I've searched the archive and found info from 1999. I'd certainly like more updated opinions on house exchanges. My husband and I have been discussing the possibility of a home exchange so we can live/travel in Europe for 4 weeks. What company have you used? What kind of costs are involved. Have you actually done a house exchange and what was your experience? Would you do it again? Was the use of a car included (both sides, here and in Europe)?
I had not seen much discussion of home exchanges on this site. But there several web sites devoted to that subject. I have a list somewhere.
We have done 5 exchanges, and our 6th is coming up in September. We have used intervac.com, homelink.org, and homeexchange.com. They operate in similar ways and have similar costs, around $100/year. Cars were exchanged in 4 of the 5, and won't be in the upcoming swap. You can browse the listings of the companies without joining. That's what we've done; then we join the one that looks to have the greatest potential for the place we want to visit. Our worst experience was pretty good; and our best, super. I'd be happy to answer more questions, either in a pm or on this forum.
I have never used them, but friends have used intervac.com for several multi-week exchanges between European locations and their New Jersey home. All included cars, I believe. They found it an inexpensive way to have a base in Europe for themselves and two teenagers. Their biggest initial hesitation was turning their house and contents over to strangers, until they realized that the strangers were doing the same for them. I don't think they've had any major problems.
We've been doing home exchanges since 1995, 15 altogether. We've gone to Europe for 3-4 weeks during the summer peak season with each one of these exchanges. We've mainly used one company who are celebrating their 60th year in the business (used to be an mailed out catalog of listings!) homelink.org, but 2 years ago we added another company, homeforexchange.com. We noticed that travel to the US by Europeans was slowing down and we wanted to increase our prospects. We also noticed that some countries produced very few people who wanted to exchange so we wanted to increase our possibilities. There is no cost to look as others have said and only cost is the membership fee ($59-$110ish) if you choose to join. We've had a great exchange each summer getting to spend time in an area. About half of the time we've met the exchangers, either in our home or theirs at the beginning or end of the trip. We exchange many emails before we work out the details of the exchange. There is an exchange agreement form to sign. The biggest assurance we have that people will treat our home well is that we have established communication with them during the initial process and that we are agreeing to take good care of their home. It is a different, more connected way to explore an area and culture. We've met some interesting families and stayed in some wonderful homes and areas with this style of travel. Most of the time we've exchanged cars but not every time. PM me if you want more information.
Rosalyn and Mona, I seriously considered doing a home exchange back in 2000 for our trip in 2001 but I got so overwhelmed with all the prep needed... ie, my house in perfect order when they arrive, my car in perfect order, all the paperwork/communication, having a friend here to be a contact, worrying about if a pipe burst and they needed to call in a plumber or something similar, writing out a manual for them on how to use everything, and, I live in a complex so advising them of all the rules here (and worrying about them inadvertently breaking rules), THEN when I'm staying in their house, keeping it clean, not breaking anything, and leaving it in perfect order when we left. All worthwhile for free lodging I realize, but I just got too overwhelmed by it all. We go to Europe fairly often and I'm still intrigued by doing an exchange. Any words of wisdom about my being overwhelmed by it?
@Susan Before we ever did a house exchange we did a 7 month sabbatical in Europe and rented our house here, furnished, to a visiting faculty member family. I think that prepared me for the house exchange experience. I keep a to-do list of projects to try to keep the house "visitor ready". Not everything gets done before each exchange but it keeps us motivated. We have a binder of house and area related things that I each year. We have fun picking which neighbor will be our main contact person as some have a preference for families from particular countries based on their language skills, etc. Some of our neighbors still correspond with the exchange families we never met who stayed in our house. We put a few hard to replace items away before the exchange and try to be as careful as we can with their belongings. We have our cleaning person take care of the house while we are away so that minimizes oddly put away items but that is always a challenge. Once, we took a picture of how they had things arranged on their cluttered coffee table b/c we wanted the space for our things. Kitchen drawers are hard to keep organized if you have multiple people preparing meals. In 15 years nothing has ever gone missing. All in all, it has been a fun way for us to travel each summer and stay in some fabulous, unique places that we get to choose.
Thank you for taking the time to respond Mona, I appreciate it!
Ellen...we have done 4 exchanges and have agreed to our 5th for this summer. Have use homeexchange.com for all 5 and have been very happy with our exchanges. And we've exchange cars for all of them with no bad experiences. Homeexchange.com costs $119 a year and we have never failed to get home exchanges in the countries we wanted. We've exchanged with families in The Netherlands, England, Ireland, and Austria...back to England this summer. We have used a basic agreement that spells out the details and expectations for the house and the car. If you would like a copy, just email me and I'll be glad to share. It sets up expectations in the beginning so there are no surprises. We love home exchanging and look forward to new adventures each year.