In 2016, Tommy and I returned from a trip to Italy, wondering if it would be possible to take our toddler with us on our next trip… wherever that might be. We didn’t know about flying with a little one, we weren’t sure about staying in a hotel, and we weren’t really familiar with AirBnB, but after watching kids running around in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, we decided we’d like to take him with us on our next adventure. We just didn’t know how to make it work.
We kept talking about it, though… Didn’t we know someone who had done the whole house-swap thing? Like in the movies? How do you get started home exchanging? Can you home exchange with kids? A quick Google search took us to HomeExchange.com.
There are other home exchange websites out there: ThirdHome, LoveHomeSwap, HomeLink… but once we started looking around HomeExchange.com, we were hooked. We made an account, filled out our profile, and started browsing homes. It’s as easy as that!
There is an annual membership fee associated with HomeExchange.com. This ensures that you have the 24/7/365 support of the HomeExchange staff. It also protects you from unforeseen circumstances. In the event of travel cancellations or property damage, HomeExchange will take over the mediation between both parties to find a solution for the situation. Thankfully, we have done three exchanges and have never even had to worry about this.
Your Traveler Profile
Home Exchange.com requires you to fill out a profile that gives other members some info about you, just like the bio on most social networking sites. You can add the names , ages, and professions of family members, too, as well as a profile photo. Some information, like last name and phone number, is kept confidential, at least until you decide to share it with possible home exchange partners.
You are also asked to consider listing your preferred destinations and travel dates. This makes it easy for members to search for people who are interested in coming to their location. In other words, if we wanted to travel to Paris, we could search for home exchangers who live in Paris, who also want to come to the USA, or narrow it down even further to the Washington, DC, area. The same thing goes for available travel dates. This increases your chances of finding someone who might want to exchange homes with you.
Your Home Profile
When listing our home on HomeExchange, we looked at it as though we were getting ready to advertise our house for sale. You provide three types of information in your home profile:
- house information (number of beds/baths, sq. footage, amenities)
- written description
On HomeExchange, listing house information is as simple as putting in numbers and ticking boxes. Number of bedrooms? Number of beds? Number of bathrooms? TV? WiFi? A/C? Pool? Jacuzzi? Balcony/terrace? Garden? Garage/parking spot? BBQ? Fireplace? Are children welcome? Are there pets to feed? Plants to water?
The written description is where you need to get creative. While you’re not actually selling your house, you are selling its features. You’re selling your neighborhood and city. You want people to come visit! You want them to love your home… so you can go to theirs!
Don’t forget that pictures are worth a thousand words. I don’t think HomeExchange limits the amount of pictures you can upload, so there’s no reason not to show off your place! If someone is interested in coming to your house, then let them see where they could be staying. We took pictures of every room, plus the inside and outside of our house, and included some pictures of our neighborhood and some tourist-y attractions nearby.
Again, we thought of ourselves as wannabe real estate agents. We made sure that the rooms were clean, free of clutter, and well-lit. We made sure to show off our favorite parts of the house – our big kitchen, the playroom full of toys and books, and the patio overlooking our sunny backyard.
Pictures have been very important to us when deciding whether or not to contact a family – or to agree to an exchange with them. When we first started home exchanging, our little guy was still just a baby, so we wanted to make certain that the house looked safe and child-friendly. Was there a crib? A bathtub and not just a shower? Any crazy staircases or fancy objets d’art that we just needed to steer clear of? We’ve received a lot of offers, but when we looked through people’s pictures and saw things like immaculate, minimalist homes with glass coffee tables, spiral staircases, and zero toys, we knew right away that they weren’t the place for us… at least not for a while.
That’s about all there is to it. Once you activate your membership, fill out your profile, and complete your listing, you’re ready to start searching for your first home exchange! Where do you want to go? “Search” for a destination… London… Rome… Paris… Zurich…
Check out the houses and if you see something you like, read the owner’s profile. Are they interested in coming to your area? Are they open to visiting any destinations? If it seems like a good fit, send them a message and see what they say!
Good luck and happy home exchanging!