Swapping Homes Anybody?


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting to know each other

Having signed the contract, now is the time to get each other a little more and prepare the house. So far we've exchanged photos. Both parties are preparing a folder with vital information about the area, i.e. things to do, major attractions as well as insider tips that only locals would know and a tourist never find. Tips about the house are also crucial. The last time in Germany, we had to find out how to switch on the central heating when summer decided to ignore us and our summer clothes. Same thing in France actually where we were freezing our extremities off while they were perspiring in the Floridian heat.
In our house for example, one almost needs a degree in electronics to be able to switch on the TV. And there is one in every room plus one in the garage.Why nobody ever invents a remote that deals with everything following the motto: "One for all and all for one" beats me. Everybody technologically challenged like me would end up without ever watching anything if we didn't have these detailed instructions prepared by the inhouse engineer. Or what do you when the automatic garage opener is out due to a power outage? Stay at home is only an option for a short while...Being German, I'm of course familiar with the intricacies of German appliances where an American would scratch his  beard. Plus complications of different voltage, Celsius vs. Fahrenheit, miles and klicks, and meters opposed to yards; liters being the predominate measuring unit over gallons or parts thereof.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our first port of call or home exchange is secured. We've signed our agreement with the German family near the Baltic Sea.It includes the car rental. They have a nice SUV like us and a little motorboat complete with boathouse. You could have parties there. I'm sure they do.
For us, our exchange party only consists of my husband and me and possibly my adult children, if they then choose to visit there. Might be a tad boring in the sticks for them. I remember a short trip with my parents to a similar area in the Germany countryside, if beautiful with lakes and heather etc. And I found it unnervingly boring. The number of visitors to each house needs to be specified for insurance reasons. You don't want your exchangers to throw big parties there...
Finer points have to be discussed, e.g. when everybody arrives at the other place and where then the keys are handed over.On our last exchange, the french family arrived ate at night in pelting Florida rain and triggered off our security alarm not being able to put the code in instantly. That resulted in the cops turning up and citation for us.
So this has to carefully recorded  so that everybody knows what to do...even in a downpour in the middle of the night.
While planning our trip further on to the West of France we found the logistics of getting there form Eastern Germany quite daunting.Then fate or rather my husband's employer took the decision out of our hands and changed his work schedule, meaning he has to return to the States earlier than we had planned with that nice French family. They were so "deceived". Speaking French, I knew they meant" disappointed" which resulted in a few laughters. No hard feelings, hopefully we can make this desirable trip next year.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Selection Process

Choosing an exchange partner for a home swap is an exciting process. Most home swap websites have houses available all over the world. On the members' board holiday makers reported about their swap with a lovely home in Cuba. Here you can also share your experiences and ask questions about the whole process.
Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa? For us, it's definitely Europe because I have family there.
You can either initiate the process yourself by contacting your chosen object or wait for somebody to approach you.I belief in being proactive and not wait for things to happen in my life.
Having said that, to our delight,a French couple approached us.We swapped a few tentative emails. Next thing is we want to talk on the phone or Skype to get to know each other, maybe even become "friends". This term has some relevance because you can loan your house or car to friends without affecting your insurance policies. Otherwise some providers may not go along with the swap without increasing your premium. The French are looking into flights at present. After that we can talk about the contract that finalizes the home swap.
Last Thursday I approached 3 German home owners, one responded within 12 hours. They are currently on vacation in Denmark, 'in the mood for holidays' and agrees to a swap 'spontaneously' although Florida wasn't really on their horizon for this year. But their daughter was in the USA before and was still raving about her stay. they suggested a time frame for July that fits our schedule because by August, we want to be in Bordeaux. I will put pictures up as soon as we have hammered out the deal. They live in a part of Germany we have never been, the so called 'new federate states' i.e., in the former German Democratic Republic near the Baltic Sea. The map shows both coastline in vivid green at the top. They live between Rostock and Stralsund. The Island of Ruegen further to the east is still in Germany. Until reunification it had been part of Poland since the war.It was impossible to visit. Now it is one of Germany's premier holiday destinations.Since my family on my mother's side hails from there it will be an interesting trip on memory lane.
The other 2 families have equally interesting houses on the North Sea coast near Hamburg. If one came through today, I might be hard pressed to decide which one to take.