|Home Swappers Newsletter|
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Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
Maybe you know the expression, 'Were you born in a barn?', used to scold a child for leaving the house door open. From looking through several Home Base Holidays listings, quite a few members might have been born in a barn - or in a pub, a church ...! Here's a few samples of unique homes that caught my eye recently (members - log on to search by User IDs):
Sunday School (in photo)
London - Originally the old Sunday School of a century old church, this is a unique and artistic apartment with a private courtyard entrance and walled garden. The location is idyllic. Historic Highgate village is just up the road. HE22712
Devon, England - Rouen Cottage is one of a few properties converted from the historic Mucky Duck Inn. Bijou (it was the skittles alley!) but modern and well equipped. Very quiet rural location on edge of Dartmoor, adjacent to NT Lydford Gorge woodland walks and waterfalls. HE20389
Central London - Beautiful Victorian Mews house (converted from a former bakery) with high spec fittings, TV, home cinema projection and an internal private courtyard. The house is in a quiet mews with a secured coded gate and communal gardens. The immediate area, Bloomsbury, contains the best bars, restaurants, museums and galleries London has to offer. HE22970
Berlin, Germany - Huge loft in a former chocolate factory, nicely designed, high standard. In the creative heart of Berlin ('Kreuzberg', close to 'Mitte'), next to the beautiful Victoria park. HE21820
Northumberland, England - 1847 Railway Station, previously Warkworth station and Station Master's house and now our private residence. Trains still pass on East Coast Main Line, including the new A1 Tornado. HE21689
Somerset, England - Jasmine Cottage is believed to date back to the 16th century, and thought to have been an ale house. It has been listed as being of Architectural and Historic Grade 11 with many period features. HE22590
Aberdeenshire, Scotland - Converted 19th Century mill house in heart of Scottish countryside on the Castle Trail in Aberdeenshire. Situated in a valley with lovely views of the surrounding hills & waterfall & stream which runs through the garden. HE10019
Sydney, Australia - Converted warehouse with 3 bedroooms and garage. close to the city (3kms), harbour bridge and opera house. HE22534
and lots of members live in barns, including:
England - a coverted barn attached to 400 year old farmhouse in a rural, quiet and peaceful location on border of Peak District National Park. HE21018
France - we are in the heart of
the Lauragais, beautiful countryside between
Toulouse and Carcassonne and just 10 minutes from
the autoroute. The house is a 16th century
barn/farmhouse. There is a pool, large garden with
views of the Pyrenees. HE21790
Q: Do you have any thoughts on upcoming exchanges now that swine flu appears to be approaching epidemic proportions in the UK? I'm starting to wonder if we should warn our exchange partners although we do not live in a part of the country that is a "hotspot" at present. - hobiej
A: There's no easy answer. After some very alarmist reports in some UK media, there does now seem to be more balanced news coverage on the growth in cases of swine flu that helps put its prevalence and severity into better perspective. As swine flu (H1N1) is pandemic, check the World Health Organisation for information and regular updates on your own country or the country you will be visiting. Also see detailed information on NHS Direct (but please don't call the special helpline unless you have symptoms), specific travel advice by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and use the Directgov site to find information on swine flu in your local authority.
The concern of course for home exchangers is that one party might have to cancel an exchange at the last minute if a family member contracts swine flu, or that an agreed exchange will be cancelled by an exchange partner alarmed at a reported rise in cases in the country/area they plan to visit. General travel insurance will not cover cancellation for a simple change of mind unless there are government warnings to avoid travel to the country (in the UK, check the FCO website). Exchangers travelling from the USA or Canada may like to consider joining CHECtravel and buying Tr avel Guard's Home Exchange Protection Plan available to members.
It is always a good idea to make and agree contingency plans during the course of arranging an exchange in case (although very rare) an exchange cannot go ahead as planned for whatever reason. Some time ago a Home Base Holidays member included some excellent suggestions in an article (link below).
New Home Base Holidays members are full of enthusiasm and often (quite rightly) contact a number of members with their exchange offer as soon as they join. Most members are courteous and respond within a few days at most to all offers, even when they can't consider the offer. But there are always a few who don't and this is naturally disappointing to a new member eager to hear back. Every so often I include a reminder on the importance of responding promptly to messages from members - and this is another one! This one is prompted by a recent message from a new member:
'Since joining very recently we are enthused about Home Base Holidays and are very impressed with the website. However, we are curious. Over the past week we sent 7 offers and received only one short response saying "we'll see". Is this typical? Should we be more creative in our messages? Is it possible the messages were not received? We have read all your advice about sending offers and have attempted to keep our messages short. Should we specifically request a response?'
Editor: Although we don't check messages in your private member areas without good reason, we can easily see that messages have been received and whether they have been opened. Thus, my response to the member above (details changed to protect privacy):
Your exchange offer messages look fine. Members don't always respond to offers as quickly as we might like (some don't check email every day, others are away and not accessing office emails, changed email address, etc). However, I checked the inboxes of the six members you have contacted in the last week that you haven't heard from yet. Your messages had been opened (read) by all except one member (your message is in the inbox, waiting to be read when the member next logs on). Give them a week or 10 days to respond after sending an exchange offer. If you still haven't had replies, send another brief message, mentioning that you understand that they may need more time to consider your offer but could they let you know if they have received it (even though we know they all did!). Then, if you don't hear within another week or so, it's probably best to assume they aren't interested. There will always be the odd member who doesn't respond at all but it would be surprising if so many didn't - most members are very conscientious.
It can take awhile to find an exchange partner - and you are doing it right by sending short, informative messages detailing dates you can do and dates your home will be available. Don't get discouraged - you should definitely find interest in your attractive offer. Just keep checking for possibles, including the most recent offers, contacting members without delay.
Although most homes are purpose built (and vary from cosy city studio flats to grand homes in the country), I hope the main feature, 'Unusual Homes Available for Exchange', has inticed you to browse through the homes currently available for exchange through Home Base Holidays. As an extra incentive, enter our competition to win a copy of a recently published book, 'The Guardian Green Travel Guide'. Home exchange can certainly be a green travel option (using homes that would otherwise be empty, not contributing to the destruction of tourist areas by more hotel developments, conservation of water and energy by washing towels and bedding only when necessary).
All you need to do to enter the competition is find three more homes listed (in addition to those briefly described above) in barns or any other buildings previously used for something other than homes. Make a note of the User ID (at the top of full listings) and send the three User IDs for the barn listings you found, along with your name and mailing address (and your own User ID if you are a Home Base Holidays member).
The logo is a taster of the new Home Base Holidays site design that will be launched shortly. The aim is to keep the functionality user friendly as at present while giving the site a fresh new look. As always, your feedback is welcome.
A new feature you will see very shortly is a home location map in listings. New and renewing members will be able to pinpoint the location of their homes when joining. We will gradually add maps to current listings (those with postal/zip codes in addresses) but will also provide information in the member area as soon as the facility is available so you can add a map to your own listing. Log on to your member area often and keep an eye out for further information.
We already operate a home exchange service for the Guardian newspaper and have another similar project in the pipeline that will be announced in the next newsletter. Partnerships with well known large organisations are an exciting development as they bring more choice of exchange offers from all over the world. With more and more people choosing home exchange, more now for cost savings as well as the opportunity to stay in a real home in a real neighbourhood, this is a great time to consider a home swap if you aren't already a member.
In the last issue of the newsletter I appealed for volunteers to take part in filming for a feature on home exchange for The One Show, a popular early evening show on BBC1. Thanks so much for all your offers - these were passed on to the researcher on the programme. The tricky part of setting up such a feature is getting both parties to an exchange to agree to be interviewed and filmed while on exchange. Fortunately, we got a good match - Home Base Holidays member, Susan Cascio and her husband from Ocean Pines, Maryland, who are currently in London on exchange while the Lilywhite family, members of the home exchange service we operate for the Guardian newspaper, are living in the Cascio's home, five minutes from Ocean City (Atlantic Ocean), a big tourist mecca in the summer. View Susan's exchange offer, HE20344
I believe that some filming was already taking place this week (I hope having a film crew accompany you while sightseeing in London is not too intrusive, Susan). I'm sure members will look forward to seeing the finished film, recording the exchange from both sides of the Atlantic, when it is broadcast in a few weeks' time. We don't know the date for this as yet but will announce it on the blog as soon as we do. The recorded programme will be available to view on iPlayer for a week.
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.
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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. And you can now follow us on Twitter!
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