/03/99
We are a family of 4 [including 2 daughters, now 12 and 8]. Over the past
4 years we have successfully completed 3 home exchanges — one in Belgium,
one in The Netherlands and one in Denmark. There is no better way to travel
and to really met the locals. We became very good friends with several
of our "Belgium neighbors", and 2 families that we met there have come
to visit us. We use HomeLink, and we are very pleased with the results.
Each time we have exchanged cars and bikes as well. Randall
Homelink's web site is now www.swapnow.com.
San Clemente, CA USA 12/31/98
We traded homes two times, in 1993 and 1995. The first time, we traded our California home for a house in Opladen, near Koln (Cologne) Germany. We swapped cars as well. We spent five of the ensuing six weeks driving around western Europe, Rick Steveing our way through Italy, France, Austria, Holland and of course Germany. Thanks Rick for making our first Eurotrip so fun. We hardly sepnt any time in our German home, camping and hotelling it instead.
Our second trip we traded for a flat in the Latin Quarter of Paris. In this case, we spent most of our trip in Paris, mais oui! Tres magnifique! We had a boulangerie, fromagerie, charcuterie and metro within a block of ours flat. The house owner had arranged for his ex-wife to meet us at his flat and let us in. She provided wine and cheese (naturally), and even ordered a brand new mattress for our use, as our swapper's mattress was in storage. Being based in Paris was great, as we could use the week-long museum pass to full advantage (averaging three sites a day: at least double the price of the pass.) We also traded cars with the Parisian, we used it to escape to Normandy, Belgium and Holland.
We arranged both exchanges through TEACHER SWAP, INC. They only work
with teachers and professors, and all listings are current each year.
Teachers tend to have a professional trust in each other. Nevertheless,
we wrote and spoke to each swapper before agreeing. The Parisian caused
minor damage to one car seat (a screw came out), and we broke his plastic
refrigerator handle (which we superglued.) All in all, two great exchanges.
I recommend swapping for the big cities, thus freeing you from the parking
and roomfinding hassles. Next trip, we will shoot for Roma!
Mark and Joyce Mellander
Freestone, CA USA 11/07/98
We had a recent Vacation Home Exchange in York, England, and it was
a delight ! A very special way to meet the People of the Country visited,
along with a home base for short day trips to nearby places of interest.
Also we traded Autos. Our Echange Partners were also delighted to have
the same opportunity in our Seattle area home. We both met through our
being members of Home Link International.
Jack and Gale Vidano
Bainbridge Island, Wa USA 11/01/98
Exchanging homes last summer was the best thing our family ever did! I am a Media Specialist at a local high school and had many resources at my fingertips to use as we planned our trip. The best home exchange resource is a book entitled "Home Exchange Vacationing: Your Guide To Free Accomodations" by Bill and Mary Barbour. This couple interviewed over 1000 families who had home exchanged. Included are many stories, most positive, a few negative about personal experiences with exchanging. Also included are forms that can be used for leaving information for guest families and a home exchange agreement. The book contains great ideas and covers many concerns or problems that one might not even think about; such as house keys, appliance use, and so much more.
We joined a home exchange club that is listed on the Internet. After looking at many organizations, we chose Vacation Homes Unlimited www.vacation-homes.com because they only list curent subscribers and they place a "New" icon by homes that are recently listed. This is a great idea. A new listing means you are contacting a family that hasn't had a vacation arranged six months prior.
Because I am a teacher and have two months free in the summer, our family
arranged two home exchanges which worked out beautifully. Our exchange
homes were only about an hour and forty five minutes apart. While we were
living in the first home, we drove to the second and had dinner with the
second family and got a tour of their home and any needed information.
Then after we moved to the second home, we drove to the first family's
home and spent the day with them, being driven around to places only known
to the locals. We got along so well together, we spent several days with
them, feeling like one of the natives. What a fantastic vacation! Both
families (Scottish) were warm, gracious, and extremely generous. We have
become such good friends with the first family, we hope to vacation together
in the year 2000! In fact, we email and phone each other on a regular
basis. I highly recommend home exchange and am happy to discuss it further
with anyone! It's the only way our family will vacation from now on.
Pensacola, Fl USA 10/14/98
Having once exchanged our Jackson Hole condo for a Paris apartment,
we are about to spend three weeks in an apartment on the French Riviera,
also arranged through our membership in Homelink International. There
isn't a better, more interesting or more affordable way for our family
Lansing, MI USA 09/02/98
We recently returned from an exchange of our Milton, Massachusetts home with that of a family in the south of France. The home exchange went very well, but the car exchange left something to be desired. We were stranded roadside and otherwise hampered by auto repair problems which we believe should have been anticipated, prompting us to give some thought to future agreements. Our next one might have language like this:
Prior to the car exchange we will make sure that our cars have recently received routine maintainance and are running well. We will also have a mechanic examine the cause of and repair any shudder, bucking, or other overt signs of problem in advance of the exchange.
Perhaps this would be of use to someone. If you have other language,
please let me know.
Boston, MA USA 09/01/98
We have exchanged homes in both London and Paris by looking in our local
newspaper. Americans living in Europe advertised that they wanted to rent
a house in the U.S. for their summer vacations. We wrote, sending a picture
of our place, and asked if the folks who wanted to rent would exchange
instead. Both times worked out great at no cost to anyone. We even exchanged
John and Betty Haro
Scottsdale, AZ USA 07/05/98
I concur with the recommendation for HomeLink. We did our first home exchange in May of 1997, spending two weeks in Milton Keynes, England. We're doing another exchange in England this fall, going to a small village near York. We're also hosting a family from Tielt, Belgium, this summer, who will reciprocate whenever we can get there.
Home exchange is not only economical, but a great way to get to know the locals by actually living like one. The only tough part (other than writing the initial query letters — I sent out 50 for each exchange!) is deciding where you want to go.
I recommend the book "Home Exchange Vacationing" by Bill and Mary Barbour — it
has lots of answers on exchanges!
Beaverton, or USA 06/02/98
We've had a great experience with Homelink International (1-800-638-3841,
e-mail: email@example.com). Through Homelink, we traded our vacation condo
in Jackson Hole for a wonderful apartment in Paris.
Best thing to do if you're serious is sign up with HomeLink or Intervac,
two large, reputable home-exchange organizations that publish directories
each year with thousands of listings. The deadline for being in the next
year's directory is usually in the fall, but you can still contact potential
swappers through the directory without having your own listing there.