|Home Swappers Newsletter|
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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
Long time Home Base Holidays members, John and Marilyn from Appleby, Cumbria, England, left the following comment on a recent post on our blog, 60+ Home Swap Holidays - is This a Record?:
'60+ Exchanges.....as you see we are completely captivated by home exchange holidays and constantly remind friends what a wonderful concept this is.
We did our first home swap in 1975, with family, and after repeating the experience several times we then "went public" and have stayed in all types of homes in the UK and Europe over the years.
Nothing can beat the excitement when offers are received, unless it is the excitement of exploring a new home on arrival. We love getting to know "our" new neighbours, caring for pets and immersing ourselves in a new environment.
Our sons have been home exchanging since they were babies and are now preparing their own homes in readiness to continue the family tradition. In the meantime, they often join us on swaps, as do friends occasionally, and even our family dog is an "experienced exchanger"!
Thank you "Home Base"'
Editor's Note: Who better to ask for tips for new home exchangers! Here's Marilyn's top ten tips:
'After lots of successful home exchanges we now have an idea of what we look for in a swap and...with temerity...offer a few suggestions to anyone thinking of exchanging for the first time.
2. Draft your advert with care. Include details of your home, facilities, family & locality, saying why your area would be ideal as a holiday destination. We all know the attractions of London, but overseas visitors especially may never have heard of your region so add a link to a local website. Be flexible with your dates and preferred destinations.
3. Photographs. I can`t stress how important these are to your home exchange entry so have your home looking its best and take tempting photographs inside and out. You will receive more offers if you have photographs, or even better, a personal website. After all, you would not choose a package holiday from a brochure without photographs.
4. Take the Initiative, write to several prospective exchangers. A friendly informative offer, addressed to them personally, will result in a greater success rate. Again be flexible and open to alternative dates/periods. If you can`t fix a swap for this year, why not think ahead to next year?
5. Always Reply to an Offer. If you can`t make an immediate decision send an acknowledgement and say you will respond in a week. Don`t be discouraged if sometimes people fail to reply to your offers. It does happen, console yourself with the thought that you wouldn`t want to swap with ill- mannered people anyway!
6. Confirm & Commit to your swap. Don`t renege on your agreement later, even if you receive a better offer....save that offer for next year instead. Discuss the formalities with your guests. Ask questions, offer information, exchange more photographs. Agree who will pay utility & `phone bills, repairs, breakages, use of food, cleaning materials, bedlinen, towels. Advise your home (& car if applicable), insurance companies of the situation and if they are unsympathetic, shop around. Some people like to use a written agreement form...Home Base Holidays has one ready drafted for you and this can be a great help.
7. Prepare a "Home Book" containing practical information on your home & appliances. Include such details as where to find the fusebox, stopcock, operate the TV, when the dustbins are emptied etc. Useful telephone numbers....doctor, dentist, plumber, electrician, your own mobile numbers and those of helpful neighbours can be included too. (Before swapping send your own and neighbours numbers + location of a spare key, so that your guests can keep a copy with them in case of emergency). Leave up to date tourist leaflets, maps, guide books, train & bus timetables.
8. Clean everything & everywhere...make sure the cooker, fridge, oven, cutlery drawer...are spotless...just as you would wish to find them on arrival at your holiday home. No need to re-decorate the house but this is a great opportunity to do those little jobs you always meant to do, and of course you`ll reap the benefit too! Make space in drawers and cupboards for your exchange family to put their belongings, leave your home sparkling and welcoming, flowers are a nice touch.
9. Meet your guests if possible, you can get to know them a little & exchange keys. If not, leave them a welcome letter & perhaps a bottle of wine. Why not agree beforehand to leave milk, bread etc for each other? When leaving their home ensure you have agreed where to leave keys & what to do with used linen. Last but not least, leave a "thank you" letter.
10. Communicate throughout. Be open and honest in what you have to offer. If you want to include extra guests or a pet, ask in advance. Keep in regular contact with your exchangers from initial agreement to exchanging, this builds mutual trust.
Home exchanging is a life experience as well as a holiday. Try it once and you`re sure to be hooked for life! Best wishes, Marilyn'.
Marilyn and John's home (in photo) in Cumbria is a 17th century sandstone cottage with exposed stonework, oak beams and many original features in a tiny village near Appleby. There are beautiful views of the Pennine hills from the house and garden. Appleby lies in the Eden Valley, an ideal location for discovering the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, and Scotland, all less than an hour`s drive. (HE19593).
What a generally depressing start to 2009 with the news full of gloom and doom every day it seems. However, even in the bleakest times economically, we all need little treats and something good to look forward to. I have often seen quoted as an example of the change in buying patterns during an economic depression that women will put off buying new clothes (expensive) but will, instead, buy a new lipstick (cheap treat!). And it seems that many people are deciding to cut down on expensive meals out but rather add a few small treats to meals at home, hence supermarkets may do well at the expense of restaurants.
Holidays, being one of the most expensive purchases for many people, is another area where many will decide to look into cheaper ways to still have at least one holiday this year. And, ta-dah, home exchange fits the bill perfectly. Although generally when asked their reasons for taking part in home exchanges most Home Base Holidays members mention the enjoyment of having all the space and convenience of staying in a real home in a local neighbourhood rather than in a resort with other tourists above the cost savings involved, there is no doubt that this year, the savings on accommodation (and often hire cars and pet care) are an increasingly important aspect for many members.
Experienced home exchangers know that it's good to be an early bird, and get their exchange offers into circulation well in advance of their holiday dates for the best possibilities of finding suitable swaps. For this reason, especially in the long, drab winter days in January/February in the northern hemisphere, many people start planning holidays for the sunnier months ahead. For this reason, January especially is generally our busiest month for new members. However, this year has been exceptionally busy and it's been so much fun checking out the latest new offers every day.
When looking for an exchange, take time to browse all listings to find and contact all members whose offers are of interest (members: log on to your member area). Once you have exhausted the possibilities from current listings, if you haven't already agreed an exchange (or are looking for more than one - perhaps a few weekend breaks as well as longer holidays), then do check the latest offers often (listings of members joining during the last month are in date order with the latest first in the search results). New members with particularly attractive offers often receive a number of exchange offers within the first few days so it pays to be on the ball and not delay contacting new members before they have had time to agree to another offer.
Marilyn's tip #5 in her list of top ten tips for home exchangers in the feature article is a very good reminder: Always Reply to an offer. That seems obvious, and the majority of members are very conscientious about replying promptly even when they can't consider an offer or need more time to think about it, but we always get a few messages from members who are disappointed not to get a reply to one of their offer messages.
There can be genuine reasons why members sometimes don't respond promptly (or not at all) but, if you leave it a week before sending a second exchange offer message, and still don't get a response, it's unlikely that the member will be interested in your offer so time to move on and explore other possibilities.
Some reasons members may not respond:
Quite a large number of members use work email addresses, which is fine, except when they are away from work for some time and not checking email. We seem to increasingly be getting auto responder replies to alert messages. Auto responders seem a good idea but, if these include a message like 'I am away on annual leave for six weeks. If you have an urgent enquiry, please call Janet in Accounts', that's no use to a member who has sent an exchange offer and wonders why they aren't getting a reply! If you do use an auto responder when not checking email for some time, it would be a good idea to log on to your member area and add some temporary copy to the end of your description (Edit Listing) to alert members to the dates you will not be checking and responding to email and to say that you will reply as soon as possible on your return.
"I have travelled extensively in the past as the typical tourist, staying in hotels, B&Bs or hostels. But since joining Home Base Holidays I have discovered a new and exciting way of really getting to know a place.
Home exchange has allowed me to explore in depth individual areas, whilst being in comfortable and secure surroundings away from the tourist trails.
Right now I am on a long trip after my retirement. I have been in Windsor for two months on exchange and am about to go to France, where I have two organised exchanges. I was to return to my final exchange in Richmond in March for a month, but due to plumbing problems in this property I now find myself 'homeless'!
I am hoping someone is able to offer an exchange in England, near to London if possible, from March 25th- April 25th, when I return to Australia.
My home in Australia is a holiday home, on the beautiful surf coast of Victoria. This can be a non- simultaneous exchange, as I'm sure packing up and heading to Australia, at such short notice is not going to happen.
If you are interested in this exchange or are able to assist, please have a look at my listing (link below). I am open to offers." Kind regards, Tilly
Aireys Inlet, Victoria, Australia
Cottage surrounded by Australian bush situated on the Great Ocean Road. Surf beaches, river, walking tracks. Ideal for younger children or those who like quiet, relaxation and the beach or bush walking.
House is set on 2 acres of land and is very comfortable with cottage decor. Close to golf course, cinema. Kangaroos and native parrots on grounds. If you are already a member, log on to view Tilly's listing, HE20255, and contact her as soon as possible if you may be able to offer her your home for the set dates she needs. If you aren't yet a member, and Tilly's offer is of interest, either join now or contact us (subject line: Tilly's Offer).
Our blog is updated two or three times a week. Some posts are time limited, e.g. requests from journalists writing articles about home exchange or Home Base Holidays members' special exchange requests. Others are on specific topics that don't date quickly and these are the ones that are particularly useful as a long-term resource. Hopefully, you will find most home exchange related questions addressed somewhere on the blog (check the general headings in the right hand column). There are links to the blog on our website and in your member area to use if you want to pop by occasionally. Or, you can subscribe to the blog's feed or receive messages by email when new posts have been published (see details in More Information below).
Here are a few of the most read posts during the last year:
Any ideas for home exchange related topics to cover on the blog? Do let me know.
A post, Can't Rent A Week at Your Place? Consider an Exchange!, on the Vacation Rentals Industry blog recently caught my eye. This blog should provide useful information for Home Base Holidays members who sometimes rent out as well as exchange their holiday homes.
Although Home Base Holidays is a specialist home exchange service, many of our members do own second homes that are sometimes offered for rent. Many members swapping their primary (generally, only) home prefer to swap with another main home rather than a second home as holiday homes are often seen as less homely and possibly less well equipped. This can certainly be the case with properties that are primarily used for rentals but, as holiday homes are generally located in sought after areas, and owners of second homes can often be more flexible with dates, offering non-simultaneous exchanges to fit in with exchange partners' needs, such homes are a valuable addition to the homes available for exchange.
If you do let your holiday home, or may be considering renting a home from a member or on another site, you may find the following articles on Vacation Rentals Industry of particular interest:
Newsletter Contributions: We are always pleased to hear from members and subscribers and to receive contributions for the newsletter and blog - short reports on your exchange experiences, tips you feel would be useful to those new to the idea of home swapping and any questions you have on home exchange. Please include 'home exchange' in the subject line when contacting us as messages with no subjects (or dubious sounding subject lines!) or unexpected attachments may end up in our spam folder and deleted unread.
Reading this on the Website? Use the newsletter subscribe link to add your email address and receive the newsletter regularly. If already on the list but not receiving your copy by email, there can be a number of causes:
Reminder to Members about Messaging System: A short alert message is sent to you by email to let you know whenever there is a new message for you in the Inbox in your member area. The subject line in the alert messages you receive by email is: New home exchange message for you from HExxxxx (the member's User ID). Alert messages are automatically sent from the site whenever a member leaves you a message. You then need to log on to your member area to read and respond to the message. Please respond to all messages promptly even if you can't consider an exchange offer.
Although you should receive alert messages without any problem, it's a good idea to skim through your spam folder before deleting messages as a very few alert messages, like other 'good' messages, may be filed there by mistake - ISPs' spam filtering systems aren't perfect! If your ISP or email programme enables it, add our email address, homeexchange 'at' btinternet 'dot' com (replacing the 'at' and 'dot'), to your 'safe senders' list to ensure you don't miss any alerts.
The site based messaging system is for your security - you decide when you are ready to provide another member with your email address and any other contact information.
Be Alert: The Home Base Holidays private member area is for one-to-one exchange offers between members only, not for any other purpose. Please let us know if you receive any other type of message via your member area. Never respond to unsolicited messages from unknown sources.
Further Information: Check the archives to read past issues of Home Swappers Newsletter. Also, don't forget to visit the Travel the Home Exchange Way blog for regular information and updates plus special exchange requests. To receive notices by email whenever a new post is added (generally no more than three a week), add your email address to the box above 'Get email updates' in the left hand column of Travel the Home Exchange Way.
Copyright: All Home Swappers content is copyright and cannot be used in any form without written permission from Home Base Holidays. However, please feel free to forward the newsletter (in full) to friends and colleagues who may be interested in home exchange (use the Forward Email link below the newsletter).
Home Base Holidays, London, UK 1985-2009: 24th year providing a home exchange service worldwide