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Home Exchange 101 Lesson 1 – Creating Your Home Exchange Listing

by John Mensinger & Deren Monday on December 3, 2009

Have you ever shopped online?  I know you have, I just wanted to ask an easy question…

But seriously, when you’ve shopped online, have you ever come across a site that described a product so well, showed such glorious pictures, was written so clearly and cleverly that it took all your effort not to click the “buy now” button over and over and over? Buy Now. Buy Now! BUY NOW!

I know I have.

And I also know that this site was not selling a different product than all the others.  It was just selling the product better.  And they get my business every time.  Why? Because they deserve it.  Your home exchange listing is just as important.

No, it’s more important.  Because it has direct effect on the quality of home exchange offers you receive.  And this is not just about buying some trivial gift online, this is about spending weeks of your life in another country.  You want options.  You want great options.  And you want them now.  The only way to get a great exchange is by setting up an amazing, jaw-dropping listing.

Last week in Home Exchange 101, you were oriented to the home exchange concept.  This week (cleverly titled “Lesson 1″) we look at the important fist step: signing up for a home exchange agency and creating your first listing.

Step 1: Where To List

The vast majority of house exchanges are found using specialist home exchange agencies.  These agencies are the work horse of the industry.

The leading home exchange agencies allow you to search their databases and review listings for free.  However, most sites require paid membership before you can contact other members.  This format benefits you by allowing you to see the potential exchange options without first paying the full membership fee.  By searching different agencies you will understand which you prefer and which have members in locations of interest.

When deciding which agency to start with, we recommend visiting our friends at knowyourtrade.com.  They analyze home exchange agencies in depth and offer a fantastic overview.

The agencies with the most members are:

Agencies with a smaller number of members include:

First Home Exchange Alliance (homebase-hols.com, gti-home-exchange.com, invented-city.com)
jewettstreet.com
digsville.com

A potential advantage of the agencies with fewer members is that their owners can give their customers more personal attention.

Each agency has its own listing formats. Since HomeExchange.com is the agency with the most members we will discuss how to create a listing with them.  The procedure will be similar with any other agency.

A note before we begin:  HomeExchangeUniversity.com recommends joining one agency to begin with, and then expanding your membership if you are not satisfied with the results.  Remember, a key element to home exchange is flexibility, both in travel dates and locations.  So, instead of commencing your research insisting on one specific month in one specific city, perhaps focus on a range of months and a general vicinity within a country.

Step 2: Filling Out the Listing

One-Line Summary

Now that you’ve selected an agency, you next create a one-line summary of your home exchange offer.  When fellow members search for listings they get a summary report that includes a thumbnail photo and the one-line summary.  This one-line summary is critical to effectively “advertising” you listing.

For example, one successful listing reads:

“Vineyard, Olive Orchard, and Park View, Large Home with Pool, Ideal for family touring Northern California.”
Notice the words used in this one-line summary.  All have a positive connotation and are aligned with common sentiment for a successful, relaxing getaway.  Also, the term “ideal for family” quickly allows a viewer to filter the listing based upon the family element.  This will be a great selling point for some and a detraction for others.  That’s OK. You’re trying to attract the ideal exchange, not attract absolutely every member of the exchange site. Lastly, be sure to state the region of your home in the one-line summery.

A Note Regarding Language of the Listing

HomeExchange.com offers websites in several countries. Users choose which language to use for their listing. Users can also choose to put their listing in more than one language, though this isn’t easy when there is a space constraint such as the one-line summary.

We recommend using English or the language of the place where you want to exchange. Sure, there are language translation tools but when potential exchange partners are researching exchanges they eliminate most potential partners by looking at the summary photo and one line description. If that description is in a language your potential partners don’t understand you risk losing them before they click on your listing to learn more.

General Exchange Information

The next portion of the listing deals with common questions, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, nearest large city and the nearest airport. If you trade with families from other countries you might choose the nearest airport with international service.

One question pertains to how many people your home can accommodate. You may consider limiting your accommodations to your vehicle capacity, and not necessarily your sleeping capacity.  Our home accommodates ten if there are three couples with shared sleeping arrangements. We list seven, however, as that is the capacity of our automobile.

The next listing element is a check list of features. Most are obvious, one that is not is “Exceptional View.” We have a good view that we promote but are too modest to claim it is exceptional.

You also can express love, loathing, or neutrality towards nuisances such as children, smokers, or pets. For example, you can choose “No Smoking” or “Smoking OK,” or leave both fields unchecked. You can offer your car by checking the “Car Possible” or you can check “No Auto” or leave both boxes unchecked.

Essays

HomeExchange.com allows three descriptive essays: your home, your neighborhood, and your family. Comprehensive, concise, well-written and humorous essays significantly increase your chances of attracting a high-quality exchange partner.  Essays should both inform and entertain, allowing potential exchangers to get an idea of your personality and character. Most importantly, essays begin the process of building trust with potential exchange partners.

A few essay notes:  The essay on your neighborhood should include information about your region and its attractions and advantages. The essay on your family should include your first names, approximate or exact ages, gender, and professional information.

Destination, Dates and Comments

You can check off a box indicating you will consider an exchange anywhere. However, we recommend taking advantage of the specific destination options.

HomeExchange.com allows four separate specific locations along with an exchange date window and a comment field.  Filling in the destination options is important.  For example, if you say you want to go to France this allows folks in France to find you with what is called a “reverse search.” You should put your four top country choices in the specific fields. Additional choices can be put in the comment field. If you have additional needs such as a pool, a lake, or the ocean, for example, you indicate this in the section comments about your destination.

Example:  Let’s say you have listed France as a destination. You can further narrow it down by listing a specific city in France. Be careful with this, it might discourage potential exchange partners. If you really want Paris, put it down. If you will be happy in many French destinations don’t choose a specific city. Depending on the agency and country you can also put down a state, province, or region as a destination choice.

There is also a comment field about dates.  Example: if you are a school teacher and are limited to the holidays you can so indicate. Be specific about the dates you are available. There is a comment field for other information. I use this for information on our car, bicycles, and animals. It is a catch all for any information that doesn’t fit elsewhere. Finally there is a field for a link to your personal website, though some exchangers will put down a link to a tourist information website on their town or region. It is OK to leave this field blank.

Step 3 – Photos

The final, and most crucial step, is to post photos of your home. A photo is worth a thousand words as it conveys information about your home, garden, view, and your family’s interior decoration choices and housekeeping standards. The most important photo is the one that is shown in the summary lists together with your one-line description. This photo should encourage exchangers to click on your full listing. We use a photo that shows our pool and the beautiful view beyond it.

The photos should include views of your home exterior, the garden, the kitchen, the bathroom, bedrooms, and living and family rooms. If you have a great view from the house or garden take a photo of it. You can include a photo of your family if you wish. Certain folks will include general photos of famous places in their region. You can caption the photos and provide a brief description. HomeExchange.com encourages photos by allowing a high quantity and accepting any file size. Other agencies may limit the quantity and size of photo files.

Congratulations, you now have an effective listing on a home exchange site!  We recommend saving the text from your listing on your computer for future use.  Just copy and paste your essays and any other information into a word document and save for future use.  If you choose to sign up with an additional or separate agency in the future, you will save time by reusing this information.

In the next lesson we will look at how to search for a home exchange listing once your listing is up and running!

John Mensinger is co-founder of HomeExchangeuniversity.com and an experienced home exchanger. His passion is helping others experience the enjoyment (and cost savings!) of home exchange. John can be reached at jm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.

Deren S. Monday is co-founder of HomeExchangeUniversity.com and father of two. He also dabbles in on-line marketing planning and implementation. Deren can be reached at dsm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.

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