Featured in the 2006 comedy movie “The Holiday,” home exchanging is not a new concept, though in recent years it has grown in popularity, perhaps helped by the success of online variations like AirBnB. In the film, a cottage in the British countryside is swapped for a villa in Beverly Hills – and in real life, this is a possible scenario for virtually anyone. Well, anyone with a room to call their own.
Though the concept has existed since the 1950s, with the growth of the internet home exchanging has become more prominent as it’s become easier to connect with other homeowners. If you want to save cash or simply have a more unique, less sterile experience on your next holiday abroad, it could be an option for you.
Considering it already? Here are five reasons to take the home-sharing plunge in 2016.
1. Family Travel on a Budget… Comfortably
Which would you rather: cramping the whole family into a typical hotel room, or spread out in a house with separate bedrooms for each kid, a fully equipped kitchen, a cosy living room, and perhaps bicycles in the garage for family rides? Exchanging homes is a good way to vacation with kids, as it makes it possible to stay somewhere that accommodates a full family without breaking the bank. Invaluable bonuses can include your hosts' insider tips on the best things to do and places to eat.
2. Exotic Exploration
Well-established in North America and Europe, the idea of exchanging homes has taken root in China, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa, and it has boomed in Australia and New Zealand. The exchange concept, once a special privilege of a smallish global community entered via personal connections or networks, has now become mainstream, especially with the digital world enabling easy connections, and airline tickets becoming more affordable than ever. This means than travellers will be spoilt for choice with places to go and stay – it’s no longer limited by anything but your imagination!
3. Your own “Home Sweet Home” Is a Key to the World
By listing your own home, you open a world of possibilities, both for meeting people and for going places. Your future exchange partners could very well be the lifelong friends you have yet to meet! Anything decent that someone can sleep in can be listed: boats, RVs, tree houses, primary and second homes, beach cabins, condos, mountain chalets, penthouses, houseboats, pagodas, and chateaux, to name a few! In exchange for the use of your abode, you will have the opportunity to stay in places you may never have thought to go, and the world of travel opens up in a whole new way.
4. Home Exchange Is Legal & Tax-Free
Since there are usually no financial transactions between exchange partners, you are not only saving a bucket of money, but also exempt from accommodation and tourism taxes. When you settle into your exchange partner's home, you do so as an invited guest, not a paying customer. Instead of two homes sitting empty while their owners/renters are away, someone can water your plants while you take care of his/her swimming pool.
5. An Ecosystem Based on Trust and Friendliness
Most home-exchange sites offer verified profiles and secure messaging systems, so exchange partners get to know each other well enough to use first names – because lets face it, no one wants to let an absolute stranger into their house when they aren’t home! Both parties are equally hosts and guests, so it alleviates the hassle and awkwardness of customer-client concerns. Respect is built in. And while in someone’s home, instead of being a tourist, you can allow yourself to witness the area as a local, while bridging any cultural gaps with your host’s advice and support.
Exchanging homes may not be for everyone, but for those interested, a few popular home exchange websites include HomeExchange, HomeLink, and Intervac Home Exchange. Happy home swapping!