Home exchange, an economical solution for going on vacation

In the movie the holiday, an American (Cameron Diaz) and an Englishwoman (Kate Winslet), both disappointed with men, decide, without knowing each other, to change residences. The deal isn’t very balanced – a Californian villa on one side, a country house in the English countryside on the other – but it doesn’t matter. These two souls in pain will each have a wonderful time. And know the great love.

In real life, love at first sight is not guaranteed. But one thing is certain, the exchange of house for the holidays is attracting more and more French people. Our country is even the one that most indulges in this with the United States. Especially since the world leader in this tourist offer, HomeExchange, is also French: it has a market share of 70% with 450,000 accommodations offered in 159 countries. And it registers strong growth: in France, in 2021, it registered 979,173 overnight stays, that is, 203% more than in 2017.

Good for purchasing power, source of encounters, the formula has a bright future ahead of it. “For fifteen years, the vacation budget was restricted. The French go out for less time and spend less, stresses Saskia Cousin, an anthropologist and professor of sociology at the University of Paris Nanterre. But going on vacation is a strong social asset in her imagination. »

The principle of exchanging houses is simple: no monetary transactions take place between the protagonists. To get in touch, individuals must, in most cases, pay an annual subscription. Then, submit your advertisement in which you present your house or apartment (proof of address and identity document are required), and the respective availability dates. After that, they access all the offers on the platform. This opens up a wide range of possibilities: a luxurious villa in California, an inn in South Africa or a charming apartment in Rome… The range of destinations in France is considerable.

In the booking phase, several options are offered: simultaneous exchange – you stay with your correspondent and he stays with you for the same period; a deferred exchange – their dates do not coincide, but each will stay with the other for the same duration, for example in their second home; Finally, some platforms offer a points formula – hosting a member gives you time credit to be used with any other member on the network.

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To ease your vacation budget or go further without breaking the bank, the exchange is particularly attractive. This is how Nathalie and her family were able to discover the United States, Iceland and Quebec, but also the Peloponnese and Italy. “With two young children at the time, we couldn’t have thought of such trips,” explains this Paris-based visual arts teacher. The capital is obviously attractive for negotiating an exchange: in April, 1,176 Americans registered on HomeExchange offered their accommodation in exchange for this destination.

Please note that accommodations do not necessarily need to be of equivalent size and comfort. Everything is a matter of wishes: a small apartment in the city center of Florence, London or Vienna can be negotiated with a Victorian house in Boston. The only exception: in the points system, the value of the overnight stay depends on the quality of the accommodation.

But the balance of the exchange is not the only or first concern of families who exchange their home in this way. “The human dimension is perhaps the main one. We are still in contact with our hosts in Quebec and we plan to see the friends we met in San Francisco in a few months,” says Nathalie, who always makes a point of offering a book to the children in her home.

Same story with Daphné, creator of the travel blog Be Frenchie, who has moved house in the south of France more than 60 times: “It was a stay at a sublime architect’s home in Sydney that was the trigger for building the house I live in. And, recently, I helped English friends to find a property near me. When doing an exchange program in the region, they fell in love…”

Sharing your lifestyle, allowing strangers to feel at home with you, is not self-evident. The quality of the prior dialogue, to properly identify everyone’s expectations, is important. If, for example, you are a family with small children, a member with the same profile will be more attentive to your expectations. And, by the way, you will undoubtedly have the necessary equipment on site (crib, high chair, games, etc.).

Using search engines, similar to Airbnb and Booking, the platforms present available properties. It is then up to you to start the conversation and define the terms of the exchange: the duration, but also the equipment made available. “When we spent four weeks in the national parks of the American West, our hosts lent us their car and all our camping gear,” recalls Nathalie. Reciprocity, especially in the case of simultaneous exchange, is a guarantee of seriousness and protection against unpleasant surprises.

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“Lending your home is a big commitment,” says Daphne. That’s why I only do this simultaneously, and only with the main residences. So, we live this adventure at the same time, with the same level of involvement. For purists, the point system distorts the spirit of trading. “Consumer reflexes are making a comeback, but home-swapping is not a form of Airbnb,” insists Daphne. It was with people used to renting that our two witnesses found their only bad surprise: cleaning not done, heating cut on arrival in Canada in September.

To protect against serious incidents, some platforms like HomeExchange include several guarantees: compensation for guests in the event of a cancellation ($120 per night) or a security deposit ($500) for property damage suffered by the host. Finally, important details: it is not necessary to notify the landlord if you are a tenant because there is no financial exchange, nor to add additional coverage to your home insurance. So why deprive yourself?

Four platforms where to find happiness

Quotes: 149 euros per year.
Number of ads: 450,000, including 200,000 in France.
3 main countries: France, Spain, United States.
Exchange types: simultaneous, non-simultaneous and point exchange.
Ergonomics: very successful, inspired by Airbnb.
Assistance: by email or chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: cancellation, default, protection against material damage.

The leader, created by two Frenchmen who bought their American competitor in 2017 and then Canadian Echangedemaison.com

Quotes: between 108 and 156 euros per year.
Number of ads: 18,000.
3 main countries: United Kingdom, United States, France.
Exchange types: simultaneous, non-simultaneous and point exchange.
Ergonomics: short questionnaire that helps to direct the surveys.
Assistance: by mail and phone: cancellation, breakage, replacement solution.

Created in 2011 in London, the site was acquired by the American hotelier Travel + Leisure Co in 2017.

Quotes: free.
Number of ads: 5,000, of which 80% in France.
3 main countries: France, Spain, Canada.
Exchange types: simultaneous, non-simultaneous and point exchange.
Ergonomics: basic design, but filters to refine your search.
Assistance: possibility of contacting the platform by email in French, English, Spanish and German.

This French site was created in 2002 in the form of an association and is aimed at France.

Quotes: 135 euros or 99 euros (only in France).
Number of ads: 3,000.
3 main countries: France, Spain, Italy.
Exchange types: simultaneous or not, and hospitality (without consideration).
Ergonomics: basic but effective interface.
Assistance: possibility of contacting volunteer members by email.

The pioneer, created by Swiss and Dutch teachers. There are two sites: Intervac (France) and Intervac Home Exchange (international).

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