How to find a Home Exchange
July 17, 2014
Your Home Exchange Listing
You need to prepare a listing of your home exchange offer. This serves two purposes. It allows other members to find your listing and it also allows them to ask you to consider an exchange with them. When you see a listing for a family that you would like to contact, you can refer them to your listing for more information. This saves time.
Fill out the listing form carefully. Don’t worry about it being perfect, you can always change it later. Describe the location of your home, and the city/town/village and region in which it is located. Talk about the size of your home and the quality of its furnishings and amenities. Mention the age, sex, and occupation or interests of your family members and where you would like to go on your home exchange. Describe your car in detail if it is available to exchange.
The listing form has check off boxes. These boxes describe your home and its amenities as well as certain exchange preferences. You can indicate whether you want to trade use of a car and whether to allow pets or smokers.
You can specify particular dates or choose “anytime” You can specify countries of interest or choose “anywhere.”
Take attractive photos of your home and put them in your listing. The “main property image” is the most important because it will be shown in the summary listing and is the first photo people see. Photos are worth a thousand words with respect to the quality of your home, your sense of style, your interest in taking care of your property, and the immediate environment of your home. The majority of listings have photos and if you don’t have one or more photos, you are at a disadvantage. The more photos you provide showing your home and its immediate environment the better. Key photos to display include your swimming pool, the living room, master bedroom, a minor bedroom, bathroom, the kitchen, your family, the garden, the view, and the front and/or rear of the house.
Deciding Where You Want to Go and When
Where you want to go is up to you. However, keep in mind that the Rotarian Home Exchange Fellowship does not have members everywhere. Regions with large numbers of fellowship members include North America, Australia/New Zealand, and the British Isles. The Rotarian Home Exchange Fellowship historically has 150 to 300 listings at any one time—since we are reorganizing the number may be much less initially. If you are willing to use the services of our partner, www.HomeExchange50plus.com (which is included at no extra charge) and trade with non-Rotarians you will have a much broader selection of countries and places.
Many exchangers will want to go to famous or well-known places. The competition for attractive homes in these places is intense. You can help yourself find an exchange by becoming expert at researching and understanding lesser-known but attractive places in the countries listed above.
You should have a detailed knowledge of any region or country where you plan a home exchange. Before deciding to exchange in a particular place you should understand the weather, customs, culture, and key aspects of life. This kind of research can be done on the Internet, or you can read travel guides and other reference books.
If you are a couple you can travel anytime during the year. This flexibility means you can choose possible home exchange destinations during their best season, or during the time you want to be out of town, and/or when airfares are cheapest. Places like Southern Florida or Northern Queensland are at their best in the winter while Sweden or Finland are more attractive in summer (unless you like ice fishing).
Many or all sectors of some countries tend to take vacations at the same time. Businesses and other institutions in these countries might shut down for several weeks when all staff goes on holiday. For example, many French will want to exchange in July or August, even those without school age children. Normal activity in France slows down in July and August.
It is possible to arrange a home exchange at the last possible minute, but four or more months in advance is usual.
Reviewing Home Exchange Listings
You can list your home and simply wait to receive home exchange offers from others. If you have a home in a great location this is a reasonable strategy. If your home is in an average location you will have more exchange choices and possibilities if you actively review home exchange listings and send e-mails asking specific families to consider your home for an exchange.
There are search tools to make it easier for you to find your desired exchange.
You can search for homes in a particular country or region. You can search for families that want to come to your country. Given the manageable number of listings at the Rotarian Home Exchange Fellowship you probably don’t need to do more than choose the country that you are interested in. There is an advanced search that allows you to look for homes with pools, homes suitable for the disabled, homes near golf courses, etc.
Search results are presented in a summary format with a box for each listing that is relevant. Basic information is provided along with the main property photo. If you like what you see you can click on the listing to learn more. Once you have reviewed the listings you are ready to begin figuring out which are the most promising.
Contacting Potential Home Exchange Partners
You should feel free to ask any member of the Rotarian Home Exchange Fellowship to consider trading with you. You can also contact members of our commercial partner, www.HomeExchange50plus.com.
Be sure your spam filter or the spam filtering provided by your internet provider does not block e-mails from potential home exchange partners
You should read listings of interest carefully and look at photos. The listing has a map showing the approximate location of the home. You can use Internet mapping services for more detail. If you wish you can use a search engine to learn more about the region and city or town. If you are unfamiliar with their car, use a search engine to learn more about it. Visit the website of the car manufacturer.
Finally, if you have the names of the people you can enter them into Google or other search engine and see what you can find out about them. One of our potential partners was a successful entrepreneur while another ran an international outdoor adventure business.
Let’s assume you have found listings that look promising. Now it is time to write a polite e-mail of inquiry. You click on the listing to contact the member. Write them a short note suggesting they consider an exchange with you. The note will be sent to their e-mail address (without you knowing what it is). When they receive the note they should open it and review your listing and let you know if there is any interest. It’s better if your note is personalized. Be sure the words Home Exchange are in the subject line of the e-mail.
Don’t be surprised if non-Rotarians don’t get back to you quickly. Some non-Rotarians will not respond to your offer in any way. Many others will respond several days or even occasionally a few weeks after you have sent your note. I personally appreciate rapid response and good communication and use this to judge the suitability of partners.
I don’t think you should ever call anyone on the phone to discuss a potential home exchange and believe this is especially true with the initial inquiry. I prefer e-mail because it provides a written record to which the other party can respond carefully after full consideration of what is proposed. The folks you are communicating with may read your language better than they speak it. My written French is good, my spoken French worse.
If you get a positive response don’t assume the home exchange is a done deal. You need to confirm their interest. There tend to be two stages to negotiating a home exchange. The preliminary stage is for the families to decide that the dates and homes probably meet their needs. Once this is established, there is the confirmation stage to negotiate the details and build confidence and trust. This process of negotiation is covered in the next chapter, Negotiating a Home Exchange.
You may receive an ambiguous response that is a weak maybe or perhaps they will say they need more time before further consideration of your inquiry. It is reasonable for a prospective partner to wait so they can review all the opportunities available to them. However, you should consider such responses as a likely no and continue looking for a home exchange elsewhere.
Responding to Home Exchange Inquiries You Receive
You should learn all you can about potential partners before responding to their communication. Read their listing carefully and use the internet to research their region and neighborhood.
It is useful to respond quickly for many reasons. First, it shows you are a careful, courteous, and considerate person. Second, you don’t want to miss a good opportunity because you were slow. The folks that wrote you might have contacted other people.
If you are possibly interested, respond positively but tentatively such as Thank you for suggesting we consider a home exchange with you. I will talk to my wife and get back to you. If you need more information ask for it. Get back to them after you have talked to the boss.
If you are definitely interested respond enthusiastically such as Thank you for suggesting we consider a home exchange with you. Your family is lovely and we have always wanted to spend a month on Lake Geneva. At this point I usually e-mail a Word file with more detailed information about our home, city, region, and family. I might also send them additional photos. I might ask questions.
If you are not interested I think you should politely decline, for example, Thank you for suggesting we consider a home exchange with you. London is a wonderful city, but when we are in Britain we prefer to be in a rural area.
Probably the most difficult situation is where the offer is ok but you think you might get something better down the road by waiting. I think the best response is an honest one: Thank you for suggesting we consider a home exchange with you. We think London is a great city, but we are not yet ready to commit to an exchange for next summer and will get back to you in three months.
You should always consider a home exchange inquiry an expression of preliminary interest. Recognize that when you respond to an inquiry positively, the person who first wrote you may be unwilling to exchange with you. This can happen because they wrote to other families at the same time and you were not #1 on their hit parade. Perhaps they didn’t read your listing carefully until you responded positively; maybe they wanted to be next to the ocean and hadn’t noticed your inland location.
The Problem of Not Finding an Exchange
If you are having trouble finding an exchange, it may be because your offer is unattractive and/or your destination and/or date preferences are unrealistic. There are a limited number of members in the Rotarian Home Exchange Fellowship and what you want or need may not be available. You will need to modify your expectations or consider exchanges with non-Rotarian members of our partner, www.HomeExchange50plus.com. All of the members of the Board of Directors of the Fellowship have traded with non-Rotarians with good results.
Once you have found a potential partner that is ready to discuss the possibility of exchanging with you, Congratulations! The next phase of the process is to negotiate the details with them, build confidence and trust, and make sure an exchange will work out for both of you.