Judy and her family have been HomeExchange members for 15 years, completing 102 exchanges and traveling all over the world (some of her favorite exchanges have been to Mexico, Italy, France, England, Canada, and all over the US). Judy shares a typical conversation she has with a friend after telling them she uses HomeExchange to travel the world.
Conversation with a HomeExchanger
Really?! You let strangers stay in your home?!
Well, yes, we do. But by the time of the exchange, we hardly feel like strangers anymore. We’ve been exchanging information via email and phone, finding out from one another what would enhance their visit, and letting them know what we hope to see and do in their area. For the most part a HomeExchanger is invested in their guests having a great experience.
Some of our hosts have gone to great lengths to show us a good time…some examples are, making reservations, leaving passes or admission tickets for us and arranging private tours at places we’d never be able to have seen or experienced otherwise (an exclusive restaurant reservations with personal attention from the chef; Personal driver and live-in housekeeper and chef; A private tour of the Lamborghini factory in Italy; And a personal hands-on visit in Lexington KY with American Pharaoh, the world’s most winningest race horse).
I tell naysayers that the concept is based on a mutual trust and respect…you are staying in their home, and they are in your home. That reciprocity results in a desire to both please our guests, as well as to BE a good guest.
But isn’t it creepy to have someone staying in your home that you’ve never met? I mean, they sleep in your bed! And they could go through your private affairs.
To that I say… Well, think of how many strangers have slept in that hotel bed you stay in. And though I understand it’s not 100% foolproof, typically the home we are interested in demonstrates a certain degree of stability and responsibility on the part of the owners.
We aren’t foolhardy…we do have a closet wherein we lock our private papers, and I do take valuable jewelry to a safety deposit box – that’s only smart. But in all the years we’ve been exchanging, we’ve never had a problem of any sort.
What condition is the home when you return?
Typically, the only tell-tale sign that someone has been in our home is a food item left in the fridge, or a note and/or a gift left for us. Home Exchangers are typically very careful to return household items to their original spots and to clean up after themselves.
Usually, I have our housekeeper come as we depart our home and before our guests have arrived; and the opposite on the tail end. However, there have been times when the housekeeper couldn’t come on the tail end. Discussing your expectations and your willingness to strip beds or change sheets, or put used towels in the laundry room, or run a load of sheets/towels before departure, makes for an easy return home on both parts.
Isn’t it a lot of work to find a suitable home?
Some of our exchanges have occurred with very little effort, and others have taken a fair amount of time searching. But honestly, it’s all fun. The trick is to maximize the “looks” your home gets by posting attractive photos and describing why one would want to visit your home, your city and your part of the country. I love opening my email and seeing an exchange request.
It’s easy to simply say no if it’s not of interest or the timing doesn’t work. The “Search Homes” feature provides numerous filters that narrow down the choices and allows me to see just those properties that fit the bill, such as number of bedrooms, baths, city or rural environment, area activities, etc. And the “Reverse Search” shows you HomeExchange members who are interested in coming to your area, and even when they might be interested in an exchange.
Why do you find HomeExchange so appealing?
- We get to live in a neighborhood, much more akin to a local experience.
- We get the local’s advice and suggestions of things to do, places to eat, etc.
- There is a lot more room for each of our family members to relax, have their own space and privacy.
- The economy of scale has provided our family with experiences we would not otherwise been able to afford - we would have to have multiple hotel rooms to accommodate all of us – and frankly some of the areas we’ve been to would have been cost prohibitive.
- We have been able to invite other families to join us, making for some really fun and memorable times.
- We’ve had exchangers take care of our two small dogs on occasion, and have taken care of other’s pets. Though this is a negotiable feature, it works great for us.
- We’ve even left our cars for one another at the airport, greatly cutting down on car rental expense.
This marks our 15th anniversary as Home Exchangers, and we have over 100 exchanges, ranging from long weekends to two-week stays; domestic and international, reciprocal or Guest Points.
We have met many wonderful people throughout the years and are fortunate to call quite a few of them friends. We look forward to traveling with our family, other couples and friends, as well as the prospect of long-term exchanges in retirement.
HomeExchange may not be for everyone, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.