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February 14, 2009


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The point about home exchange agreements is fairly made. They may have the potential to be enforceable but I doubt that many people would want to go to the time or effort of pursuing a bad swap through the courts.

I was actually thinking that an agreement is quite good at focussing the mind. It makes sure that both parties are equally serious and have dealt with the details (many of the forms have boxes for numbers of people travelling, use of cars etc). It is also the point at which you know you can book tickets with confidence that the other party is committed.

One of the clubs we are members with enables the exchange agreements to be completed online with the other party and lodged with the club. As far as I can gather (this is a new feature) you can then opt to use anyone you have had an agreement with (only with their approval) as a reference. It also looks as though the agreements will now be the only way of increasing the number of swaps completed on your listing (I have absolutely no idea how that works and I suspect it may be over-engineered!).

Lois, Home Base Holidays

Hi Sue

If you have the space to have a locked 'out of bounds' room, do use this to store anything you would be particularly concerned about. You will take time to get to know and trust your home exchange partners (and they, you) before agreeing to an exchange and so you may find that there's very little you actually feel you want to lock away. A locked cupboard may be sufficient for any personal documents and items of value (monetary and sentimental). Or you may want to ask a close family member or a friend to store such items for you.

Just about anywhere in Italy is popular as a home exchange destination! I wouldn't be too concerned that there are few English speakers in your area as home exchangers are generally interested in experiencing the 'real' country and most won't be too phased by a language barrier. Explain in your home exchange offer that there are few English speakers in your area, leave lots of useful information for your guests, including contact details for English speaking friends who would be happy to help out, especially in an emergency, with translation problems. Also leave anything that you feel will help your guests settle in and use the facilities in your area even if their understanding of Italian is minimal or non-existent - perhaps, along with the menues, translations of the names of favourite dishes in local restaurants you recommend. Leave clear details of emergency services. Provide a good, small phrase book with particularly useful phrases marked that they can take with them on their outings.

I do hope you decide to list your home with Home Base Holidays soon - you should have a wonderful choice of attractive exchange offers to consider. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Sue Higgott

Can anyone tell me if it's best to put personal items in a locked room so they are out of the way. We are thinking about exchanging our home and want to consider things before we join. Also, we live out of the town in the countryside in Northern Italy where alsmost nobody speaks English - would this be a problem?

Kathie Gadd

We would definitely agree with the home exchange pack. Ours includes things like numbers for the local doctor, dentist, the NHS Direct helpline, nearest pharmacy, emergency numbers (i.e. 999 and the details they need to give the operator as these vary from country to country), location and numbers of A&E, walk-in centres etc, emergency plumber and electrician. We also notify our doctor and dentist who have been very helpful with providing information on how visitors to our home can access services if needed. We also include a signed statement in the front of the folder to the effect that the (named) exchangers are staying at our home with our full consent and knowledge.

We usually pop around to our neighbours and neighbourhood watch co-ordinator to make sure they know we have home exchangers staying - just in case a helpful neighbour sees them going into the house and reports them! The neighbours usually go out of their way to welcome them - I think they find our home swappers fascinating!

We also make good use of yellow post-it notes so our exchangers can quickly identify where key items are kept (first aid box, cooking equipment, our ironing board - which is hidden behind a push panel cupboard!) These are reused for each exchange.

We keep a good supply of local maps ready marked with the location of the house and the main attractions so that our exchangers can get their bearings quickly. If we are travelling outside Europe (so our SatNav is of no use to us!) then we leave it for our exchangers, ready programmed for 'home' if we are swapping cars, but with other key locations already set up. Previous swappers have found this to be extremely helpful - especially when trying to find our house for the first time at the end of a long plane journey.

We revamped our airing cupboard here in the UK so that bed linen is kept in labelled plastic stackable storage boxes; one for each bedroom. In France we keep the bedlinen in the room where it is to be used.

We keep all instruction manuals for equipment in one place so exchangers can easily find them if they need to work out how to use the finer points of the TV, ice-cream maker etc!

Our computer is password protected and we have a separate 'guest' user set up (no password) so exchangers can use the internet etc without having access to our personal files and information.

We telephone our exchangers soon after they have arrived so if there are any hitches we can sort them out quickly. We keep in regular contact either by phone, text or email throughout the exchange.

We have found that exchanging becomes easier the more times we do it. We have a routine now - which even the kids are familiar with - so we can have the house ready pretty quickly.

Home Base Holidays

Hi Kathie

Thank you for your comment on Hobiej's reference to signing an exchange agreement. You are absolutely right that such an agreement is more for clarity (to reduce the chances of any misunderstandings later on) rather than a legal document.

Home Base Holidays includes a sample home exchange agreement form that members can adapt to suit their own arrangements. All good home exchange services will provide something similar for their members, with a reminder that it is advisable to exchange an agreement as a way of summarising all that has been agreed during correspondence before agreeing to go ahead with the swap. Home exchange agencies can't enforce this, of course, as exchanges are arranged privately between individual members and each pair will decide how detailed or formalised they want to be.

I remember your reports of your horrible exchange experience last summer. This is really disappointing when the vast majority of people who swap homes are so careful and respectful of the homes entrusted to them. As you are an experienced exchanger, I do hope your exchange agency took your complaint seriously and followed it up, banning the rogue members from future membership. I think it's likely that you will have developed a sixth sense to alert you to any potential problems with future exchange partners, so that you can back off before agreeing to an exchange.

Thanks again for your comments. As another experienced exchanger, do you have anything to add to Hobiej's list?


Kathie Gadd

I was intrigued with the reference above which said to ensure you signed a swap agreement. We have done a number of swaps now but have never signed a swap agreement. Everything has been agreed via email. I'm not sure what (other than perhaps clarity) they add? How enforceable are they? We have only had one (bad) exchange - where our home swappers all but trashed the house and I'm not sure an agreement would have helped in that situation. If the swappers live in different legal jurisdictions, which law takes precedence? In any case would it really be worth taking a cross border case to court? We just took the hit for the damage, reported it to the home exchange website and chalked it up to experience and resolved to ask more detailed questions next time - though I'm sure any future questions would be carefully fielded by 'dodgy' prospective exchangers.

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