International Home Exchange 104 – Dispelling Your Doubts and Fears

It's a Beautiful Life-Our Traveling Life

It’s a Beautiful Life-Our Traveling Life
My children in Monet’s Water Garden
Giverny, France 2009

In order to assure you a beautiful traveling life, it’s time for me to…

Knock Down any Valid or Not so Valid Doubts & Fears

Let me first preface that international home exchange has been around for over five decades and the incidence of any sort of breaches of trust are rare if not non-existent. Search the internet yourself if you feel strongly about uncovering anything negative about it. See what you come up with…Nothing, Anything?  

The fact is that leaving your home empty while on a vacation, is much more likely to leave your home prone to burglary or damage than allowing a trusted home exchange partner to occupy it in your absence. Further, if your home insurance carrier had concerns, they would certainly have something to say about it, and the fact is, they have no concerns about it at all. I do call my insurance carrier to alert them of what I am doing, and they seem not to care and only record the dates and names of my home exchange partners as a courtesy to me; they do not require the information.

With that said, here are what I believe to be the most common concerns. Maybe some of them are yours?

Yard Crape Mytle to Pool Great

This is my pool; I adore my pool.
I trust my exchange partners with it.

Think about this logically. A member of this family has spent at least several months communicating with you about the upcoming exchange. Together you will have developed a friendly rapport and trust in one another.

Also remember that if you do exchange, you will be in their home at the same time they are in your home; unless you make a non-simultaneous exchange, which is of course not necessary, unless you are comfortable with that type of arrangement.

Ask yourself this question; would you have any reason to want to do damage to the home exchange families home? I don’t think so. People who want to exchange homes are interested in one thing, the amazing benefits associated with home exchange.

There are no ulterior motives that I have heard of or that I can think of. That is why there are no “horror” stories about home exchange. When I home exchange, I never worry about anything other than “is my house ready to receive my guest; is it clean enough; did I leave a good selection of foods to get them started until they find the supermarket; did I leave them enough closet and drawer space; will they be comfortable; have I provided them with all the information they will need; will they have a good time.

I never worry about what I will find when I get to their house or what I will find when I get home; and I’ve never been disappointed at either end of my home exchange trips. My home exchanges have all exceeded my wildest expectations – in a myriad of ways.

Finally, if you still have even the slightest concern, there is an option that may settle your unease during the exchange. You can ask a trusted family member or neighbor to keep an eye on your home, while also making themselves available to your exchange family at the same time. As long as this person is helpful, pleasant and does not invade their privacy, your home exchange family should not be bothered by that.

I really like my lounge chairs; what if my partners steal them?  That's silly.

I really like my lounge chairs. What if my partners steal them? That’s silly!

Fear #2: What if the exchange family steals my possessions?

If you think this through you will see how meritless this fear is. If you have small possessions, such as expensive jewelry and watches, expensive crystal or china, expensive electronics like laptop, IPADs, and smart phones, or cash, blank checks, credit cards etc…you will want to put them someplace secure before you leave your home and your exchange family arrives.

You can either put them someplace in your home where they will not be accessible; or box them up and leave them with a trusted family member or friend to safeguard in your absence; or put them in a safe deposit box at a bank.

You should not leave such temptation around, even if you trust your home exchange partner unequivocally. That is just good common sense.

Now, if you are afraid that the exchange family might steal your big screen TV or your furniture, you are just being silly. They are traveling by plane from another country; how likely is that scenario?

My husband with the Pope - or a wax identity thief?

My husband with the Pope – or an identity thief?
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
London, England

Fear #3: What if the exchange family finds personal information and steals my identity?

Just as you should put any small possessions like expensive jewelry someplace where your home exchange family cannot access them; you will similarly want to make sure not to leave personal or financial information laying around for them. This goes for account numbers and user ID’s for on-line accounts. This too, is just good common sense. If you are tech savvy, like my husband, you can set them up with their own access portal on your computer, and deny them access to yours.

If you still fear someone using your personal computer; do not make it part of the amenities that come with your home. In that case, you should let the family know that they will not have access to a computer, so they can bring their own, assuming you have WIFI in the home for them.

The yard of our Spanish Case Home Exchange 2009

I feared this home exchange would not be there.
It was! Isn’t it a lovely casa?
La Celada, Anadalucia, Spain

Fear #4: What if I get to their home and it is not there?

Believe it or not; this is an understandable fear, even if it’s not a valid one. I had this fear only on my first home exchange. The fear only ended when the key turned in the lock to the front door of the 400 year old French town home. At that point, I found the home to be exactly what I expected, complete with a nice bottle of wine and a lovely welcoming note from my exchange partner.

For that matter, every one of my next five exchange homes all lived up to my expectations.

I have never heard of this scenario happening in a home exchange. If this happened, people in the home exchange community would hear of it, and that would be the end of home exchange

With that said, I had a scare like this when renting a villa on Capri, Italy. My family, including my one year old baby, flew to Italy and traveled by train, then boat to the island of Capri only to find no one to greet us at the villa we rented. Upon calling the rental company’s representative, it turned out that there was a plumbing problem with the villa we rented, and we could not stay there.

Amazingly, rather than notifying us or greeting us at the villa, they waited for us to get all the way to Italy and track them down by phone to find out there was a problem with our rental, and worse, only upon our arrival did they begin to find a solution to the problem of where to put us.

They were a reputable rental company and yet they handled the situation in a most unfortunate and unprofessional manner. We eventually got into a good replacement villa, but not without an enormous amount of time, aggravation and a bit of fear.

I have never had such a bad experience in my home exchanges. I think the chances of a hotel losing your booking is much more likely than a home exchange family tricking you into believing a house exists where one does not. Don’t you?

IMG_3275

My last home exchange family left us these two cars. Both nicer than the one, Dodge Grand Caravan, we left them.

You can and should discuss with your exchange partner if they would like to establish any limits on the use of respective cars. You could put a mileage limit (say 1,000 or 2,000 miles/kilometers) on the car exchange, and then charge an agreed per mile/kilometer rate for going over the limit.

I’m sure they won’t wreck your car on purpose; of course they could have an accident. What if they do?  Your car insurance will cover it.  Sure it could happen; just as you could be in an accident in their car.  This is the chance you take to saver yourself a lot of money. I think it’s a minor risk worth taking.

A Great French Mime

Would you miss out on this experience,in Paris, France
because you fear your exchange partner is out to recklessly run up your utility bills, for the fun of it? 

Fear #6: What if they run up my phone or electric bills?

The phone is a simple matter and there are many things you can do. You can simply give your exchange partner parameters of where they can call; based on your particular phone plan. Or, you can disconnect your phones and not provide a phone; just make sure to let them know. Most home exchangers will have or purchase international cell phones and bring them with them.

My last exchange partner has a great phone plan which included unlimited international calling; so she allowed us to use her phone to call anywhere including home to the USA. This was an unexpected and very nice amenity! As for our end, we did not give them any limitations and they did call us a few times in France, regarding an issue with our sprinkler system (it went on and would not go off); so that call was for our benefit. Other than that, they didn’’t incur any additional charges on our phone.

Quirky like this?

Fear #7: What if my house is not perfect or has some quirks?

This is the kind of fear I would have. I’m always more concerned about my house not meeting my exchange partners expectations than I am about their home meeting mine.

As for your homes quirks (oddities), just decide if they are they good quirks or bad quirks; annoying quirks or charming quirks? Basically, unless your home is new, it is not likely to be completely “quirk free”. So, do not think it has to be.

If your quirk(s) are minor, you are probably fine. If you are not sure, then just ask any potential home exchanges if they are okay with them. We have done this, I’ll explain below.

If your homes quirk(s) are actually unappealing aesthetically or bothersome functionally, then you do have a dilemma. You will need to either fix them or at least improve them. I did say that there was some work involved in home exchange.

We had a problem with our central air-conditioning system in our home during our exchange in 2011. The system was on the old side and we were not quite ready financially to replace it. In order to keep it operational, we had to shut the system off for the night or else the condenser would freeze up. We would then switch on a few window units in the bedrooms to keep cool overnight. We simply had to explain this to our home exchange partner, that summer, what they needed to do to avoid any problems and to stay cool. They were okay with it and there were no problems.

So just assess your quirks, if they are minor, don’t worry about them; if they are more serious, fix them. If that is not possible, tell any potential home exchange partner about them and see if they would be okay with living with these quirks during an exchange.

 International Home Exchange 105, Next Week…

Insurance Assurance – By All Means, Be Assured.  I will cover all the types of insurances that you either already have or can purchase to increase your comfort level.

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About Kerry Ascione

Past business and IT professional turned travel writer, blogger, speaker and coach. Huge supporter of the Peer Sharing Movement, especially as it relates to making the lives of families richer in culture and travel. Author of Have Home Will Travel, The Ultimate International Home Exchange Guide for Families.
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4 Responses to International Home Exchange 104 – Dispelling Your Doubts and Fears

  1. Very helpful blog post, thank you

    Like

    • Hi, my pleasure. If you haven’t read my previous posts on International Home Exchange (101,102, 103) you can find them on the main page of my website. Just scroll down to find them. I will post more information about Int’l Home Exchange each Wednesday going forward. Please follow along if you are interested. Thanks, Kerry

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  2. It is all true – everything that she says – no exaggeration. I have been on all the trips with Kerry and her family.

    Like

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