- Search on the Internet for reputable, established home exchange agencies with large pools of members in countries that interest you. Some offer private, members only services, others are "open" systems which allow non-members to search or contact listings. Open systems offer the opportunity for more offers from non-members, but non-members will not have supplied the exchange club with a credit card number to pay for membership. Search on phrases such as: home exchange, home swap, house swap and house exchange, or get a reliable translation of these phrases into the language of the country that interests you to find sites based in these countries.
- Narrow the list of agencies by checking the numbers of home exchange offers in countries you are interested in, the numbers in your own country (i.e. how many others you will be competing with for the best exchange offers), how up-to-date the listings are (whether you can see when a member joined/their listing expires), how easy the website is to use and whether you can contact the agency by phone as well as by email if you have questions.
- Join the agency which seems to best suit your needs several weeks (or even months) before the dates you want to exchange homes.
- Compile an enticing exchange offer message and personalise it before sending to several members whose offers are of interest.
- Keep checking the website for new listings and contact new members right away before they have had time to agree to other exchange offers.
- Once you find a suitable home swap partner, exchange more detailed information on your home and local area, asking for (and offering to provide) references if this would be a reassurance to you.
- Clean and tidy your home before your exchange, leaving space in wardrobes and cupboards for your exchange guests to store their things, leave a folder with information on using your appliances, useful contact numbers (e.g. doctor, dentist, taxis, garage) and local information (e.g. restaurants, bus and train timetables). Differences in cleaning standards are the top reason for dis-satisfaction among exchangers, so hire a cleaner if needed.
- Enjoy your exchange home and leave it exactly as you found it at the end of your exchange, with the beds made up with clean bed linen.
- For the best chances of arranging a home exchange, be as open as possible on exact destinations you will consider and, if possible, on dates and length of exchange.
- Look at more than the claimed numbers of members when choosing an agency to join - large numbers of listings may sometimes mean that many listings are in circulation a long time.
- Try to exchange homes with someone in a similar situation to yourself, e.g. if you have young children and swap with another young family, their home should be safe for children and have lots of toys and possibly baby gear so you don't need to bring so much with you.
- Plan your exchange carefully so that there are no misunderstandings about what is included in the exchange, preferably completing with an informal written agreement.
- The purpose of home exchange agencies is to put you in touch with other people interested in exchanging homes for vacations. A good home exchange agency will provide you with lots of help (on their website, sometimes in an ezine or weblog) and be available to answer your questions. However, you will ultimately be responsible for your own exchange arrangements.
- Think carefully before joining an 'open' site that allows non-members to contact members or a 'free' site. In theory such sites could bring you more exchange offers but, if someone is not prepared to pay a small fee to join an agency, and/or you can't see their own exchange listing before responding to their offer, they may not be very committed to arranging an exchange. Generally it is best (and avoids time wasters), to join an established home exchange agency that you can see has a good range of up-to-date exchange offers and operates a private, members-only site for extra security.
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