Post image for Home Exchange 101 Lesson 4 – First Contact

Home Exchange 101 Lesson 4 – First Contact

by John Mensinger & Deren Monday on January 11, 2010

If you ever wonder if the world is coming to an end, then just look at your Christmas cards once the holiday season ends.  It leaves no doubt we are in the end of days.

Why?  Because the evil Walgreen’s/Rite Aid/CVS  trifecta has us believing a Christmas card is a picture collage of our family in silly Christmas poses with some cliche “Seasons Greetings!” or “Happy Holidays!” No more cards sans photos.  No more hand-written notes.  No more hand-made delicacies.  Nope.  Nada.  All we’re left with is over-glossed visual noise, void of personality and the spirit of Christmas.

Which brings us to home exchange: first contact.  You have two options:

The Shotgun Approach (Full-Gloss)

What we call the “Shotgun Method” is most popular, sadly.  A homeswap family considers a large number of listings and saves them within their home exchange agency profile.  They then click on a certain number, say up to twenty, and then send an identical e-mail.  Here is one recently received:


We are looking to exchange in California in July/August 2010 and your house looks wonderful.

We live in an 80 year old House in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Britain.  We are a 50 minute train ride to London and within an hour of other attractions in Southern England such as Stonehenge.  Please let us know if you would like to discuss further.

Best regards


Boom!  Did you hear it.  Yup.  That was a shotgun going off.  And the email was as personal as the one I get from my credit card telling my how they are screwing me next.

The Touchy-Feely-Make-Me-Want-to-Exchange-with-You Method

Let’s look at a different option.  Let’s see what a similar message would look like with just a bit of effort thrown in:

Hello John and Julia,

We are looking to exchange in California in July/August 2010.  Your view is beautiful and we love your pool.  We live in an 80 year old House in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Britain.  We are a 50 minute train ride to London and within an hour of other attractions in Southern England such as Stonehenge.  Please let us know if you would like to discuss further.

Best regards


Ahhh, much better.  Not too much.  Not over the top.  But at least I feel like you care who I am.  I want to trade with someone who cares who I am.  We are potentially staying in each others home!

Yes, you may have sent out 19 virtually identical inquiries but they don’t know that.  This e-mail should receive more consideration than the generic version.

What to do if You’re Solicited (In a Good Way)

Let’s assume you receive an inquiry like the one above.  You should review the listing, read the information and look at their photos.  You will have one of the following reactions:

  • You aren’t interested. The home, family, location, or dates aren’t what you’re looking for.   You should politely respond, thanking them and explaining that you’re unable to exchange with them.  If you want you can give a specific reason but it isn’t required.
  • You may be interested. You should respond with an e-mail, thanking them for contacting you and indicating that you would like to consider their home.  If you have questions you can ask them.  You may need to consult with your family.  You probably need to do more research on their home and its location.  We send them a detailed file with more information on our home.
  • This is your dream vacation opportunity.  You should immediately respond with great interest and enthusiasm explaining why you are so delighted with their offer. They may have sent this note out to 19 other home exchange families that may find it appealing.  After reviewing their listing you will have an idea of their family likes and preferences.  You can use these to try to convince them to trade with you.  For example we told a British family that we could help them with their passion for tennis.  We sealed the deal with them by arranging a temporary membership in our tennis club.

Initial Research

There are many ways to research possible home exchange locations.  We like to look at detailed maps and satellite photos to get a better idea of the neighborhood.  For Britain we recommend, for Europe has maps and tourist information.  For the US, has real estate valuations, maps, and satellite photos.  You may prefer

Once we had an inquiry from a seaside town in Scotland with a famous golf course.  The home had an ocean view.  It looked good but the map research showed a rail line running near to the house.  We asked them if they had problems with noise or vibration and if it was a main line.  They responded that they had gotten used to it and it was a main line.  The Internet told us that over twenty trains would pass by between 6am and midnight.  We politely declined.

You can also use the Internet to learn about their region and its attractions.  Most folks have never heard of the South Shropshire Hills in England.  It is a picturesque mixture of fields, hills, and forest punctuated with ancient towns and villages.  This became clear once we started researching the region on the Internet.  We had a happy three weeks there and would be delighted to return for another stay.

This is How We Do It

We don’t use the Shotgun Method ourselves.  We dislike having to seriously consider more than one home exchange possibility at a time.  We wish to avoid making friends with another family and having to tell them that we can’t exchange because their place isn’t quite as attractive as our other options.

We review home exchange listings and save those of interest.  We review them carefully and research them to make sure they are good candidates.  We send out two or three inquiries at a time and wait a few days for a response.  About 60% respond quickly, telling you they are not interested or indicating that it might work.  If we have no positive responses we send out a few more inquiries.  Once there is mutual interest from a potential partner the inquiry turns into a negotiation, which is the topic of our next lesson in Home Exchange 101.

John Mensinger is co-founder of 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 and father of two. He is also a remodeling coach teaching others how to make their homes exchange-worthy.  Deren can be reached at dsm_at_homeexchangeuniversity_dot_com.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Didier January 12, 2010 at 8:07 AM

Hi John,

Personally, I never contact more than one member at a time. But if I haven’t received a response in three days I send out another inquiry. Experience has taught me that interested partners almost always respond immediately. And they respond in an enthusiastic way. I have never had two negotiations simultaneously to find the best. It’s an attitude I don’t appreciate. When a potential exchange partner is hesitant I generally give up on the negotiation.

Best regards,


2 Bob January 20, 2010 at 9:34 AM

It amazes me that so many people do not respond to an inquiry.
A simple “no thank you” note will only take a couple of seconds to send.
Only 50% of the families I write, sends a response.
Sometimes I wonder if the mails I send are being caught by spam filters.
To avoid spam filters I even choose my words carefully in my first email.

Today and yesterday I received (positive!!) reactions on emails I’ve send 4 month’s ago!!

3 catherine hagerty March 12, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Hi John,
I am very interested in exchanging our wonderful town house in NYC but my husband is very leery . Do you know where I can get information on problems or scams?

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