Thursday, January 18, 2007

Housing Exchange

House Swapping – the Ultimate in Budget Travel

How would you like to stay in Umbria for two weeks and not have to pay a dime for your accommodations? That would sure save you money on your vacation, wouldn’t it? And, let’s say your accommodation was a 4-bedroom, 3-bath stone building which dates back to the 14th century, with a kitchen with all you need to cook fabulous meals? That would save money on dining out, now, wouldn’t it? Of course, with the house costing nothing, who needs to save money by eating in?

Where can you find such incredible savings? It’s called house exchange or house swap. The recent movie “The Holiday” used the notion of a house swap to help the leading characters find romance. One woman from England swaps houses with a woman from the United States over the Christmas holiday and they both find romance in their new surroundings. Will their new romance become permanent and lasting true love? Who knows, but at least we know they saved money. And, you can too.

Here’s how it works. If you decide you want to exchange homes with someone, you sign up with a house exchange company, which can typically cost around $60 to $80 per year, choose which destination you wish to visit and the dates, and see if there are any potential exchange partners who you match with. If they agree to stay in your house during the time specified, you’re on your way to a vacation in Paris, Florence, San Francisco, or wherever there’s a match. And the cost? Just your membership fees to the exchange company. Your only costs, then, are your airfare, dining out and recreation. Considering that lodging can run about $150 a night and even higher, you stand to save hundreds to thousands on your vacation.

House swapping is nothing new, and many of the exchange companies have been in business for decades, with more popping up all the time.

Aside from the savings, you get the opportunity of living like the locals do. You get the opportunity to try restaurants that aren’t near the tourist hotels, see places you otherwise might pass up.

In addition to the benefits you receive in your “new home,” your old home is being looked after by your exchange partners, which means you don’t have to pay anyone to water your plants or check up on your house. And, if your arrangement with your exchange partner allows for it, your pets will be cared for as well. Some things to consider before posting your request with your chosen company include:

Will you allow for the use of your car? Many times the exchange partners exchange cars as well.

Do you agree to care for the exchange partner’s pets?

How many people do you allow to stay in your house?

Will you allow children?

Will you allow pets?

One question you may have is – is home exchange safe? Obviously there are unscrupulous people out there, so you can increase your safety by making sure you keep your valuables locked up. It’s also a good idea to have your mail held by the post office. Also, you could choose only those homes which have had prior exchanges. If someone’s had 10 successful exchanges you should feel pretty secure. However, if at any time during the process you feel uneasy about the exchange, trust your instincts and stop the process.

House swapping is definitely one option to consider in order to cut down on vacation costs. Who knows, it may open you up to a new way of travel that you’ll return to year after year after year.

Go to for vacation destination suggestions. Who know, maybe a Canary Island holiday is in your future.

(One new housing exchange I was just alerted to in my comments is . Check it out.)

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1 comment:

Ursula Godwin Niesmann said...

Thank you for writing about Home Exchange!
In his song "Lay Lady Lay" Bob Dylan changed the phrase of a very old proverb: "You can have your cake and eat it, too." This is exactly the way I feel about Home Exchange. Anything is possible! Like our last summer swap in Fiesole, nestled in the hills east of Florence. We stayed at a 400-year-old farmhouse in the midst of a beautiful olive grove overlooking Florence. Our kids loved it. For their games, they used what was there: stones, lavender twigs, lizards (I am afraid!). (Our older daughter also liked Medusa in the Uffizi Gallery, all that blood.) We loved the discussions with the son of the owner who stayed in another part of the house (it was very spacious.) Over a marvelous Tuscan meal with him and his very intellectual friends we learned about Italian life and culture today. What our exchange partner, a philosopher, traded his paradise for? A nice flat on Lake Starnberg. Ever heard of it?

I have just started my own brand new Home Exchange Network - I invite you to join us at Membership is free for a limited amount of time.

Ursula Godwin Niesmann