They’ve never met, but they’re exchanging homes during their vacation. For the past few years and thanks to the expansion of the Internet, home swaps have significantly increased and there are now more than 3,700 members in Canada. Would you swap your home with a stranger?
“Exchanging my home means I have a free place to stay during my vacation and the chance to live a unique experience visiting tourist areas while enjoying all the comforts of home,” explains Caroline Jacques, author of the blog Maman Globe-Trotteuse and Quebec ambassador of the Home Exchange/Troc Maison network, which counts over 65,000 members across 151 countries. Since 2008, she and her family have swapped their villa every year, which has allowed them to travel to the other side of the world as well as just a few hours away from home.
This experienced swapper has observed that people often underestimate their property’s potential and don’t believe that anyone would want to spend their vacation there. “This is obviously wrong! One person’s everyday surroundings often represent a change of scenery for another, and even a modest little yard can make a city dweller in search of tranquility happy,” The fact that the Travel Home Exchange site advertises a houseboat floating on the Seine in Paris is one good example!
“The most difficult aspect of home exchanges is trusting people,” notes Serge Dugas, Founder of Travel Home Exchange. “Once swappers manage to get over concerns about their belongings, they’re already thinking about their next vacation!” Since the creation of his company 20 years ago, he confirms that he has never received a serious complaint about an exchange, at worst some broken dishes or a few disagreements about the property. “I often get asked if I’m worried about people stealing from me or damaging my things,” says Caroline Jacques. “This concern makes me laugh because my experience has shown that my house is usually cleaner when I get home, since the swappers are so respectful and attentive!”
The proper functioning of an exchange relies solely on the trust of its members since, in the case of damages, insurance doesn’t cover anything. Serge Dugas assures that, most of the time, guests act in good faith and contact their host if there is an incident to offer to repair, replace, or pay for the damaged item. “Last minute cancellations are the main source of the problems we encounter,” adds Alexandra Origet du Cluzeau, PR director at Home Exchange. “This only happens about a dozen times a year, of about 120,000 exchanges made, and we mobilise our network to ensure a solution to the situation is found for the family concerned.”
“At the end of the day, exchanging your home only costs the price of travel to get to the partner family’s home,” concludes Serge Dugas. “If you choose to swap with a family that lives within driving distance, the vacation becomes really inexpensive!” Intrigued by this economical and original option? Here are 4 steps to swap your home.
Travel Home Exchange, Home Exchange, and Home for Exchange contain thousands of ads posted by families interested in an exchange in Canada. Registering to these sites costs between $70 and $150 per year and guarantees to put you in touch with people whose identity has been verified and whose banking information will ensure they are found in case there is a problem.
Your ad should be detailed and include realistic, clear and well-lit photos. Don’t try to embellish reality, but do tidy up a little before taking them!
Search for a house that corresponds to your criteria and contact the owner to find out if they would be interested in yours in exchange. Also, pay attention to the requests you receive.
“It is essential to communicate at length with the other party before agreeing to the exchange,” cautions Serge Dugas, who has swapped his home 25 times. “It’s better to agree on all the details to avoid any unpleasant surprises.” In particular, mention if you have children or a pet, or if you’re a smoker.
Once you agree on the exchange, reserve your vacation dates and purchase your plane tickets if your destination requires them. Then prepare your home to welcome the partner family. Tidy up, clean, and make any small repairs, for example, change broken light bulbs or oil squeaky doors. Finally, put away your personal belongings and valuables in a locked closet or leave them with a relative or friend. And plan on thoroughly cleaning your vacation house at the end of your trip before heading home.
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