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Home Swappers Newsletter

Issue 61 December 2009/January 2010
Greetings!
 
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
In This Issue
What's really Involved in Home Exchange
CHECtravel Special $5 Membership Offer!
Check List/Guest Information Folder
Tips for Arranging Swaps at Short Notice
Home Base Holidays Members in the Media
Save 20%
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!
Join Home Base Holidays Now  (promotion code: Dec20)

Offer Expires: 31st Dec 2009
What's really Involved in Home Exchange

Helen HaywardHouse 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 removing them.

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
  • InteractiveCHEC home and automobile forms: Fill in your exchange agreements online. CHECtravel will keep a copy and email it between partners (Members only)
  • Interactive CHEC Home Companion - Preparation Tips for home exchangers. Online forms and information booklet to help you with your exchange (Members only)
  • Third-party identity and address verification of CHEC members
  • Random criminal background check of CHEC members
  • Peace of mind 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
*Insurance 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...
CHECTravel
Check List/Guest Information Folder

Join Home Base Holidays!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 Exchange Guests 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 equipment.
 
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

SantaMost 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 few tips:
 
  • 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.
  • 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.
Browse Last Minute Offers...
Home Base Holidays Members in the Media
 
Thank you!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 journalist?
 
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 programmes.
 
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
Further info
 
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:
  • Incorrect email address - send us your name and correct address
  • Add our email address, homeexchange 'at' btinternet 'dot' com, to your address book or 'white list' of accepted messages
  • Check your spam/bulk folder before deleting - some 'real' messages can be put there by mistake
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
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Sincerely,

Lois Sealey
Home Base Holidays
 
email: info@homebase-hols.com
phone: +44(0)20 8886 8752
web: http://www.homebase-hols.com