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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
'We are busy planning our fourth home exchange and correspond regularly with our potential family in Australia, sending photographs of house and family. Because we have enjoyed such wonderful swaps to Perth, Sydney and the Sunshine Coast, and as our couple are "virgin-swappers", I want to make this a happy experience for them. I was starting to make suggestions for "things we might like to do" before our visits, when your last Newsletter gave Marilyn's Top Ten Tips. Marvellous, everything I wanted to say - and more. Our couple on the Gold Coast were most impressed, and found the article very helpful, so thank you - and Marilyn. You must have saved everybody a lot of time and trouble.
Marilyn's article did mention insurance - and I have experienced some minor difficulties this year. I would suggest that members check their Travel Insurance before committing to a certain length of time for an exchange (Some do not cover America at all). In the past we have spent three months each time, but because we have reached "a certain age" we can have an annual policy, but longest single trip of 42 days. MRL and others would only do 31 days. Whilst Saga and Columbus cover 60 days - it comes at a price! We have decided to go with Tesco who were very helpful - and not too expensive.
With House Insurance - some companies would not cover us if we were out of the home for 30 days, even though I explained that friends would be living in the house during our absence. They must live there all the time. I found that RIAS stipulated 60 days, so that covered our stay this time, and they were very reasonable.
Car Insurance - I wanted to add one other driver, from Australia, for just 42 days. Did he have a U.K. Driving Licence? Not from Australia!! After several enquiries, Tesco only did 30 days, More Than said only close relation, Dayinsure only did 28 days and not Australians or Americans. Eventually we had to add a named driver for the whole year, but at least Norwich Union did that. I do not know how one could explain this situation to visitors (we met one family who had asked for FOUR drivers to be added, not knowing we had to pay in England). Check that your breakdown cover is for the car, rather than the driver.
Dare I add two small points? Incoming Mail - please do not stop ALL mail. One family had no post for the duration of their stay, and missed out on birthday cards and family news.
Cleaning - please leave a note for anything valuable; do you dust it, polish it, or wet wipe it? Until I found the Australian Green Book, wherein various mixtures of oil, lemon and vinegar seem to cure everything, I did not know how to care for a vast jarrah wooden floor.
Despite these little set-backs, we would not give up on our Home Exchanges. Not only have we had very successful, fabulous holidays, but have also met some amazing people. We even introduced more Aussies to the concept of house swaps and many are now good friends. We all keep in touch, some have since been to stay, and even made side trips from Europe.
We would thoroughly recommend this type of holiday to anyone of any age. Only the flight to pay for, no third rate hotels, no double booking, the comforts of a family home - and have you seen some of them? All we need now are any tips on how to be upgraded on that long flight??' - Dorothy Brider, HE15321 (photo is of husband, Steve, while on exchange in Sydney).
This is not (yet) a Home Base Holidays offer but I thought you might be interested in a new listing on Holiday Lettings:
'A gated property with secure parking and armed guards, this is the perfect property to relax in complete luxury. Exquisitely furnished with many priceless antiques, royal collections and rare artefacts. 400 people work at the Palace to cater to your every need, including domestic servants, chefs, footmen, cleaners, plumbers, gardeners, chauffeurs, electricians, and two people who look after the 300 clocks.
The palace consists of 19 state rooms, 600 bedrooms and 78 bathrooms. There is an adequate sized banquet hall to entertain your guests in the evening and a throne room which is an unusual but popular additional feature.
The owners do reside in the property but are discreet and are available should you require any assistance. They also own other properties throughout the United Kingdom. Please contact them for further details.'
The listing says they will consider stag and hen parties as well as house swap. I'm sure they will get some enquiries for the latter!
Home Base Holidays members can offer their second homes for rent (but only as an additional option along with home exchange). Members join our service to arrange home swaps and it is a private, members only site. If you are interested in letting your holiday home, here's an opportunity to join some exclusive company (check out the Gingerbread House owned by 'Mrs Witch' too!). Use the link below, or quote the code, 45853, to get an extra 3 months free when you list your property on holidaylettings for one year.
You've probably gathered that the Buckingham Palace offer is an April Fool - but the discount offer is real!
I support Barcelona Football Club? Guinea pigs make wonderful pets? Or - Would you like to swap homes and stay in my house in Barcelona, and perhaps look after my guinea pig and attend a football match? No, this is not another April Fool!
Although many Home Base Holidays members use an exterior view of their home as 'Picture 1' (the photo that shows in search results), an imaginative choice of photos can certainly make a home exchange offer stand out. As the whole idea of the summaries in search results is to attract interest and persuade members to view your full exchange offer (and hopefully want to suggest a swap), it's an excellent tactic to portray your home exchange offer in a unique way if possible, especially as you can still include several photos of your home, garden, views - a variety of pictures gives potential exchange partners a very good idea of what you are offering
Why not experiment with your choice and placement of photos (especially Picture 1) to see if one draws more interest than others? Perhaps the view from your living room is spectacular and represents a beautiful location better than an inside shot? Or, if you are lucky enough to have a pool, a shot of the pool with loungers next to it on a bright, sunny day would do it for many (imagine how inviting that would be to someone viewing your offer on a dark, rainy day in winter?). The beauty of digital cameras is being able to take as many photos as you want to get the best shots to illustrate your home exchange offer. So, go on, use your imagination and get clicking!
.. and the home of the Spanish guinea pig:
'Ideal for families, our house is surrounded by a small garden with fruit trees, in a quiet area. 10 min walk to beaches, 15 m walk to the marina, 20 m walk to the centre of the fishing village of L'Escala. Restaurants, shops, cafés, terraces'. Check it out and see more photos, HE22374.
Last month several cities in the UK joined those in a number of other countries that can be viewed, street by street, on Google Street View. Although this raises controversy on privacy issues, it is potentially a very useful tool for anyone planning a home exchange to one of the cities covered.
If you live in a city covered by Google Street View, once you get to the stage of sharing contact details with home exchange partners, being able to view your street and area in such detail will enable them to become familiar with your local neighbourhood and also view it within the context of the whole city. Most home exchangers leave their guests detailed information (and you'll still want to do this) but now you can actually direct them to your favorite restaurant, the best shop for fruit and veg, the closest bus stop and your local train station.
'We are looking for a month long home exchange during September/October in central London, within walking distance of the museums, nightlife etc.' - Doug and Kaye, Tucson, Arizona, HE14523.
At first sight, it's somewhat puzzling that Doug and Kaye are having problems finding a suitable exchange when there are oodles of attractive home exchange offers in London. However, not everyone can consider an exchange for as long as a month and, as London is a very large city, they are unlikely to find any one location, however central, where they could walk everywhere during a month long stay.
It is possible that Doug and Kaye are limiting their exchange choices by focussing entirely on homes in or close to the West End. Most Londoners live in the suburbs and so this is where the largest number of homes available for exchange are located. With good public transport from just about anywhere in London, and no need to travel in peak hours, it's worth widening the search a little. A good street map to pinpoint locations when checking listings would be useful too. Although members aren't likely to share full addresses right away, most will be happy to provide their street name and postal code, all that's needed to check locations.
The term, 'suburb', may be off putting to anyone who associates suburbs with soulless dormitory areas where people live but are reliant on cars to get to anywhere interesting. Not so with London suburbs which are generally self contained, distinct 'villages', usually with a full range of shops, restaurants, parks and leisure facilities. Canadian visitors are often pleasantly surprised at how much there is literally around the corner from our house in north London - a large Turkish supermarket, Greek bakery, Kurdish grocery, gym, cafes, restaurants, pubs, two large parks and shops of every description - a typical suburb. Having a base in London, whether in a central location or in an inner or outer suburb, enables visitors to explore a local neighbourhood, discovering the rich mix of people from all over the world who have made London home, as well as use the home as a base for visiting the attractions, theatres and museums in central London.
Most members give a very good description of their areas, distances to well known attracions and commuting distance by train, bus or Tube. So if you live in London and fancy some Arizona sunshine this autumn, do check out this attractive offer from very experienced home exchangers:
'Modern South-western USA city living yet set in authentic Wild-West, Native Indian & Spanish Colonial charm! Home (town home, 1 floor, wheelchair accessible) has cheery vaulted ceilings and spectacular mountain views. Small yard with citrus & shade trees & cactus garden, leads directly onto 1/2 mile long community cactus park and nature trail that borders "arroyo/wash" wildlife corridor. Spectacular panoramic views of rugged Catalinas mountains, lush Sonoran-desert and manicured 36-hole golf course with 3 restaurants etc. Only 5 minutes away are major shopping malls, trail-heads for hiking/biking/horseback riding. Superb high-desert climate with 345 sunny days and starry nights. 2-car garage (Buick & Volkswagen available).' Read the full home exchange offer in Tucson, HE14523.
Members: Log on to contact Doug and Kaye (HE14523)
'Grazia, the weekly glossy magazine, would like to do a story on two people (couple/groups of people) who are planning to swap their homes for a holiday. Ideally, we are looking for a UK/USA swap but would be open to UK and another country also. The swappers need to be in their 20s or 30s, and the apartments/houses need to be modern and quite stylish.
We would photograph each house pre-swapping so as not to interfere with your holiday! although we would also like a shot of each swapper in their holiday home.
If you are interested, please contact me via Home Base Holidays. I look forward to hearing from you!' - Rachel, Homes Editor, Grazia
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