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Home Exchange 101 Lesson 6 – Preparing Your “User’s Manual”

by John Mensinger on March 19, 2010

Home Exchange University recommends creating a “User’s Manual” for your home.  The manual prepares your exchange partner for handling emergencies, maintenance issue and anything else that may come up during the exchange.  And remember: the more thorough your User’s Manual, the less often your exchange partner needs to contact you during the exchange and the more everyone can enjoy the experience.  Our fourth part of Home Exchange 101 Lesson 6 look at key elements to include in your User’s Manual:

The (Partial) List

Your User’s Manual should include:

  • Contact information for emergency services such as Police, Fire, Ambulance, alarm company, and utility providers.
  • Names, phone numbers, and addresses of your friends or family that will help your guests with problems or questions.
  • Contact information for your insurance agent, mechanic, doctor, veterinarian, or anybody else that might be useful for your visitors.
  • Detailed information on how systems work such as the telephone, satellite television, alarm system, or wireless broadband. Access code if they are using their own computer on your network.
  • Location of gas and water shut off valves. Location of electrical panels.
  • Location of manuals for the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, etc.
  • Advice on local shopping, tourist attractions, and restaurants.
  • Information on public transportation.
  • Rules and schedules relating to trash pickup. Location of recycling points.
  • Local laws or regulations. For example, in certain countries you must have the car’s ownership documents and proof of insurance with you at all times.
  • Rules relating to your home. For example, we have a swimming pool. It has a motorized cover. For safety reasons this cover must be closed if the pool is not being used.
  • Warnings of hazards or potential problems. For example we live next to a park with a Disc Golf course. If the players throw their Disc into our garden they will often climb the fence to retrieve it. We advise our guests on making the distinction between criminal intruders and errant sportsmen.
  • Costs and charges that your guests might have to pay. Normally this is zero but if you had to pay for Internet access by the minute or megabyte, had pay TV, or had an expensive rate for International calls your guests could inadvertently rack up huge costs.

Additional Items to Consider

Besides the User’s Manual be sure to include specific information requested by the incoming family.  Perhaps they want advice on local festival or camping opportunities.  Maybe they want to ride horses, play golf, or go sailing.  Either include this information in your User’s Manual for them or create a supplement with specific details for the particular exchange.

Consider maintaining a box or file with up to date brochures and tourist information on your region.  Equip your vehicle with a detailed road atlas, even if it has a GPS system.  Your exchange family will appreciate detailed city, bicycling, or hiking maps as well as public transit timetables and maps.

Click here for the next article in this series.

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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]

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