How to Find A Good Home Exchange Partner

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Sometimes, delightfully, you will receive an unexpected exchange request from an exchanger with a marvelous house, say, with a pool, in a marvelous place, say, near a national park in Australia,  who wants to do an exchange at a time that suits you perfectly.  That is wonderful, but you should know that it doesn’t always happen like that.

We highly recommend that you proactively seek out exchange options rather than just wait for other exchangers to contact you.  Depending on where you live and the desirability of your offer, you may find that you will receive a lot of exchange requests and even for places you want to go.   However, it is unlikely that the requests you receive will be exactly the same ones you would contact if you were selecting the listings.

Keeping in mind that in general you are looking for your counterpart in an area where you would like to visit, you should nevertheless  understand that exact parity is not needed.  Your home need not be luxurious, for example, if you live in a place like Hawaii, New York City or San Francisco, or near a national park. Potential exchangers with  even a luxury home may well be very happy to exchange with you because you live in a place they want to visit.

If you are a family with children, you will probably have greater success arranging an exchange with another family with children than with a couple living in a city because it will offer appropriate bedrooms, toys, books, DVDs for each family to enjoy.  However, your should not feel unduly restricted to listings just like yours.

There are any number of reasons why someone may wish to visit your area.  For some people the reason to do a home exchange in a particular area my simply be “I’ve always wanted to go there for a vacation”, but there are other and perhaps even better reasons to choose a destination: Perhaps you went to school or worked there in earlier years and still have friends in the area. Perhaps your kids and grandchildren live there, yet as much as you love them, you know a visit can be longer and more relaxed if you have your own place.

It may be where parents fell in love and married and they always talked about it. It may be the place from where way back in time, a great-great-grandparent left to find a better life and thus added a new branch to the family tree. Perhaps you have loved reading novels and stories set in a place, or want to go where your much-loved sport or hobby – skiing, quilting, hiking, drawing and painting – would be wonderful to experience.  Or sometimes, you just don’t know really, but you’re sure you’ll find out if you go there.

We ourselves have had exchange partners who were motivated by some of these reasons.  One of them had a wonderful apartment in the center of Paris, another a home with a private pool in Hawaii and, still another, a beach home in Mexico.  We have been very fortunate in having had the opportunity to stay in wonderful places and we know from other exchange partners that their experiences with home exchanging have been equally wonderful.

If we know the area we would like to visit when we begin looking for exchange options, we usually look first for listings in that area.  Sometimes we find that there are a great many listings in certain states, such as Florida or California or in cities such as Vancouver or Montreal in Canada .  That is usually a very good sign that a lot of people have found that area appealing and purchased homes there and suggests that we might also find the area appealing to visit.

In some cases, there may be very few or no listings in the area you’re interested in.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no listings available.  Another home exchange website may have listings for the area and you may be able to search to find out if there is another home exchange website with listings for that area.  Depending on what you find and how much interest you have in that area, you may decide to join an additional home exchange website.  That is what we did when we found that homelink.org has a lot of listings in Australia, a place where we arranged two different four-month-long trips by arranging a series of home exchanges in several Australian cities.

We are also open to exchanges in places we haven’t considered before as some of favorite exchanges only happened because someone contacted us with an exchange offer because they found our listing.  If your home exchange website offers it, we recommend that you do a reverse search to find out who in the world may be interested in coming to your area for an exchange.  Because of their interest in your area, you have a much better chance of making an exchange with them than with just a random listing.  Looking at those search results is a little like being a guest at a wedding buffet.  Let’s see now, what would I like?

Another feature of some home exchange websites is a listing of last minute exchanges.  This has listings of people who are looking for an exchange in the near future.  If you are flexible and want to travel in the near term yourself, you may want to check this list to see if this buffet offers anything interesting.

If there are a lot of listings for your area of interest you may want to limit your search to exclude listings with certain characteristics.  For example, you may not want listings of people who have pets because of your own allergies or you may not want to exchange with smokers.

Our search goal for a given area is to develop a ranked list of our favorite prospects, with our most favorite at the top.  We use search parameters to help us develop such a list.  For example, we may want to limit our search to listings that indicate they want exchanges in the US or are open to destinations, listings which offer a car exchange, people who are non-smokers and, sometimes, people who can do a non-simultaneous exchange.  If we get a group of listings which have those characteristics, we then look at them carefully for ways to rank the listings in that group.

Many home exchange websites have a feature that allows you to save those listings as a group of “favorites” and some way to reflect your ranking of them.  That way, you can contact potential exchange partners one at a time, working from the top of your list down.

You will find out, as you do this, that not everyone will reply to your inquiry.  There are any number of reasons for this.  Some people probably don’t monitor their email closely, others may not see it perhaps because it goes to a spam folder and unfortunately, others just don’t bother.  So, if you don’t receive a reply, you need to realize that it isn’t personal.  It’s just the way it is.

We generally wait a day or two for a response to our inquiry.  If we don’t receive one, we move on to the next listing.  Our philosophy is that we will book and exchange with the first positive response we receive.  If someone from a listing that was higher on our list of favorites responds later with a positive response, for us it is not acceptable to backtrack on the first positive responder.  So we have to tell the late responder that we already have an exchange arranged.

Although that is our preferred approach to contacting potential exchangers, sometimes there is not enough time to use that approach.  For example, for one of our trips to Australia we needed to quickly replace an exchange in one of the cities because our exchange partner had to cancel (this does happen, but rarely). In that circumstance we needed to quickly contact all the potential exchangers in the area.  When we did that, we explained the circumstances and informed them all in our inquiry letter what we were doing.  We have had to do this a couple of times over the years and in both cases we were able to quickly replace the cancelled exchange.

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