1. Some web-based home exchange organizations inflate their databases and even plagiarize listings. Look for companies that constantly update their listings; look for fresh listings by noting each member’s registration date.
2. Test the level of customer or trade service each company provides. Determine whether there is someone to answer specific questions or has representatives in different countries. Bigger may not always be better.
3. Don’t be dissuaded by companies that require a reasonable membership fee (from $30 to $100). A fee may indicate genuine interest on the part of the members.
4. Check to see how long the company has been in business. Sometimes brand-new companies will use other companies’ listings to start a directory or database.
5. Check for references from your exchange partner (if they have exchanged before) and satisfied customer testimonials from the company. It is always a good idea to correspond or talk directly with your exchange partners. Clearly agree on travel dates and the location of house keys and whether cars and pets are exchanged too.
6. Be certain your home and auto insurance policies cover house exchanging. Most do.
7. Put away anything in your home that you couldn’t bear to see used or broken.
8. Leave a list of “how to’s” for complicated appliances, security systems, sprinklers, etc. Leave a phone number of a neighbor or friend who your partner can contact. A list of recommendations for shopping, eating, sightseeing, and emergency numbers will also be appreciated.
(Republished with the author’s permission)
By Ruth Marvin Webster, a former attorney in California, publishes widely. See the author’s account in Transitions Abroad of her own home exchange experiences: Summers in Europe