I spend many months of each year as a world globetrotter, staying in luxury accommodation for free. I have previously explained about using websites to find house swaps and that there are simultaneous and non-simultaneous types of house swap.
If you are taking this business of home exchange seriously (as I do) it can be a lot of work initially. You can, as the vast majority of people do, just list your home on a website and wait for someone to contact you. You may wait a while. A very long while. There are tips to ensure that you will find houses to swap with, with relative ease.
First of all, make sure you are selling your home well. Do this accurately – don’t exaggerate its good points or people will be disappointed and you don’t want that. However, show it in its best light. Take photos of what it’s like inside and outside. Write a few paragraphs describing the house and make it sound inviting to prospective house swappers. Use adjectives well. If you have a spacious kitchen then make that clear. If you have a comfortable deck with magnificent views make that clear. Different people have different priorities when they are choosing a home to swap with.
The more photos you download onto the home exchange website, the better. You can never download too many photos as prospective swappers will want to see as much detail as possible. You can also include photos that will attract people, including local nature, or well-known places of interest if they are very close by. For example, we include photos taken on our balcony of kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets as an abundance of local colorful bird life is one of the attractions of our home. Similarly, if there are local bicycle paths that interconnect, mention that as it may attract cyclists. If there is an annual event held in your town such as an international quilting festival each June, then mention that.
It is important to not only show photos of your house but of the activities available at your location that may attract people to choose your home over others. Availability of local bird watching, kayaking, skiing, cycling, hiking, gliding, horse riding and other activities can be big draw-cards. Let people know the distances and travel times to such activities. Add photos of these activities too as this will attract people looking for those particular facilities to practice their hobbies.
Some people complain that they cannot find anyone interested in swapping houses
with them in the locations they want. There are a number of tips to ensure that you not only find houses to swap with but have others in reserve, should some propose swaps not eventuate.
If you are serious about home exchanges and are trying to organize a big trip I advise that you work quite hard at finding homes in the places you want to visit. People approach this in different ways.
Some decide from the outset on a very fixed itinerary and then try to find home exchanges to meet that itinerary in times of places and dates. This can be a successful method and any dates that cannot be filled with home exchanges are met by arranging for hotel or alternative paid accommodation. So, for example, you may definitely wish to spend the month of July in Europe, including one week in Paris in France, one in the south of Spain, one in Portugal and one in Salzburg in Switzerland. You have very specific locations and very specific dates in mind. Your search on the website may be successful for three of the four weeks and you book a hotel for the fourth week.
Our approach, primarily because we have time, being semi retired, is a much more flexible one. Our intention is usually to maximize our time in house swaps, finding back-to-back home exchanges with very few nights in paid-for accommodation along the way. On many occasions, we succeed in this and have no nights we have to pay for on a long multi month multi country trip.
We take a very general approach and, for example, decide that we will have a vacation of around six months, during which time we want to spend three months in, say Canada, and three months in central Europe. We have no specific cities or towns in mind and are open to suggestions. We look on our favorite home exchange websites for homes that vaguely fit our wishes and then we blast the emails.
By blast the emails, I mean we write a generic email offering our holiday house giving a few lines of our home’s positive points and location, including our code for the home exchange website which allows prospective exchangers to view all of the lovely photos we have put up on the site, of our house.
We invite prospective exchangers to enjoy the delights of our home and all the positives around our area. ask if they would be willing to consider an exchange any time over our timeframe and we send out batches of emails.
We send the same email to sometimes hundreds of listed homes. To all of the homes on that website, in that area which meet our requirements. Often it can be hundreds of home which meet our requirements.
Many people reply and the majority are in the polite negative. However there usually results in enough replies in the positive for us to put together a very workable itinerary.
This is a very important trick. If you want to be successful in spending long amounts of time undertaking long vacations full of back-to-back home exchanges I would suggest that this is the key. Many people initially draw up a detailed itinerary and then go searching for homes for exchange that fit in with their detailed place and date itinerary. They send only a few emails to targeted houses and hope that the result will be positive. Like many things in life, this is a numbers game. To be successful you have to be willing to send out large numbers of requests in the hope of receiving a few positive replies.
Remaining flexible up until a few months before we leave, I believe, is a key too. Things happen in life and sometimes people who were willing to swap have to pull out. In such cases we usually have a backup swap in a similar area that we can call upon. I cannot reiterate enough, the importance of playing the numbers game and blasting the emails.
For people who exchange a second home and undertake non simultaneous home exchanges the receipt of our email sometimes is enough of a trigger for them to consider visiting our part of the world which they had not considered before. We therefore build up contacts usually not only for the present trip we are planning but also contacts for potential future trips.
Occasionally we are lucky enough to meet our “hosts” but sometimes we just follow their instructions as to where to find keys and make ourselves at home. One thing we always do is swap email addresses and phone numbers so that we can make contact. We find email the most reliable way to stay in contact with home exchange partners. We still keep in contact with, and have become friends with, many of the people we have stayed with over the years.
Ainslie Waldron is an Australia-based businesswoman, travel writer, and blogger at www.myplaceforyours.com. Now semi-retired, she continues the global travel that characterized her career but with an interesting twist: she has mastered the art of Home Exchanges, the hottest new trend in travel