You’ve read everything you could get your hands on about the country you’d like to move to, you’ve checked into their cost of living, investigated what you have to do to become a resident, maybe even taken some language classes.
Before you move there, though, you need to visit, preferably for an extended period of time. Just because something sounds terrific on paper doesn’t mean it’s the place you want to call home.
You could go and stay in hotels, but that doesn’t really give you a good sense of what it would be like to actually live there.
There is a way to try out a new area as a resident, not a visitor, though, and it can even save you a lot of money.
It’s an idea that’s been around for a while — since the 1950s in fact. It’s even been featured in some excellent movies like The Holiday and Tara Road. You agree to live in someone’s home in your desired location, perhaps even get to use their car or take care of their pets, and they stay in yours.
You save the cost of lodgings, and you become a “local” during the time of your stay.
There are three common types of exchanges.
- Simultaneous. As its name implies this type of exchange means that you live in my house and I live in yours at the same time.
- Non-Simultaneous. You swap, but on different dates.
- Hospitality, when you visit as a guest in someone else’s home and they reciprocate by visiting you at a different time.
A quick online search turns up dozens of home exchange websites. Naturally you need to exercise sensible precautions before you turn the keys to your home over to a complete stranger. The better sites help you get to know your potential exchangers and provide some safeguards.
HomeExchange.com promises “40,000+ Worldwide Listings. Local-weekend-international swaps” [aff]. It costs $9.95/month, so with that small barrier they’re able to ensure their members are serious exchangers. They claim there are over 250,000 successful home exchanges every year, and they currently have over 42,000 listings!
HomeforExchange.com asks, “Affected by the financial crisis? Cut your holiday expenses by 50% or more and exchange your home like thousands have done before you.” [aff]. Registration for the first year is $64.50. It’s the organization featured in The Holiday movie.
GuesttoGuest.com is a newer service. They differ from the two above in that they focus more on what they call the “non-simultaneous exchange.” In fact, exchanges with them don’t even need to be reciprocal.
They do this through a point system. This is helpful because it widens the pool of exchangers available. Here’s how they explained it to me.
“The GuestPoints form part of a points system that works as a kind of an alternative currency to regular money; each house has a price per night which is paid in GuestPoints and which allows people to go where they want when they want, instead of having to adapt to a place or time that works for the people they’re exchanging with. There are many ways to earn GuestPoints: signing up, referring friends, posting your home, and many others.”
They also include a social component.
“We have a social network that helps you exchange with people you can trust. There is a friends referral system which means the people you exchange with form part of your social network, are your friends or friends of friends. There are also groups through which you can contact people with whom you share interests, hobbies, etc.”
Curently they offer about 500 homes for exchange in a variety of countries. GuestToGuest is very interested in working with expats and plan-to-be expats.
“We think you expats are the perfect candidates for our service because you’re mostly a cool, open-minded group of people more likely to be interested by a concept like home exchange. It could be especially useful if you want to go back home for a visit but don’t own a house there, or if you’re just recently arrived and want to visit the surrounding regions or countries.”
HomeExchange50Plus.com is a home exchange site designed for older travelers. They offer all three types of exchanges as well as vacation rentals.
Have you ever done a home exchange? How did it work out for you?