John and Marilyn started home exchanging over 30 years ago, (80+ swaps), and feel they can now describe themselves as "experienced exchangers!" Marilyn very kindly wrote her top 10 tips for successful home swaps for an issue of Home Swappers newsletter in 2009 (when the couple had had only 60+ exchanges!). Her tips are still spot on and are particularly useful for first time exchangers:
2. Draft your advert with care. Include details of your home, facilities, family & locality, saying why your area would be ideal as a holiday destination. We all know the attractions of London, but overseas visitors especially may never have heard of your region so add a link to a local website. Be flexible with your dates and preferred destinations.
3. Photographs. I can`t stress how important these are to your home exchange entry so have your home looking its best and take tempting photographs inside and out. You will receive more offers if you have photographs, or even better, a personal website. After all, you would not choose a package holiday from a brochure without photographs.
4. Take the Initiative, write to several prospective exchangers. A friendly informative offer, addressed to them personally, will result in a greater success rate. Again be flexible and open to alternative dates/periods. If you can`t fix a swap for this year, why not think ahead to next year?
5. Always Reply to an Offer. If you can`t make an immediate decision send an acknowledgement and say you will respond in a week. Don`t be discouraged if sometimes people fail to reply to your offers. It does happen, console yourself with the thought that you wouldn`t want to swap with ill- mannered people anyway!
6. Confirm & Commit to your swap. Don`t renege on your agreement later, even if you receive a better offer....save that offer for next year instead. Discuss the formalities with your guests. Ask questions, offer information, exchange more photographs. Agree who will pay utility & `phone bills, repairs, breakages, use of food, cleaning materials, bedlinen, towels. Advise your home (& car if applicable), insurance companies of the situation and if they are unsympathetic, shop around. Some people like to use a written agreement form...Home Base Holidays has one ready drafted for you and this can be a great help.
7. Prepare a "Home Book" containing practical information on your home & appliances. Include such details as where to find the fusebox, stopcock, operate the TV, when the dustbins are emptied etc. Useful telephone numbers....doctor, dentist, plumber, electrician, your own mobile numbers and those of helpful neighbours can be included too. (Before swapping send your own and neighbours numbers + location of a spare key, so that your guests can keep a copy with them in case of emergency). Leave up to date tourist leaflets, maps, guide books, train & bus timetables.
8. Clean everything & everywhere...make sure the cooker, fridge, oven, cutlery drawer...are spotless...just as you would wish to find them on arrival at your holiday home. No need to re-decorate the house but this is a great opportunity to do those little jobs you always meant to do, and of course you`ll reap the benefit too! Make space in drawers and cupboards for your exchange family to put their belongings, leave your home sparkling and welcoming, flowers are a nice touch.
9. Meet your guests if possible, you can get to know them a little & exchange keys. If not, leave them a welcome letter & perhaps a bottle of wine. Why not agree beforehand to leave milk, bread etc for each other? When leaving their home ensure you have agreed where to leave keys & what to do with used linen. Last but not least, leave a "thank you" letter.
10. Communicate throughout. Be open and honest in what you have to offer. If you want to include extra guests or a pet, ask in advance. Keep in regular contact with your exchangers from initial agreement to exchanging, this builds mutual trust.
Marilyn live in a 17th century sandstone cottage (above) with exposed
stonework, oak beams and many original features in a tiny village near Appleby,
Cumbria, England. There are fantastic views of the Pennine hills from the house
and garden. See their full home exchange offer.
'We love exchanging and do our utmost to make people feel at home here, whilst taking the best possible care of the homes we stay in. We provide guide books, maps, tourist leaflets, a "home book", bicycles and much more, to enable our guests to make the most of their stay in Cumbria.'