||December 2009/January 2010|
Home Swappers Newsletter is published 6 times a year to provide information on home exchange vacations for current and recent members of Home Base Holidays and Newsletter subscribers.
Quick Links at the end of the newsletter: Member Login, Browse Home Exchange Listings, Membership Form plus further information.
Lois Sealey, Editor, Home Swappers
20% Discount on Home Base Holidays Membership!
As December is generally an expensive month for many of us, in order to make (our already very modest!) membership fees even better value, until 31 December 2009, new members can join at a 20% discount, making a one year membership a bargain at only £23.20. To take up this offer, join Home Base Holidays any time during December, entering the code, Dec20 in the Promotional Code box near the top of the form. You will automatically receive the 20% discount on either the one or two year membership option when you proceed to the secure payment site. As soon as you complete payment, your listing will be added to the website and you will be able to log on to your own private member area (where you will see details on the CHECtravel membership offer).
In order to take advantage of the special CHECtravel membership offer
at $5 (details below), you must be a current member of Home Base
Holidays. If you aren't already a member, this is a good time to join
to start looking for exchanges in 2010.
Join Home Base Holidays Now (promotion code: Dec20)
Offer Expires: 31st Dec 2009
What's really Involved in Home Exchange
House exchange, on the face of it, sounds both exotic and
practical. However initially my husband disagreed. He thought it a thoroughly
bad idea, akin to leaving your front door ajar or buying second-hand shoes. But
a month of emailing him listings at work won him over, especially the prospect
of a family trip to the UK that didn't lean too heavily on our credit card. I,
on the other hand, felt comfortable with the idea from the start. I quickly
sensed that it was about exchanging homes, not houses. I liked the idea of
joining a club in which trust triumphs over paranoia.
Nearly everyone I mentioned our upcoming exchange to promptly replied, "What a
good idea", as if just listening to me inspired them to rush home and join a
home-exchange website. But I knew that hardly any of them would. It's easy to
toy with the idea, but much trickier to take the next step. Yes, you have to
take photos, create a listing and overcome your shyness in contacting other
members. But more than this, you have to be willing to look at your home in a
newly critical light. You have to look deep into your cutlery drawer and see
the congealed fluff and crumbs, just as a visitor might, and then set about
I was a novice at exchanging, and yet I knew from my experience of sharing a
family beach house roughly what I was getting into. I knew it wasn't free
accommodation and that it wasn't something to be done lightly. I joined Home
Base Holidays, a well-run site, along the lines of an internet dating agency
(not that I'd really know). Apart from the obvious compatibilities, like time
availability and number of children, much of the selection boils down to luck
(whether a suitable member clicks on your listing) and the tone you adopt when
emailing (friendly but not urgent).
Having set up an exchange I did my homework. Plenty of guides, with their
bullet points and good intentions, list all the dos and don'ts. It doesn't
really matter, they explain, if your home is more modest than your exchangers'.
What matters is that it looks clean and well presented when they walk into it,
weary from travel. It doesn't matter if you have one bathroom and they have
three, just so long as they know beforehand. Ditto if they have a double garage
and you only have off-street parking. Or if they're retired and you're not,
just as long as they're comfortable with children being children in their
sitting room. But it really does matter, here all the guides agree, if you lead
them on in such a way that when they open your front door, often thousands of
miles from home, their hearts sink. Guarding against disappointment is the
golden rule of home exchange. Your much-prized home is, in the eyes of
exchangers, ultimately just a place to stay.
When I at last got the key to turn in the lock of our house-to-be in Windsor, I
felt relieved, not let down. As promised, it boasted a view of Windsor Castle
(assuming, that is, I stuck my head out the top dormer window in the whipping
January wind). In fact it was just the kind of narrow Victorian terrace house
that would have been ours if we'd moved outside London a few years ago, rather
than to Melbourne. Which is maybe why, from the first day, the house felt like
a home. I'll be honest, by the fifth week, there wasn't a cupboard we hadn't peered
into. In between we bought gumboots and got truly muddy in Windsor Great Park,
relishing the fog and the green wetness. We explored London's museums by day
and retreated to our warm nest by night. We had in-laws to stay, entertained
old friends, got lost on the M25, and returned to Melbourne grateful that we
have a big enough garden to even contemplate growing vegetables.
Of course our house exchange experience wasn't all roses. The house didn't have
laundry facilities, and in the family's lengthy notes (nearly as lengthy as
mine), they asked that we leave their linen clean and dry. Fair enough, except
that the launderette was an eight-minute walk away, only took one pound coins,
and we had an early international flight out.
That said, house exchange is a wonderful thing. Exchangers really can be
trusted, they really will look after your things, and it's extremely unlikely
that they'll scrape the paintwork on your car. They might even leave your house
cleaner than the way you left it. - Helen Hayward
(in photo), Hobart, Australia
Editor's Note: Helen's article is based on an exchange
arranged through Home Base Holidays
. She has recently moved from Melbourne to
Hobart where she and her husband are renovating a Georgian house. Helen writes that
she's 'pretty sure their new home will appeal to exchangers' and will be
renewing her membership in 2010. Look out for her offer in Hobart in the new
year.Browse current home exchange listings...
CHECtravel Special $5 Membership Offer!
We are pleased to pass on a very special discount offer from CHECtravel
(CHEC = Certified Home Exchange Club; Home Base Holidays is a CHECtravel agency
member). Current Home Base Holidays members can join CHECtravel as individual
members for $5 (US) only for a range of features, benefits and services
especially for home exchangers. A summary of features:
- Travel Guard home exchange insurance available*
- Member misconduct reporting
- CHEC mediation service referrals
home and automobile forms: Fill in your exchange agreements online. CHECtravel
will keep a copy and email it between partners (Members only)
CHEC Home Companion - Preparation Tips for home exchangers. Online forms
and information booklet to help you with your exchange (Members only)
identity and address verification of CHEC members
criminal background check of CHEC members
knowing that CHEC exchangers follow the CHEC Code of Conduct
- CHEC Certified Clubs that uphold the highest ethical
standards of behaviour for themselves and their members
currently available to US and Canada residents only
To access the CHECtravel membership form and secure payment site, and
the code you will need to join at the $5 rate, log on to your member area
(under: Message from the site administrator).
Home Base Holidays Member Login...
Check List/Guest Information Folder
Start compiling an information folder to leave for your
exchange guests well before your exchange dates. The folder will include
emergency numbers, local travel information, recommended restaurants, shops and
activities plus detailed instructions on running your home - everything from
where clean bed linen is stored to operating a complicated security system.
In the Home Base Holidays Guidelines for Arranging an Exchange
scroll down to Stage Four: Preparing for Your
for a reminder of information to leave for your exchange
guests. You might also find the
trader companion form
published by Know Your Trade
useful to print off and
adapt to record all the relevant information.
As any checklists/forms can only be quite general and may
not cover everything, go through your home carefully, one room at a time, so
you don't forget any vital information. Leave instruction books for appliances
and central heating (air conditioning, security system, etc) but still include
simple instructions in your information folder - the manual will never include,
'If the green light flashes, give the washing machine door a good, firm push'
but that's the sort of practical information (i.e. your individual household
quirks) that will save your guests a lot of trial and error when using your
Start your checklist/folder well in advance of your first
exchange so you can add to it as something else pops into your head. Once
you've done it, it will be much easier for future exchanges as all
you will need to do is update the information where needed.
Send Us Your Tips for Compiling a Comprehensive Information Folder
Tips for Arranging Swaps at Short Notice
Most members will have made arrangements for exchanges over
the Christmas and New Year's holiday period several weeks, if not months, ago
(see Cathy's article
on why it's so important especially to plan international
exchanges well in advance). However, there are always those who have very
little time to arrange an exchange. If you are in this situation, here are a
Be as open as you can be on exact destinations. If you are
planning an exchange to be near friends or family, ideally you will want to
find a home very close by. But, if this is too limiting, look at the
surrounding area and extend your search as widely as possible.
- Don't restrict your search to members who specifically
request your city or country. You will see that many Home Base Holidays
members are 'open' on destinations they will consider and often flexible on
dates so such members are certainly worth contacting if their offers are of
interest and they haven't indicated that they have arranged exchanges for the
period you want.
- Be pro-active - don't wait to be contacted with exchange
offers. Read listings carefully to ensure you target those members most likely
to be interested in your offer (rather than adopt a scatter gun approach
that wastes time for both yourself and members you contact).
- As well as giving a good description, also include
information on any events or activities that might specifically interest
members swapping with you, especially if you are looking for a swap over
Christmas or another holiday when there may be many special local events.
- It would be really helpful if you can suggest
airlines, which airports they fly to/from and an idea of the cost of
tickets/availability for the period needed - anything to save some time and
give members you contact a better idea of how feasible it would be to take up
your last minute offer, would be useful to include both within your listing
description and in messages you send.
- If you can, suggest the option of a non-simultaneous
exchange (i.e. their home or holiday home may be available for the
dates you want and, if you can offer your home later on for dates that are
convenient for your exchange guests, that should increase your choices).
- Add your offer to the separate Last Minute Offers list
(note: you won't be able to do this until you have been a Home Base Holidays
member for one week. During the first week, you should be very busy browsing
listings, contacting members with your offer and responding to replies).
- Contact us to let us know if you need help finding a last
minute exchange so your offer can be publicised on the blog.
Browse Last Minute Offers...
- Don't cut corners with arrangements for last minute
exchanges and don't accept an offer until you're sure the home and
location are suitable and the people compatible.
Home Base Holidays Members in the Media
2009 has been a bumper year for press interest in home
exchange with many articles focusing on the money saving aspect of swapping homes,
particularly relevant in these times of economic uncertainty.
You will notice two yes/no tick box options on the form when
joining or renewing your membership to Home Base Holidays: Have you exchanged
before? Would you be willing to discuss your exchange experiences with a
If you answer 'yes' to both questions, your name, listing
reference and email address may be shared with journalists writing articles or
TV/radio researchers looking for participants, on home exchange. Journalists
are instructed to contact members individually and give detailed information
about their request. Members are never under any obligation to respond to such
a request unless it is of interest. But we are very grateful to the many Home
Base Holidays members who do take the time to answer journalists' questions,
pose for photographers (sometimes at very short notice) and even take part in
live radio interviews or record part of their exchange adventures for TV
We try to provide links to most of the press cover on home
exchange that includes our members' participation on the blog (see the link
below to access many features) but, no doubt, miss a few. If you have been
interviewed recently, do let us know. We are delighted to give some extra
publicity to your exchange offer!
One excellent, comprehensive article on home exchange
that may have been overlooked, was 'Home Exchange - Stay in Europe for Free!',
published on Slow Europe this summer. Home Base Holidays features
prominently, and the article includes the following quote:
"Another happy home exchanger is Annie Hoddinott, a San
Francisco firefighter who swapped her home in 2008 for a five-bedroom,
three-bath property in England's Cotswolds, near her parents' home. 'It was
exactly what we wanted,' says Hoddinott, who used the Home Base Holidays swap
service. The home's owner 'didn't leave a stone unturned in terms of taking
care of us,' even leaving fresh flowers and a bottle of wine as a welcome gift.
She estimates that she and her family saved about $4,000 by doing a home swap
instead of staying in a hotel."
(see Annie's home exchange offer, HE22646)
Home Exchange Articles + TV and Radio Features
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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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
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Home Base Holidays, London, UK 1985-2009: 24th year providing a home exchange service worldwide