Ballpark Estimate: $10 to $30 per month
A first-class vacation may not be in your budget these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore your urge to get away. Instead, how about swapping homes with someone else in another part of the world? This type of bartering arrangement can provide you with a comfortable setting without breaking the bank.
The concept of swapping homes began in the 1950s and since then has provided many singles, couples and families with a very cost effective means of traveling, both within the United States and also in different parts of the world. With the faltering economy causing more people to tighten their belts, the popularity of home exchange vacations is still going strong. In fact, today it’s easy to find a number of companies who serve as middlemen to bring together people who are interested in a short-term exchange of homes.
There are a number of benefits you can expect to get when you participate in a home exchange vacation. For instance, you’ll be able to save on the cost of a hotel, and you’ll also be able to get more space to spread out and better enjoy your time away than you would stuck in a small hotel room. Most homes offer access to a fully-equipped kitchen so you can cook your own meals and avoid the expense of eating your meals out. Some home exchanges also include the use of a car, which can be very convenient. In addition, many homes even come with the responsibility of caring for a pet, which can add a special touch if you find this agreeable. Living in someone else’s home can be a wonderful way to experience a taste of living in other parts of the world. In addition, your home exchange host could give you invaluable insider tips of where and what to see to make the most of your vacation.
Find an Agency
The best way to arrange a home exchange vacation is by joining a service that brings people with homes to exchange together to find a good match. Knowyourtrade.com is one resource to help you explore some of the home exchange companies in business today. You can also visit some of the most popular home swap websites directly, such as Homeexchange.com, Homelink.org, Homeforexchange.com, Seniorshomeexchange.com, and Intervac.com. You might even look for home exchange services that are targeted for people with specific interests, characteristics and backgrounds. These include Christianhomeexchange, Seniorshomeexchange.com, and Homearoundtheworld.com.
How It Works
Most home exchange services charge a small membership fee and, in exchange, allow people to list their homes along with all of the pertinent details. Members can also search for other available homes. The type of information offered on most home exchange website listings include the location, the types of amenities included, the desired area for the swap and the timeframe when it could occur.
When comparing home exchange vacation services to select the one best for you, there are a variety of features worth considering that can make a real difference in your experience. For instance, you might opt for a smaller agency that provides more personalized service. Just keep in mind that in return for the convenience you won’t have as many listings from which to choose, so you might be more limited in what you find. You can go with a larger agency with lots of options and features. The downside of a big agency is that you’ll need to plan more time to weed through the choices and help narrow them down to find just what you are looking for. Your best bet is to narrow in on a home exchange vacation agency that has a number of members specifically located in the region or regions where you want to travel. It can also be helpful to find an agency that represents your demographic. For instance, if you have children, you’ll probably want to find a service that has many families. This can help you find a home match that will have enough space to meet your needs. It can also mean that you’ll have access to helpful items such as a swing set, toys, crib, high chair and playpen.
There are some key questions are important to ask when considering a potential home swap.
- Is it okay to bring children?
- How about pets?
- Is a car included in the swap?
- Will I have access to a computer?
- Is there a laundry room I can use?
- Can I easily access public transportation?
- What type of cleaning would you like done at the end of the home swap period?
- Would you like to put the home swap terms into a formal agreement?
Even if you’re intrigued by the idea of a home exchange, you may also be worried about the idea of having a stranger temporarily living in your home and having access to your personal possessions. Most home exchange companies recommend spending some time communicating with the person you plan to do a home swap with in advance to get a feel for him or her. It’s also important to get referrals from other people who have done exchanges with this person. While most home exchanges are perfectly safe, if there’s something of great personal or monetary value in your home, you should always put it somewhere safe while you are away. You should also take care to lock up any very personal information that you wouldn’t want to share with others.
What It Costs
The main cost involved in a home swap vacation is usually your airfare or other transportation fees, meals and the cost of the home exchange service membership. There are a handful of home swap agencies that you can find online that don’t charge any fee, but many of the larger and more established agencies do charge something. Some services charge payments on a monthly basis, while others are quarterly, annually or even every few years. A few services even offer a lifetime membership. (Just keep in mind that a lifetime membership is only good as long as the company stays in business.) Regardless of how you break down the fees, a paid home exchange service cost generally ranges from $5 to about $40 a month or between $60 and $200 a year. If you want to do a luxury home swap, expect to pay more. In fact, this can cost between $400 and $500 a year. Before joining any home exchange services, research all available online user reviews of their site and also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau.