Trading places - two

In the second of our two-part look at home exchanges, Jeffrey Strain shows how to make a good idea into a valuable saving on the price of your next vacation.

Illustration by Marco Mancini

Once you have decided that a home exchange is for you, how do you turn this great idea into a yen-saving reality? Planning as far ahead as possible is essential, and being flexible will greatly increase your chances of finding a good exchange. Since houses listed in Asia are still relatively scarce compared to those listed in North America and Europe, this gives those living in Japan an initial advantage. However, don' forget to keep your expectations realistic. A person with a big house in the heart of Kyoto will have many more opportunities than someone whose tiny apartment is far from popular tourist attractions. The more attractive your home, the more opportunities you'll have.

To increase your chances of finding an exchange partner, write to all the listed houses which interest you all at once instead of one at a time. The more letters you write, the better your chances are of finding an exchange partner. Also take the time to consider exactly what your house has to offer and what you expect in an exchange house. The more in tune you are with your own expectations, the more likely you'll find the right partners for a house exchange.

The two largest home exchange companies are Intervac (PO Box 590504, San Francisco, CA 94159, USA. Tel: 415-435-3497, fax: 415-435-7440. which lists 10,000 homes in approximately 30 countries and Homelink International (formerly Vacation Exchange Club, PO Box 650, Key West, FL 33041 USA. Tel: 800-638-3841, fax: 305-294-1448. which lists 15,000 homes in approximately 50 countries throughout the year. Once you contact one of these companies, they will send you an application sheet. You can choose whether or not you wish to list your house in their directory, although the chances of finding an exchange increase if you do. It's not cheap-Homelink charges approximately US$110 to be included in its home exchange directory-but ultimately you could save yourself much much more. You also have the option of having a photo of your home included in addition to the description.

With the continual rise in hotel prices, home exchanges have become extremely popular. It makes perfect sense. Not only do you receive quality accommodations exactly where you want them, you significantly cut your overall vacation expenses allowing for more time to get to know the country you're visiting.

For those who are curious and want to see exactly what type of homes are available, a quick check of some of the new home exchange companies doing business over the Internet should provide a good indication. Try one of the following sites:

Homelink International
International Home Exchange Network
Exchanges Around the World
Green Theme International
Home Exchange International

Reproduced by permission of Kansai Time Out.


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