Stay for Free? Yes Please!
Long before the advent of companies such as Airbnb, travelers with a penchant for frugality and value have found ways to sidestep the hefty price tag of staying in hotels.
House-swapping, or home exchanges as they are sometimes called, has been a viable, cost-saving and fun way to travel for decades! In some ways, if you own a home or condo in Vancouver, it’s an even better financial option than Airbnb, as you pay virtually nothing for your accommodations!
Swapping Can be Swell
While the idea of house swapping may seem a little “out-there” or too much work and potentially risky at first, the reality is that many individuals and families who have participated in this unique way of traveling have found it to be very enjoyable and, of course, a much cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel.
“When you’re in someone else’s home, you’re immediately more connected to that country. You’re staying in a neighborhood and experiencing what daily living is like in that part of the world.”
–Tofino-based exchanger Maureen Fraser
Get Ritzy With It!
Indeed, staying in a decent hotel in Paris or London, for example, can cost thousands of dollars– add the exchange rate, and you can get major sticker shock at the end of your stay! Sacre-Bleu!
House-swapping in notoriously expensive cities like these means you can afford that fancy high tea at the Ritz in London or buy that adorable Prada dress in Rome!
How Do I Start Swapping?
Little House on the Prairie or Downton Abbey: Tips for Choosing a Home
1. Choice: Before you join a home swap agency, make sure to find out how many homes they have available in the location you wish to visit. For example, if you want to go to Rome, make sure they have plenty of homes from which to choose from. Compare your findings with a few other agencies before booking. It’s best to join several agencies to boost your chances of a successful swap!
2. Fees: Annual fees for home swaps can vary in price from free to about $500. Most agencies charge between 50 to 150 dollars. The agencies that offer higher end and more exclusive homes tend to charge higher fees, so it’s best to have an idea of what type of home you would like to stay in while traveling. Do you want Little House on the Prairie or Downton Abbey? It’s best to look check out a few different websites and compare fees and what they offer before committing to a membership.
3. Photos: High-quality photos of your home are the single most important way to attract a top home swap. Some home exchange agencies only allow 4 photos; other agencies allow an unlimited number. When you home exchange you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting, and you’ll want to see photos of the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and bathrooms too.
5. Response Rate: Focus on members who are actively seeking and responding. Look for members who have a 75% and above response rate. HomeLink International has member response rate that is quick and easy to see.
Questions to Ask When Negotiating a Swap:
- How many people are coming? Are there children? What ages? Will the exchange family expect other guests?
- What other house exchange experiences have you had?
- Does anyone smoke?
- What amenities do we/you need instructions for? (Figuring out foreign appliances, cars or even the TV can be tricky.)
- What’s nearby? Find out about neighborhood walks, shopping, restaurants, and landmarks. (Conversely, you’ll want to inform then of what’s nearby in your neighborhood).
Location, Location, Location!
The great news for Vancouverites who are interested in house swapping is that we just happen to live in a very desirable city to travel to! This makes it much easier to find someone to swap homes with you. Not to cast aspersions on other cities, but the truth is it is far easier to swap your Vancouver home than for someone living in Des Moines (sorry Des Moines).
We pay boatloads of money to own a home in Vancouver, so why not get as much value out of it as possible! House swapping may a great option for your next vacation!