We’re planning a home exchange with a couple who have a Paris apartment in our favorite part of the city, and I can’t wait to be off! It will be our fifth (or sixth?) exchange, and we hope it will be as successful as the others. To make sure, we’ve taken the time to have real conversations with our home exchange partners.
Email is fine for asking questions and sharing detailed information. But it’s the back and forth of direct conversation, either on the phone or via Skype, that helps you get to know one another, develop trust, clarify expectations, and avoid misunderstandings.
Here are some tips for helpful conversations with your home exchange partners.
Tip #1. Do a little planning
After reading the home exchange listing and the other people’s profile carefully, think about what questions you’d like to ask and what you want to be sure the other people know about your home. A few written notes will help make sure you cover everything that’s important to you.
Tip #2. Leave enough time
Choose a time when you can focus on the conversation, and select a quiet place so background noise doesn’t make it hard to hear what’s being said.
Tip #3. Set the right tone
A friendly, polite tone helps people feel comfortable. Set the tone of the conversation right away with openers like, “We’re so glad you’re interested in a home exchange with us”; “We’ve always wanted to visit….” “Your home looks as if it would be perfect for us.”
Tip #4. Encourage questions and answer them truthfully
One of the most important reasons for direct conversations is to give each of you the chance to ask questions. Say something like, “I’m sure you have questions for us, and we have a few for you.” Answer the other person’s questions honestly and truthfully, and ask for clarification if you’re not sure you understand. “How big is your home” might mean “How many people does your home sleep?” or “How many rooms does it have?” “Is the area lively” could mean “Is it noisy” or “Are there cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby?”
Tip #5. Listen carefully
We all have a tendency to jump in when there’s a silence during a conversation or to “rehearse” what we’re going to say next while someone is talking. Instead, listen, listen, and listen some more. People tend to trust one another when they know they are being heard. It’s also surprising how much more information people offer when you leave space in the conversation.
Tip #6. It’s okay to get personal
You and your exchange partners don’t have to become best friends (although it happens), but it’s important that you get to know one another. Take some time during the initial conversation to chat about yourselves and your families. Share your reasons for traveling and why you want to do a home exchange instead of staying in a hotel or a short-term rental. Talk a little about what it’s like to live in your home, and ask about theirs.
Tip #7. Agree on what happens next
Once you’ve covered everything on your list and the other person has no more questions, close the conversation by deciding on next steps: Will you do the exchange? Have you firmed up the dates? Does one of you need more information before making a decision?
Tip #8. Follow up the conversation
Within an hour or two of the conversation, send the other people an email saying how nice it was to meet them, thanking them for taking the time to talk, and summarizing the details of your agreement.
Janis Fisher Chan is a writer, editor, and passionate traveler who recently launched TravelontheHouse.com to provide would-be home exchangers and short-term rental hosts with information, tips, and advice.
You can reach Janis at [email protected]