As promised, here is the second half of my Q&A on the topic of home exchanges with Shelley Miller of HomeExchangeExpert.com. If you missed the first half, click over here to find out the first steps to take when considering a home swap, sites to check out and red flags to keep in mind.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for larger families interested in doing a home exchange?
A: Yes, swap your home with another family. You’ll get TOYS! Many families around the world have discovered that the joy of home swaps goes well beyond saving money. Home swaps allow your kids to discover that children of other lands are a lot like them. When my children were young they were thrilled to find the board games, puppets, drum sets, dollhouses and dartboards that came with each home exchange. Not to mention bicycles and skates!
Beyond toys, another key benefit of a family home swap is space. Ask yourself, how many bedrooms and bathrooms does your family need to stay sane? Most of us take longer vacations when we home exchange because the lodging is free. Since you’ll be living in someone’s home for 2-3 weeks, you’ll want to make sure your family has enough space to feel comfortable.
Q: Are there any tips to help ensure a good home exchange experience?
A: Good communication minimizes unfulfilled expectations. When you find a potential home swap partner ask as many questions as you need to feel confident about the home exchange. A few starter questions to ask include:
* How safe is the neighborhood?
* Is the neighborhood quiet?
* How long has the family lived in the home?
* Are there other families in the community?
* How close is the home to local parks?
* How far is the home from the city center?
If your spouse likes to play golf, ask where the closest courses are located. If your teenage daughter is an aspiring actress, ask if there is live theater nearby. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to get a house with a swimming pool, ask who will handle pool maintenance.
One other thought: determine if you plan to meet your home swap partner. Out of our 14 home swaps, we met nine of our partners. I prefer to meet the exchange family, but it’s not required.
Q: How far in advance should you begin to look for a home exchange?
A: Six months. It usually takes about two-three months to find the right city, family and home. When you start early you’ll have more options. If you hope to exchange somewhere in Europe, know that many Europeans take their holidays in August.
Q: What’s your best piece of home exchange advice for first-timers?
A: Be flexible about your location and exact travel dates. For example, set your goal to find a home swap in or around London during July or August. Often my husband and I decide what country we want to visit, without even determining which city, so when a homeowner with a fabulous house contacts us we are ready to say yes. We use the home exchange as our launch pad; we stay there for a week and then take a couple of side trips throughout our stay.
I hope you loved this Q&A with Shelley Miller of HomeExchangeExpert.com as much as I did, and be sure to check her out online for more on the 14 home exchanges she’s done since 2000. You can also find her on Twitter at @HomeExchangeKey and on Facebook.