What a fabulous first home exchange experience I had! My exchange partners, Di and Bry, were wonderful and have such a lovely home.
I've had so many folks asking about having strangers in my home and living in a stranger's home. Honestly, by the time we did our exchange, I felt like I was visiting friends' home and them mine...just that neither of us would be home during the visit. We started emailing and Skyping almost nine months before the exchange, we were sending birthday and Christmas cards to each other and chatting about our daily lives...we beame friends and not just exchange partners.
For those considering a home exchange, I highly recommend it! I went through Home Exchange as I found them to be the best fit for me. They have great resources to help you through the process as well as providing a Lloyd's of London policy and trip cancellation insurance. I recommend taking the approach Di, Bry and I did and that was emailing for a while to make sure we felt like it was a good match. Skype video calls are a great way to get more comfortable with each other and you can see first hand the home available for exchange.
As it got closer to our exchange, I began getting my home ready for my guests. I emptied one chest of drawers and made room in my closet for them...can't feel like a local if you're living out of a suitcase, right? Both Di and I put together a book on our homes and some of the little quirks each has...this is especially helpful if you're doing an exchange in a different country. We also collected brochures for area attractions and provided each other with a list of important/emergency phone numbers...in my case, I also provide information regarding hurricane prepareness as we were exchanging during hurricane season.
A home exchange doesn't just have to be an extended stay in another country like mine. You can also do a long weekend or extended stay right here in the States. A more local exchange might be a good way to get your feet wet if you're considering home exchange. I've received a few exchange requests from folks in the mountains looking to come to the coast for a long weekend.
I've been asked if I would do another exchange and my answer is "oh most definitely"! Ireland, Australia and Italy are just a few of the places on my list...who knows where I'll end up. The world is your oyster...just get out there and explore!