HOUSE-SWAPPING AND HOMEEXCHANGE.COM: House-swapping , which means spending a family vacation at a stranger’s home—and letting their brood into your house—may seem like you’re inviting trouble but the benefits outweigh the risk. You can rent ‘The Holiday’ to find out more or read on…
Thousands of families house-swap each year, thanks to travel pioneers like Californian Ed Kushins, president and CEO of HomeExchange.com. Travelingmom™ founder Kim Orlando, who has done several swaps, knows that home swapping makes a lot of sense for families with children. She speaks with Kushins about his company and the allure of home exchange vacationing :
Kim: Did you have personal experience with house swapping before you started Homeexchange.com?
Ed: I was a traveling Dad—just like your traveling moms. I had recently divorced and had heard about home exchange and thought it was a great way to take a family vacation. In the early nineties, it was really hard to find people offering the service—this was pre-Internet. I tracked down a couple of companies that provided the home exchange and I signed up for both of them. The offerings were really quite limited, and they made it so difficult to find out how to use the service that I decided to start my own company.
Kim: What made your company different than what was already offered?
Ed: I have a marketing background and I thought that I would be able, through PR and advertising, to get the word out about home exchange. It was a tough sell in the beginning because I started out with no listings so I was selling a service that didn’t have any product. There was a printed directory that was mailed out three or four times a year. My first directory had about 150 listings in it, and then it built up to 500 after the first year.
Kim: And today you have how many listings?
Ed: We have about 27,000. We realized after about a year that the directory was obsolete as soon as it was sent out so we discontinued it and went entirely to the Internet. The Internet totally changed the industry. We were the first to embrace that and it really moved us to the front of the pack.
Kim: I am assuming that there are a lot of people who can afford a hotel but are opting for house-swapping. Why does it appeal to them?
Ed: There is no doubt that you save money, but you find out that the real benefit is the comfort and the local experience.
Kim: Do you have people in the middle of Kansas who exchange homes?
Ed: Yes, we have a few people in Kansas , but not that many. If you live out in the boonies or off the beaten track, you are going to have to be a little more proactive than if you have a penthouse in New York City. But if you can make your area sound appealing, there’s a really, really good chance that you’re going to get a home exchange. A woman who works for me named Judy had a list of places that she wanted to visit including Switzerland, France , and Australia. She had an inquiry from people in a little village outside of Stavanger, Norway. They were probably the typical people who said, “Who would want to come here?” But they did exactly what you need to do if you are in an out of the way area—they wrote a letter of inquiry to Judy and they made their little village and their home and the places that they could go to so appealing that Judy ended up spending three weeks there!
For more information and testimonials from HomeExchange members, go to www.homeexchange.com.