A London Traveler Elaborates...

SabbaticalHomes.com has launched a new feature this year, the House Share. Sam Hickey, one of our members, is the first to have experienced this option for travel and it was a huge success. "This was a pleasant and good match for me. My housemates were very relaxed and welcoming. They gave me advice about London and Europe and we even cooked a bit for each other -and they were always offering to make me tea," explained Hickey.

Looking to travel to London for the first time, but on a budget, Hickey was on the hunt for short-term affordable rental options. He also liked the idea of house sharing as an opportunity to get to know people who would know the city better than he did.


He sent out messages to four or five people on SabbaticalHomes.com and was able to find a match that seemed quite compatible. He found a flat, centrally located in London with two housemates for his ten-week stay. The flat was a nice-sized apartment, with his own bedroom, and a full kitchen. Hickey explained, "For the money, this was a great value. The rental amount was equal or less than amounts my friends paid for smaller flats or ones less well located."


The idea of rooming with strangers may be take a little getting used to but is a terrific option for keeping travel costs low. "One tip I have is that even one Skype call with your prospective housemates before getting there goes a long way to putting your mind at ease about staying with strangers. This is what we did and it assured me that we would get along well," advised Sam. "I would absolutely house share again," said Hickey.


Look for House Share option on our site under Homes Offered and you to may be on your way to a new destination-and new friends as a bonus!

A Notebook for Your Visitors
A Tip Worth Sharing


One way to make your tenant, house sitter or fellow exchanger feel at home is to have a Notebook waiting for them that tells the "story" of your home. In other words, a guide to what they will find, and where they can find it.


This is a relatively easy process. Start with a simple notebook that you can divide into sections. Use pocket dividers so that you can include pamphlets, instructions, menus, etc. Provide the necessary information, including pictures if need be, for each category.


Some owners even leave a running journal for each new guest to record memories of their trip and tips to share with the next visitors, which becomes a fun memento for everyone to share, and a continuing story of your home. We recommend the following areas of interest but be creative and have fun with it and your visitors will be glad you did.


Security: First and foremost, explain what security measures you have in place and how the tenant must use them. Make clear what windows and doors you want locked when the tenants leave. If you have an alarm system, be sure the leave proper code, as well as usage instructions and the number of the security company for technical issues.


Emergencies: Be sure to leave the name and number of a neighbor or friend in case of emergency. If you have a regular plumber or handy man, include their contact information just in case repairs are needed.


Internet/Computers: Make sure you provide any necessary information for your visitor to access the Internet, especially if there is a password required. If you are allowing use of your own computer, be sure to remove any personal information from the hard drive before you leave and provide proper instructions for use of the printer.


Utilities: It is a good idea to provide the location of the main water and gas lines and electrical box and how to turn them on/off just in case of emergency. If your area is prone to electrical outages, leave a flashlight handy.


Transportation: Getting around their new surroundings will be key for your guests. It's a nice touch to provide local metro and bus schedules, and even the location of a bicycle rental shop. Any suggestions you have on walking paths will also be appreciated.


Spas, Pools, Fireplaces, Barbecues: Make sure you leave all of the important information needed to operate and maintain these items. Be sure to include the how you want ashes disposed of from fireplaces. For pools and spas, be clear if you expect the tenant to maintain the chemicals and if so, provide detailed instructions.


Watering for Plants/Gardens: You would have stipulated in your agreement if any care and watering is to be done but it's always a good idea to leave a reminder of how often you want your garden watered and any other special tips on care.


Local Attractions: Any maps you can include highlighting the local universities and colleges, libraries, museums, galleries, bookstores, etc. would be outstanding. If you have a favorite shop or destination, make a note of it as well.


Restaurants: Ah, the all-important category for any traveler. Give your new friend a list of your favorite eateries and coffee houses. It's nice to leave a few menus in your notebook, especially for reliable take-out for late night work sessions.


As you can see, there are many areas you can provide that extra information that will make your visitor's stay easier and more enjoyable. Place your Notebook in a prominent place for them to find and they will be delighted to see that you have taken the extra time to make sure they can make your home their own.



Notable Member: Mary Jane Baxter
On the Release of Her Very First Book

Mary Jane Baxter has two loves, fashion and journalism, but sought a way to combine the two into a career. After working on a BBC special on crafting accessories from inexpensive items, she realized that there was a greater interest than she thought in sewing, crafts, and even hat making. The idea of a book was born and now she is about to celebrate the release of her first volume, Chic on a Shoestring this May.


"When I look back, I realize I've been waiting to write the book for a long time. I had given up my full-time job as a reporter and producer for the BBC to explore my creative side. I'd always loved making hats but it is tough to make a living doing that alone," explained Baxter.


A lack of funds turned Baxter into a resourceful hunter of all things fashionable, but cheap. "If I saw something I couldn't afford, I'd try to make it myself. Then I started doing workshops around the UK and writing pieces for magazines on craft projects." After the success of the BBC special, a book was the next step.


"My journalistic background really helped with the writing. I'm used to very tight deadlines and I was able to finish the book in a relatively short period of time. My blog forced me to come up with regular ideas even if I didn't feel like it. I now know that writing the book is only the start of the process," Baxter said.


Her favorite part of Chic on a Shoestring is the Hats and Headwear section of the book. She also counts herself lucky to have worked with Sam Wilson, illustrator. "When I saw her first illustration, I knew she really got my book and that we were on the same wavelength."


Baxter went herself to SabbaticalHomes.com to rent out her London Flat. She first heard of the site from her brother, Anthony, a filmmaker (www.youvebeentrumped.com) who was traveling from Scotland to New York. Baxter went herself to rent out her London flat in order to visit Rome.


"SabbaticalHomes.com nurtures trust and mutual respect and although it's obviously a business, it has a different and personal approach. It feels more like a community than a property web site," said Baxter.


In that spirit, we salute Mary Jane Baxter on her new book and wish her many more as she successfully navigates the fashion world and brings us her expertise via her journalistic style.

You can purchase her book via Amazon. Her website is www.maryjanemillinery.co.uk and you can follow her blog at http://makeyourwayaroundbritain.blogspot.com/. 


Going Green
And it's Not Just the Paint Color

Building "green" houses is a growing trend in construction but certainly not a new one. One of our SabbaticalHomes.com members, Jennifer Siegal, has designed and built her own green home and it is one of the first of its kind available on SabbaticalHomes.com. In addition to having her own architecture firm, she is also a professor at the University of Southern California.


The Siegal home is built with all durable materials such as the steel frame, roof and wall panels. Siegal chose water-efficient fixtures for faucets, showers, and toilets. All of the appliances are energy efficient and she uses radiant heat and employs a tankless water heater. It has bamboo and palm flooring, making use of renewable materials. Paints and sealants are no/low VOC. Siegal even used local materials as much as possible to save energy on transportation.


Siegal first came in contact with SabbaticalHomes.com when she was planning an extended stay in Italy. Now she rents out her own sustainable home.


The open, breezy Venice, CA home is walking distance to a bustling, trendy neighborhood and a short bike ride to the beach. "Having a green home requires no more work to maintain than a regular construction, but it uses many materials that won't ever have to be replaced," explained Siegal. "This home has a great indoor/outdoor California feel with lots of landscaping, even a vegetable garden."


"Our last tenants loved the place and we have remained friends."


Small World Connections
Owner Attends Presentation; Months Later, Presenter Was at Her Door

Barbara Kolber attended a festival in Cartagena Columbia two years ago and heard author Monica Ali speak about her immigration experience. Ali's book, Brick Lane, was made into a movie in her Bangladeshi community in London. Kolber found her to be a modest and eloquent speaker who she did not soon forget.

To Kolber's delight and surprise, Ali responded to her SabbaticalHomes.com listing for her New York home. "Such a serendipitous coincidence," said Kolber. "I am looking forward to her novel coming out in June called Untold Story. It is a story about what might have happened had Princess Diana lived. To me, she is a bit of a celebrity."


Kolber has had other tenants such as an Irish poet, a sociologist from Amsterdam, another from Australia, and couples from Prague and Germany.


You just never know what can happen from a SabbaticalHomes.com connection. "This is such an inspired and valuable service," summed up Kolber.


Founder on the Move
Meeting Notable Members Around the Globe

SabbaticalHomes.com's founder Nadege Conger recently had the chance to meet up with Notable Member Mary Jane Baxter in London. To see what Mary Jane Baxter had to say, click here.
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