A typical conversation with someone who doesn’t do Home Exchanges (yet)

The McCaleb family live in Tucson AZ, have been exchanging for 10 years and are proud members at HomeExchange.com. When people ask them why they travel so much, they simply tell them they “Home Exchange ”.


Here is a typical conversation I would have with someone after telling them we “Home Exchange”…

Really?! You let strangers stay in your home?!
Well, yes, we do. But by the time of the home exchange, we hardly feel like strangers anymore. We’ve been exchanging information via email and phone, finding out from one another what would enhance their visit, and letting them know what we hope to see and do in their area. For the most part a HomeExchanger is vested in their guests having a great experience. Some of our HE’ers have gone to great lengths to show us a good time. Some examples are, making reservations, leaving passes or admission tickets for us and arranging private tours at places we’d never be able to have seen or experienced otherwise:  an exclusive restaurant reservations with personal attention from the chef; Personal driver and live-in housekeeper & chef; A private tour of the Lamborghini factory in Italy; And a personal hands-on visit in Lexington KY with American Pharaoh, the world’s most winningest race horse. I tell naysayers that the concept is based on a mutual trust and respect. You are staying in their home, and they are in your home. That reciprocity results in a desire to both please our guests, as well as to BE a good guest.

OK, but isn’t it creepy to have someone staying in your home that you’ve never met? I mean, they sleep in your bed! And they could go through your private affairs.
To that I say… Well, think of how many strangers have slept in that hotel bed you stay in ☺ And though I understand it’s not 100% foolproof, typically the home we are interested in staying in demonstrates a certain degree of stability and responsibility on the part of the owners. We aren’t foolhardy, we do have a closet that we lock up our private papers, and I do take valuable jewelry to safety deposit box – that’s only smart. But in all the years we’ve been exchanging, we’ve never had a problem of any sort.

What condition is the home when you return?
Typically the only tell tale sign that someone has been in our home is a food item left in the fridge, or a note and/or a gift left on the island. Home Exchangers are typically very careful to return household items to their original spots and to clean up after themselves. Usually I have our housekeeper come as we depart our home and before our guests have arrived; and the opposite on the tail end. However, there have been times when the housekeeper couldn’t come on the tail end. Discussing your expectations and your willingness to strip beds or change sheets, or put used towels in the laundry room, or run a load of sheets/towels before departure, makes for an easy return home on both parts.

Isn’t it a lot of work to find a suitable home?
Some of our home exchanges have occurred with very little effort, and others have taken a fair amount of time searching. But honestly, it’s all fun. The trick is to maximize the views your home gets by posting attractive photos and describing why one would want to visit your home, your city and your part of the country. I love opening my email and seeing an exchange request. It’s easy to simply say no if it’s not of interest or the timing doesn’t work. The “Search Homes” feature provides numerous filters that narrow down the choices and allows me to see just those properties that fit the bill, such as number of bedrooms, baths, city or rural environment, area activities, etc. And the “Reverse Search” shows you HE members who are interested in coming to your area, and even when they might be interested in a home exchange.

Wouldn’t it just be simpler to stay in a hotel?
I guess that’s not the right question. The better question is Why do you find Home Exchange so appealing? And to that question there are myriad answers:

  • We get to live in a neighborhood, much more akin to a local experience.
  • We get the local’s advice and suggestions of things to do, places to eat, etc.
  • There is a lot more room for each of our family members to relax, have their own space and privacy.
  • The economy of scale has provided our family with experiences we would not otherwise been able to afford – we would have to have multiple hotel rooms to accommodate all of us – and frankly some of the areas we’ve been to would have been cost prohibitive.
  • We have been able to invite other families to join us, making for some really fun and memorable times.
  • We’ve had exchangers take care of our 2 small dogs on occasion, and have taken care of other’s pets. Though this is a negotiable feature, it works great for us.
  • We’ve even left our cars for one another at the airport, greatly cutting down on car rental expense.

This marks our 10th anniversary as Home Exchangers. We have been able to provide our family with 15+ exchanges, ranging from long weekends to two-week stays; domestic and international. Some of our favorite exchanges have been to Mexico, Italy, France, England, Canada, and many of our U.S. exchanges. We have met many wonderful people throughout the years and are fortunate to call quite a few of them friends. Our youngest of three kids is now 21 and my husband and I are talking about the possibilities HomeExchange.com offers us in the future. We look forward to traveling with other couples and friends, as well as the prospect of long-term exchanges in retirement. HomeExchange may not be for everyone, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

~ The McCaleb Family

33 Comments on “A typical conversation with someone who doesn’t do Home Exchanges (yet)

  1. It is very nice to read about Home Exchange at how it is working. We have bin member in many years, but have never just it. But we like to try it soon.??????

    • We have done one exchange and it worked out very well. Where is your home located? We have a direct beach front home on the Pacifuc Coast of Panama.
      Please send pictures and description if you are interested. We will do the same.
      Ginny and Alan Selwyn

      • Our last message is open to all other participants. We have a large 3600 sq feet luxurious home DIRECTLY ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN. If you are interested , please let us know your locations, pictures and descriptions.
        Ginny and Alan Selwyn

  2. Great post! I have had nearly identical conversations with people who are trying to understand our passion for home exchange (we’ve been exchanging for nearly 3 years, have had 6 exchanges and love it!). Now I will just send them your very thoughtful and fun post!


  3. We have been members for 11 years and have done over 15 weekend to several week exchanges. We could have written this article as we get the same reactions and reply with nearly the same answers. I cannot imagine traveling any other way. This has helped to instill a love for travel in our now grown children. Our son has now joined HE.

    • Hi Lynne,

      That’s fantastic to hear. Thanks for teaching your children the love of travel. Glad you took the time to share a comment with us.

  4. We’ve only done 2 exchanges so far, off to our third next week, but we think most HE members must have this same conversation – we certainly have. And last year when we exchanged in Nova Scotia, our host had neighbors asking “what if the exchange guests turned out to be serial killers, and she came back to find bodies in the basement”! We think they were mostly joking – at least we hope so! And that exchange turned out to be so successful, we not only became great friends with our host and some of her neighbors, but we fell in love with the area so much that we’ve just bought a vacation home there! Now we can do non-simultaneous exchanges too! We’re looking forward to many more wonderful experiences through our membership of HE.

    • Hi Elaine,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. We never tire of hearing about how our Home Exchange Members become friends. Congratulations on your new vacation home. Sounds like a lovely area.

  5. Nice post, and absolutely true. We have the same experience in conversations, and cannot believe why some people are so full of mistrust. To us, Home Exchanging is more than just a ‘cheap holiday’ but almost a way of life. Meeting other people, living in other cultures, making new friends all over the globe….it’s awesome.
    We just returned from a full month in Korea, where the exchange partners gave us the use of their car for the whole period, driving it anywhere on the peninsula. Where does one find this incredible hospitality but on “Home Exchange”?
    No, Trust and Friendship, those are the words describing it best… No doubt!

    • Hi Klaas,

      We completely agree. Home Exchange Members are a thoughtful and caring group brought together by a love of travel. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  6. Home Exchange is one of the best things that has happened to us. We have had 15 exchanges in the last 4 years, each a unique and fabulous experience. We have experienced fascinating cultures, met wonderful people and never had any problems.
    Even our two cats have gotten used to the home exchangers that stay in our flat and take care of them. For us it is the best way to travel, see the world and live like the locals.

    • Hi Marion,

      That’s great to hear. Yes, Home Exchange Pets are typically much happier at home or in a kennel while we are off exploring the globe!

  7. What about insurance? How do people manage that aspect? What happens to small breakages/cracks/ scratches that are not covered and/or the excess (deductible in American English)? thanks, from someone who has never exchanged before.

  8. My husband and I have been exchanging for the last ten years. We have another two coming up in September. There will be two exchanges staying 2 months each and we will be in their homes for two months each. This has worked so well over the years. My son and his family live in Australia and to be on top of family for four months is too much to ask and hotels would be too expensive. Exchanging works so well. And yes we get the question that people are sleeping in our bed but hotel beds have had many more strangers in them. We have been very fortunate in that ALL of our exchanges have been in the same village in Australia so we know the restauranters and hairdressers etc all on a first name basis. Sadly we are both getting older and we fear that the distance to Oz may be too far. But I we would recommend it to anyone.

    • Hi Ann and Simon,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. Visiting family and having your own space is a very popular way for our Members to do exchanges. Hope you have fun in September.

  9. We have done many exchanges and have always been very happy.
    We will never stay again in a hotel when I can stay in a home away from my own home.
    Our last exchange however has left a very sour note as my entire collection of fountain pens, including the ink bottle has disappeared.
    There is always the possibility that these pens were not taken by our home exchange guests, however that possibility is very remote as they were the only persons in our house, except for our domestic who has been with us for over 20 years.
    We met our guests at their home before they came to ours and they were extremely charming.
    We wrote to them about the pens that were missing, but they have not replied.
    Our home is full of small items that are valuable and we would like our guests to enjoy seeing them. I guess that after our experience, we will now lock away all these items which is a pity as locking up spoils the whole concept of trusting your home exchange partner.

  10. I’d like to do a home exchange. I live just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, in Marin Country. I own a lovely two bedroom/bathroom home. Dr. Brigid Richards

  11. These are the exact comments we always get when we tell people we are home exchangers and we give the exact same responses. We have completed ten fantastic exchanges, mainly long term ones, one of them was for six months, and have never had a problem. Our house usually looks the same as we left it upon our return. Due to circumstances we have had to take a break from exchanging over the past couple of years but as far as we are concerned it’s the only way to travel and I can’t wait to resume our travels.

    • Hi Marilyn,

      Glad to hear about your past exchanges. Can’t wait to hear about where you will be headed when you resume your travels. Thanks for your comment.

  12. Tony
    My wife and I have been Home Exchangers for 12 years and have had 42 exchanges; 34 overseas and 8 within Australia.
    I agree with the McCaleb family when they say “Home Exchange may not be for everyone, but for the life of me, I can’t see why”.

  13. Home Exchange.com

    Wonderful post! We’ve been exchanging for 3 years now and have enjoyed home swaps in places like Bali, Miami, Treasure Cay Bahamas, Key West, to name just a few. We truly love the travel opportunities that home exchanges offer. Works very well for our family.

    • Hi Vivian,

      Sounds like you’ve been able to explore some great destinations on Home Exchange. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  14. We would share our condo in Orange Beach AL. It is 3br/3bt, 1800sq ft on the 11th floor. Can be seen by going to *****, put in search by unit and go to Caribe d1111. That is our Condo. We are 15 minutes from an outlet mall, great shopping. Will have a car and 2 bicycles. We would liked to go someplace overseas.

  15. HI to all the exchangers , its a real article, the same question they ask me and my wife. We exchange once our little flat in Rome with a nice Vila with boat included in France , near the ocean. We stayed 20 days and they stayed 1 week . So our children just taste the life in a micro farm , working the “terra” and picking eggs every morning. The last time we didn’t go the other house but we honored our promises to the other family that came to our house. I think not everybody can exchange , you must become non materialist to do it:)

    • Hi George, What a fantastic experience! It’s indeed like you describe it. Most of the times, the size of the house and the number of days spent don’t matter; what is really valuable is the experience of being like a local and having your own home away from home for free. We’d love to hear more of your travels. I’ll reach out to you to get your story for our blog. Grazie!

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