Swapping your home for another paradise
Those of us who live on or near Anna Maria Island are always saying we live in paradise. In fact, we say it so often that I worry it will start to lose its real meaning. Well a few weeks ago while anchored near a sandbar off of Bean Point, a group of us felt that what we were experiencing that day went far beyond paradise. It was full fledge perfection. During the course of the afternoon someone brought up the idea of exchanging homes. If we live in paradise, then other people must too.
Home exchange is not a new idea, it’s been around since the 1950s, but in recent years, has really become mainstreamed because of Internet access. The way it works is that two members of an exchange group agree to swap their primary or secondary home for a mutually agreeable period of time.
Finding an exchange group is pretty easy. There are several with Internet Web sites, varying fees and slightly different formats, but basically they all contain detailed search engines. You can search by country, city, home size and more. The individual property listings give specifics about the home and usually enough pictures to satisfy the voyeurism in all of us as well as when and where the homeowner would like to exchange. Some of the more popular sites are: Homeexchange.com is chock full of properties to search through (some even on Anna Maria) and charges $100 for an annual fee. HomeLink-USA.com has been around a long time with fees starting at $110 annually. Digsville.com charges only $45 for an annual fee and is worth looking at just because it has a cool name; and Tradetotravel.com is aimed at the luxury market with a $2,495 membership fee.
There are variations on exchanging homes. Typically you are living in someone’s home while they’re living in yours. However, if you own a second home there, is more flexibility with the ability to offer additional and more desirable time slots. You can even do something called a hospitality exchange, where you host a visitor in your home and then later they reciprocate in their home. After you find what you think is a suitable home for the city or country you want to visit, an e-mail correspondence is initiated with the hope of locking into a potential exchange.
Staying in a home provides you with more choices than staying in a hotel. You will have kitchen and possibly laundry facilities provided as well as more elbow room especially if you’re traveling with children or family members. Not to mention the benefit of living like a local if only for a short period of time.
Financially, this arrangement can’t be beat. Basically you’re not paying for your lodging. And if you’re thinking about traveling to Europe, this is an incredible deal with the pound and euro worth between 100 and 50 percent more than our dollar. Some home listings available for exchange will also include a vehicle or tickets to shows and sporting events, and some may ask you to care for plants or pets.
Exchanging homes is a dynamite way for people like me who love to travel and love to poke around real estate to get the best of both worlds. Just cruising through the Web sites can be addictive. However, swapping is not for everyone, especially if you’re not flexible and organized. If the thought of a stranger sleeping in your bed or reorganizing your books is more than you can process, better head straight for Marriott’s Web site. You’ll never be comfortable no matter how much money you save.
Since Florida is one of the most popular areas that exchangers are looking to trade for, our own little paradise should be an easy sell. Just be sure to include pictures taken on the sandbars around Anna Maria, and understand that paradise wears many different hats.