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A vacation home exchange is a home swap between two parties. One might rent a house, condominium, apartment, or other type of residence primarily for vacation use, so the property is not the owner's primary residence; traditionally, two homeowners exchange stays at their vacation houses at the same time, although options are usually available for renting someone's vacation home without that person renting one at the same time. The length of a vacation home exchange can range from a weekend to several weeks.
Membership organizations or renters' networks online often facilitate vacation home exchanges. Typically, someone joins a group and can then post his or her vacation home information, or post details about the type of rental he or she is seeking. Often, there is nominal cost associated with using such directory services, either in the form of a one-time payment or a monthly membership fee. The next step usually entails homeowners and renters making contact with one another, and then following up with a written agreement once they find a match.
One advantage of a vacation home exchange is that the property is typically the owner's second home, so it is usually available. A vacation home exchange also offers flexibility regarding one's travel plans, and it is often cheaper overall. Home swapping generally provides more privacy, space, and better amenities than a hotel. Having a full kitchen and laundry facilities normally means that less money can be spent on eating out and paying for other services, and some home swaps include discounts on admission to area attractions and other money-saving opportunities. Another possible advantage to home exchanges is that a renter can experience the area as a local rather than feeling like a tourist.
A possible drawback of a vacation home exchange is that it may not work for someone who wants to travel right away. Some travel experts recommend allowing four to six months of lead-time in order to find an appropriate match. There also exists the potential for misunderstandings or unmet expectations between a homeowner and a renter. These problems can usually be avoided, however, when clear arrangements are made in advance.
Some people prefer to participate in an indirect home exchange. In this case, one party rents a vacation home, but he or she is not required to offer his own home for a swap. If the owner is a member of a vacation home swapping network and is not interested in renting a property at the same time, many networks will offer the owner a credit that can be used when he or she decides to rent another person's vacation home.
The vacation home exchange process usually includes some discussion regarding expectations. For instance, some homeowners do not allow smoking, children, or pets. The rental agreement generally sets forth guidelines for using the home and paying for utilities and other expenses as well as caring for any pets or plants. In addition, vacation home rentals often include access to recreational facilities, so details can be discussed in advance regarding procedures for using the pool, tennis courts, or other areas that might entail special permission or payment of extra fees.