This summer we were lucky enough to find our perfect match on HomeExchange.Com. We headed to South Carolina while our home exchange partners took over our home in Toronto. When people find out we have done a successful home exchange, the questions are usually pretty similar. Here are our answers to some of the home exchange frequently asked questions.
Home Exchange Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Does A Home Exchange Work?
Home exchanges whether through HomeExchange.com or other websites or Facebook groups are really quite simple. Two home owners agree on a date and home exchange for no monetary compensation. Some home exchanges occur at the same time, so you arrive and depart each others’ homes on the same date, others are non-simultaneous. In essence, someone stays in your home for free and in return you stay in their home for free.
2. Is it Hard to Find a Home Exchange Match?
This depends on a few things. The condition of your home and your location. Being in a modern home in downtown Toronto, we have received quite a few offers for home exchanges. The reasons we most often decline are that the cost to get to the potential exchange home is too high and the location of the home is not desirable to us. That being said, while I may want to be close to the centre of a city, someone else may want to be an hour away in the country. Whether your home is updated or not, posting clean pictures of uncluttered spaces goes a long way.
3. How do you find a Home Exchange?
Throughout the last year, we used HomeExchange.com. The cost for HomeExchange.com membership in the US is $150.00 a year and in Canada is $170.00 a year. Once you have joined, HomeExchange.com is essentially an online dating site for your house. You build a profile with places you are open to visiting, add some photos and you are ready to look for an exchange.
We also tried LoveHomeSwap.com which allows you to exchange home for home or for “points”. The point system didn’t work for us as we didn’t want to accept points and instead wanted to do an actual exchange. Within a few months, I cancelled our subscription.
No matter which site you choose, the process can be quite time consuming. The less perimeters you set on where you are willing to travel, the more likely people will find your house but this also means you will be fielding requests from all over the world. When searching for a home exchange, I always searched homes of people looking to come to Toronto as it seemed to have the best success rate.
Once you find a home, you must direct message the owner. HomeExchange.com offers pre-written decline options if the owner isn’t interested or they may respond with questions or an acceptance. I found it wasn’t often that an initial contact was simply ignored.
In the year, we spent on HomeExchange.com, we fielded many offers, got into three possible home exchange conversations and in the end booked one exchange.
4. What happens when you agree to a Home Exchange?
This is where things get interesting. A home exchange is really built on trust. This trust is especially important if you need to book flights to the location of the exchange. While HomeExchange.com encourages you not to cancel the exchange “barring illness, injury, death or natural disaster”, the reality is that there is not exactly a contract in place. While HomeExchange.com does ask that if you cancel, you make an effort to accommodate or find accommodations for the other party, it is in no way a requirement.
Because I knew we were driving to South Carolina, I was less hesitant to book but our exchange partners did need to take a leap of faith and book flights to Toronto on only our word.
5. What’s Next?
Once you have decided to exchange and taken the leap of faith to plan your travel, you need to prep your home. A lot of people have asked if we emptied our closets or hid our valuables. We did not. The reason being that we felt we really trusted the people who were coming to stay and that they trusted us in their home. I found it hard to fathom that while I was in someone’s home, they would be here destroying ours or stealing our things.
We did move some clothes around in case our exchange partners wanted to use the closet but like us they chose to just leave their things in suitcases much like most travellers do in hotels.
We did hire a cleaning lady to clean our home after we departed as a courtesy to our exchange partners. This is not required but can be easier than trying to get a spotless home with kids still in it.
6. Who Pays for What?
While you are on your home exchange, you will inevitably use electricity, wi-fi and things like toilet paper. Thus, you and your exchange partner should discuss these things before you agree to the exchange. I offered the simple solution that neither party would replace things like toilet paper or paper towel before returning home. Our exchange partners agreed. We also simply paid our own utility bills.
One thing we did not clarify before departing was whether we both had high speed wi-fi. Living in Toronto, we sort of assume everyone has high speed internet. Our exchange home had very limited access to internet which in the end didn’t matter but if it does to you, you should clarify before you go.
7. What Happens on the First Day of the Exchange?
Hopefully before the day of the exchange, you and your exchange partner have exchanged information on how to access the home. We have a lock box on our home and simply provided the code to our exchange partners. They did the same.
It helps to make sure both parties have access to cell service in case something goes wrong on the first day of the exchange. We were nervous but were pleasantly surprised with how easy it all was.
8. What Happens During the Exchange?
During the exchange, you do whatever you like in the city you are visiting. The home exchange we chose was on a farm. When the farm employees came each day, the kids helped collect chicken eggs and feed the horses. The rest of the day we swam in the pool, relaxed and barbecued.
9. Do You Talk to the Home Owner During the Exchange?
This depends on the exchange. I found that we texted our exchange partner a few times for practical things like how to access the internet and once in an emergency where the farm animals weren’t fed. They texted us for restaurant recommendations and the like. Casual contact depends on the relationship you have with your exchange partner. I felt comfortable texting them and I feel them felt the same. Make sure you have an emergency number for the home owners as well as someone who call locally deal with problems if they arise.
10. What Happens When You Leave?
As part of our pre-exchange conversations, we had agreed that we and our exchange partners would again have the houses cleaned after we departed the homes. I arranged to have our home cleaned while our exchange partners arranged to have theirs cleaned. That being said, we still left the home in excellent condition and returned home to find that our exchange partners had done the same.
11. Would We Do it Again?
In a heartbeat. The home exchange not only gave us a great place to relax at no cost, it gave us access to things we don’t usually have access to. Watching the kids run around the farm was incredible. Having a glass of wine while chatting with a horse with also pretty cool.
We have not renewed our membership with HomeExchange.Com as we don’t have any open travel time planned but soon will refresh our profile and be out on the hunt again.