My wife and I recently discovered a new way to save money when travelling. Our family loves to travel together, but with three kids and skyrocketing inflation, this passion of ours had become unbearably expensive. We came to a point where we either had to cut back on travel entirely or figure out a way to make it more affordable.
Luckily, some neighbours in Lachine told us about a community they were involved in called HomeExchange. Naturally, we were curious, so we asked a million questions and they filled us in on all the details. Before I knew it, my wife had created our own HomeExchange account and profile, and our house was now showing as available for exchange on the HomeExchange website.
HomeExchange is essentially an online community of homeowners from around the globe who want to travel and see the world without having to rely on hotels, Airbnbs, RV parks, or campsites to do so. It costs a small annual fee to join and offers some very unique benefits in exchange.
The concept is simple: You pick the dates you want to travel. You advertise your home as available for exchange during those dates. You can then either actively look for compatible home exchanges at the destinations you desire, or simply wait for someone to reach out to you. Either way, the objective is to find a fellow HomeExchanger who is interested in swapping houses with you at the same time. They stay in your house; you stay in theirs. If you have pets, they look after them as part of the deal (that’s made clear up front by using the “Pets Welcome” filter in your searches). Brilliant!
Unfortunately, by the time we had our account set up, we had already planned our family vacation this summer, a 16-hour road trip in July to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We had already made arrangements to rent a house near the beach and deposits had been paid, so we were too late to do a home exchange down there. It’s too bad, because that beach house rental cost us a fortune!
Our house in Lachine, however, was going to be sitting empty for two weeks while we were away, which presented us with a unique opportunity. As it turns out, you can also exchange your home for “points,” instead of doing an actual swap. This means you can offer your home to another HomeExchanger while you’re away, and they transfer you points, which you can redeem for a future exchange. Brilliant again!
We advertised our home as being available while we were away in North Carolina, and luckily a family from France had flagged our property as a favourite, and the dates lined up for them perfectly. They were a couple with kids about the same age as ours, so we couldn’t have picked a more compatible fit. We saw the opportunity and we took it, booking our first house guests through HomeExchange for two weeks in July.
We were a little nervous about it at first. It was the first time we’d ever allowed complete strangers to stay in our home. At first we weren’t sure how to prepare for it, but our neighbours who had done home exchanges before gave us a few helpful tips and reassured us that it would be fine. After all, the family coming to stay at our home is also putting their faith in other families who stay at theirs. It is a community of trust and mutual respect.
We prepared an information booklet all about our home and things they might need to know. We included details about our appliances, basic pool maintenance, garbage and recycling days, local attractions, how to get around (they rented a car), and we left them our bicycles to use as they pleased. We emptied a few drawers for them and cleared a section of our closets. We also let all of our close neighbours know about the exchange and even included some of them as emergency references for our guests.
During our two-week vacation, we only had one message from them, because one of our cats had brought home a dead bird. They were a bit shocked and amused by this and referred to our cats as “Très Canadien”!
Other than that there were no problems or surprises. When we returned home we were pleased to find the house spotlessly clean with zero damage. They had left us a nice little thank-you note and a gift from France on the kitchen counter. After speaking with our neighbours, we learned that the family were super polite and friendly, but kept to themselves. They went off on a few excursions during their stay. Our next-door neighbours said the kids were in the pool all the time, and sounded like they were having a blast.
After such a successful first experience with HomeExchange, we have decided to try it again next year. It took us no time to find another compatible home to trade with next summer, this time as a full-on exchange.
We found an incredible house in Aubagne, a small city in the region of Provence in the south of France, about a 20-minute drive to the Mediterranean beach. It has four bedrooms, fully renovated, in-ground pool, and views of the surrounding valley to die for! The family who own it are equally excited about our home in Lachine, and have been messaging us with questions since we agreed on the dates. So both families get to stay in a beautiful home, equal in size and quality, this time for three weeks... absolutely free! How did we not catch on to this concept sooner?
I can't wait to tell you all about our next HomeExchange adventure in July 2024. Stay tuned!