Organising home swaps
Stage One: Making contact with other members
First, make sure you have given a good description of your exchange
offer in your listing and add photos before starting to contact members
to suggest an exchange. Log on to your member area and access your form
(click Edit Listing) whenever you want to make changes or additions.
Be as flexible as possible about exact destinations.
Part of the fun of home exchange is discovering exciting exchange
offers in places you may not have considered visiting before.
Allow plenty of time to arrange your exchange. Take
the initiative and contact members directly. Many experienced exchangers
contact 20 or more members initially. It is easy to contact members
by email so do send messages to as many as you want. At this stage
you are not making a commitment but just gauging interest in your
exchange offer. You will soon narrow the field to those members
who are interested in an exchange with you.
Information Sheet Check List
- Quote your User ID (HE + 4 or 5 digit number) and give your
name, address, telephone number, fax number and email address.
- Introduce your family briefly - the ages and interests of any children
plus a little information about your own hobbies and work.
- Describe your home - type of home, age, size and any special
features it has along with a brief list of household equipment
your exchange partner will be able to use. *Note: if you are offering
a swimming pool make sure you indicate if the pool is shared rather
than your private pool.
- Describe your neighbourhood, climate, local amenities and other
areas of interest that are accessible from your home. Look at
your area from a visitor's point of view.
- Give details of public transport and distances to closest airports
- If you are offering to exchange your car, give details of make,
year, automatic or manual and condition (Note: do not make a definite
agreement to swap cars without first checking that your insurance
company will cover your exchange partners).
- Try to exchange with people in like circumstances if possible.
If you are a retired couple, your home may not be geared up for
the needs of a family with toddlers. Likewise, if you have a young
family, exchanging with another family - with baby equipment,
toys, books and often local playmates and baby-sitters - makes
the holiday so much easier.
- Prepare your Information Sheet to save as a word document or in your email Drafts folder
so that it is ready to copy and paste in email messages to as
many members as you wish. Offer to send photos of your home to
members who are interested in your offer.
- Contact form: Log on to your member area to search listings
(you can save those you want to contact later to your Favourites list.
You can then easily access each listing again from your member area).
You will see a contact form at the end of each full listing. Use this
to send your exchange offer to the member.
- Very Important: Always personalise your exchange offer message before sending.
Address the member by name and start your message with a sentence or two on what
has attracted you to their exchange offer. Also mention the reasons you feel your home
and offer would suit their particular needs – this will show you have read their
exchange offer carefully and have noted any special requests they have.
- Check out for new listings regularly; remember that you can
use your membership to arrange more than one exchange holiday
Sample exchange offer message
Take your time to compile a useful and informative standard message
to save and copy in your exchange offer messages, adapting it to suit the member
you are contacting. The following is a sample offer message (with the standard
part of the message shown in italics):
Personal Websites - some members
now have their own websites and it is useful to include a link in
your listing for members to find additional information on your
exchange offer. You may also like to include links to websites giving
information on attractions in your area in your exchange offer messages.
Multiple exchanges - when travelling abroad some members
do not wish to spend their entire holiday in one area. It is possible to
arrange more than one home exchange on a trip; however, if complications
occur in one link in the exchange chain it can affect the plans of other members.
Generally, it is wisest to arrange only one or two concurrent exchanges and use
other accommodation if you plan to travel around.
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Stage Two: Finalising Your Exchange Plans
- Once you have found definite exchange partners, provide them
with photos of your home and family and any further information
they have requested or may find useful. In turn, ask for any information
not yet given which will help you with your plans. *Note: if a
swimming pool is included with the exchange home, and it is not
clear if this is a private or shared pool, ask for this information
if it is important to you.
- It can be reassuring to exchange references before finalising
your exchange plans. If you have exchanged before your previous
exchange partners would be ideal referees; otherwise, send details
of two or three people who know you well and would be prepared
to write reference letters for you. Don't be embarrassed to ask
for references - potential exchange partners will understand your
- Check that your home insurance will be valid while your exchange
partners occupy your home. Emphasise that they are non-paying
guests. Most insurance companies will acknowledge that your home
is at lower risk from burglary when it is occupied but your insurance
cover may be invalid if the company has not been informed before
your exchange holiday. Note: Theft claims are hardly ever met
unless there is evidence of forced entry.
- Car Insurance: if you plan to exchange cars, again check that
your exchange partners will be covered to use your car. It is
particularly important for British members planning to exchange
with Americans to ensure that their guests will be covered as
some British motor insurance companies refuse to cover Americans.
Exchange members should not jeopardise no-claims bonuses for relatively
small sums - agree maximum repair bills to be paid before making
a claim. Also agree any restrictions on use or mileage.
- Agree payment of household bills (most exchangers continue to
pay their own bills apart from the telephone bill which can be
billed separately for the exchange period if arranged in advance;
alternatively, agree to not use each other’s phones but use your own mobiles instead).
- Although you may make most of your arrangements by email or
phone, do keep a check list of everything you have agreed and
send a copy to your exchange partners for their approval - having
a written agreement which you have both signed avoids misunderstandings
later. This is the stage when it is crucial that you are both
happy with all the arrangements.
Very rarely a member reports feeling 'bullied' into
agreeing something, perhaps allowing free use of their car when
they would prefer restricted use, or caring for a cat when they
don't want to be tied to staying the whole period in their exchange
partner's home. It is much better to face possibly causing some
disappointment now than to let it pass and go on your holiday feeling
resentful or worried. And never accept an exchange offer if you
feel in any way uneasy about it - better to risk losing the offer
than to have regrets later.
If any information your exchange partner has provided
is puzzling you, do ask for an explanation. There can occasionally
be misunderstandings over terminology, even between English speakers.
- Repairs to household appliances - you may agree to reimburse
your partners for small, emergency repairs but ask them to consult
with you before arranging major repairs.
- If you can arrange an overlap at one of the homes that's ideal
as you will both feel more comfortable about your holiday if you
have been able to meet. However, this is not always possible and,
if not, arrange for a neighbour or friend living nearby to act
as your agent, handing over keys and helping with any problems
(unfamiliar domestic appliances can sometimes be a puzzle so it
is reassuring to have a 'local' to turn to for advice).
- Exchangers are expected to allow use of most of their household
equipment by their exchange partners but if you have anything
of value which you don't want used, make certain your exchange
partners are aware of what is 'out of bounds'; ideally, lock away
anything not to be used or ask a friend to take care of small items.
- Pets/plants - Many exchangers are quite happy to look after
plants and/or pets for their partners but don't feel obliged to
do so if you are worried about the responsibility or want to spend
some time away from your exchange base. If your guests agree to
look after plants please keep to simple requests - few people
want to spend hours on holiday tending someone else's garden.
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Stage Three: Exchange Confirmation
- Make a list of all arrangements agreed. Sign and send/fax two
copies to your exchange partner. Ask him to return a signed copy
if he is happy with the agreement. All members will have received
information similar to these Guidelines from their own agency
but the form may vary slightly. If your exchange partner sends
you a slightly different confirmation form first, that's fine. If any
aspects of your exchange arrangements don't appear to be covered,
just add these before returning a copy to your exchange partner.
This will help avoid any misunderstandings later.
- Airline Tickets and Travel Insurance: as deposits/fares paid
are usually non-refundable, do not buy tickets until you are sure
you have a firm exchange agreement. When you both agree to go
ahead and buy your tickets, you may like to exchange copies as
an extra reassurance for both parties. When buying travel insurance,
check that your policy will cover you if your exchange partners
must cancel due to death or serious illness in the family (no
policy will cover against a member just changing their mind about
going ahead with an exchange and this is a small risk you must
accept when arranging a home exchange holiday). Shop around
for the best deals on both flights and insurance to suit your
Sample exchange confirmation
There is a link to a sample exchange confirmation form below,
in Microsoft Word format. Complete the form, entering your own exchange details,
save the file and send it to your exchange partner as an attachment to a message.
If you have any problems contact Guardian home exchange
and we will try to assist you.
Sample exchange confirmation form
You have now both made a binding agreement to go ahead
with the exchange. Any Guardian home exchange member known to have broken
a firm agreement without good cause will be excluded from future
listings. In the case of unavoidable cancellation (death or serious
illness in the family) contact your exchange partner without delay.
If at all possible agree to exchange at another time or arrange
for a friend or neighbour to take your place. If you, or your exchange
partner have a second home, try to arrange a non-simultaneous exchange
so that one party may still have their exchange holiday as planned.
Also, if you are looking for an exchange at short notice log on
to your member area and search New Listings and the Last Minute
The prime focus of Guardian home exchange is to provide home exchange
listings - both for holiday exchanges and short weekend breaks. However, there
are other options such as a non-simultaneous exchange, which you might like to consider
along with home exchange. These options are decribed in detail on our additional options
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Stage Four: Preparing for Your Exchange Guests
Start a folder a few weeks before your holiday and
include in it any information your guests might find useful. This
can be kept for reference by future guests. Include:
- Tourist brochures, maps, recommended local restaurants, shops,
bus and train time tables
- A list of phone numbers - your agent, doctor, dentist, garage,
taxi, baby-sitter, servicemen, emergency numbers
- Instructions for operating appliances and heating system. It
is a very good idea to use 'post it' notes to stick simple instructions,
especially any little 'quirks', on appliances
- Indicate the location of your fuse box and water cut-off
- Give location of extra bedding and linen
- Provide instructions for caring for pets/plants
- Explain security measures that must be taken in your home
- Tell of arrangements for rubbish disposal, milk delivery
- Give arrangements for laundry of bedding before you return and handing
- Make certain you have provided a map and clear instructions
on how to reach your home in good time before the holiday if you
have not arranged to have your guests collected from the airport.
- Before you go, leave your home clean and tidy with enough space
for your partners to store their belongings. Clear out your refrigerator
but leave just a few basic foods for your guests on arrival. After
a long, tiring trip they'll appreciate your thoughtfulness.
- If exchanging cars, clean your car inside and out. Leave enough
petrol in the tank so that your partners won't be stranded on
their first day in an unfamiliar area. If you are leaving your
car in the airport car park for collection give clear instructions
on where it is parked and also on how to reach your home from
- If you have a friend or neighbour acting as your agent, provide
them with two sets of keys for your home (and car) and ensure
that they will be available to welcome your guests on arrival.
- If your exchange partners have agreed to look after pets, leave
an adequate supply of food.
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Stage Five: At Last You Are Enjoying Your Exchange Holiday
- The vast majority of exchangers are delighted with their exchange
base (even the smallest, most modest home is preferable to a cramped
hotel room). However, very occasionally a member is unhappy with
the housekeeping standards in the exchange home. Although all
members of agencies belonging to the First Home Exchange Alliance
are given instructions to leave their homes clean and tidy, it
is inevitable that not everyone has the same standards. You are
staying in a lived in home and must be prepared to be tolerant
- Enjoy your exchange holiday, take good care of the home entrusted
to you and leave it as you found it when you leave. Follow agreed
instructions for returning keys, dealing with laundry, etc. It
is a nice gesture to leave a small present and note for your exchange
partners to show how much you enjoyed your holiday in their home.
- We are always delighted to receive postcards from members on
an exchange holiday and also like to hear of your experiences
after your return. Do let us know of any suggestions you think
would be useful to pass on to other members so we can include
them in our newsletter.
- Journalists writing articles on home exchange often want to
interview members who have had recent exchanges. We will not pass
your details to anyone without your consent but really do appreciate
your help when it is convenient for you. The more we publicise
home exchange holidays, the more choice of exchange listings there
will be for all members.
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