When you think about it, people who take part in home exchanges must be some of the most generous, open minded, trusting and considerate people in the world. Give yourself a pat on the back if you are already a seasoned home swapper!
Home Base Holidays members often comment that some friends they've described home exchange to have reacted with horror, along the (predictable) lines of 'What - you let "strangers" stay in your house? Are you mad? Aren't you afraid they will wreck your house, steal all your belongings, ... eat your cat?' (well, maybe not the last one, but you get the picture!)
The reality of home swapping is not nearly so sensational, but it's true that many people could never accept that it can work so well and they should not even think about exchanging homes (nor should the seriously overly house proud who are likely to be critical of house keeping standards that don't match their own). However, most people (even generous, open minded and considerate people) do have legitimate concerns at first. It's only once they understand the process of how exchanges are arranged, generally over quite a lengthy period when the two parties are exchanging information through many emails and phone calls, that they realise that it's not nearly so scary to entrust their homes to the exchange partners they will have got to know over the course of this extensive pre-planning.
So how do you go about finding exchange partners that you are going to feel comfortable with and who you can trust will respect any special concerns you have? First, you check through the Home Base Holidays listings regularly (as a member you will be able to log on to your member area to view full listings) to look for those members whose offers are of interest - destination and exchange dates seem to fit with your plans, their home is in an area you'd like to visit and looks like it would suit your needs. Also check for the sort of information that's important to you (you will see much of this type of information in the ticked options in the listings). For example, if you are a smoker, does the member allow smokers in their home? If you have pets that need to be cared for - has the member offered to look after pets? Your home may not be suitable for children - does the member have young children? This is your starting point. Once you have found a good match, where dates and other considerations seem to look good for both of you, then you need to really ensure that you are both aware of any particular requirements - and be prepared to respect these while in each other's homes.
This long preamble is really just leading up to a reminder of your responsibilities as a good home exchanger. The vast majority of members need no reminders but, just occasionally, we get feedback from a member that indicates a lack of respect was shown for their needs (which may be due to either poor communication or just plain lack of consideration). A few examples: maybe your exchange partner who doesn't allow smoking in her home or even outside an open door is not just been pernickety but actually has serious allergies; a member may have religious or ethical beliefs that require that no meat be cooked in their homes or maybe drinking alcohol is forbidden in the home; if a member's cat is a house cat, there will be a good reason why you are instructed to not let the cat outside while in your care; perhaps the member runs a home business and you haven't been given permission to use their computer for security reasons (if you do need a fast internet connection yourself, find out if this is available beforehand).
Even if some requests may seem over fastidious to you, it's possible that some of your own requirements may seem bizarre to others! Take time and care when arranging your exchange, swap with members who appear to have similar attitudes as yourself (even more important if you are doing a hospitality exchange), respect each other's differences and special requests, and you should both have a great home exchange.