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Cancelling a Home Exchange at the last minute (x2)

by John Mensinger on April 23, 2014

Agreeing to a home exchange is a serious commitment. When is a family justified in breaking a house swap agreement? A death in the family, a serious health problem, or a natural disaster would be a reasonable justification.
We had agreed to an exchange this month in the UK. The British family bought their airline tickets and was looking forward to their first ever house swap. On March 3rd the General Manager of my business announced he was leaving as of March 31st. This created a crisis and there was no way I could imagine leaving for three weeks on vacation.
The first step was to let the British know that even though I might have a problem they would be ok. They would be able to use our home and car as agreed, even if we weren’t able to make it to the UK. I was prepared to book a hotel so the British could use our home though it turned out that friends offered to host us. One family offering us a home had been our guests on a home exchange. They understood the situation and wanted to help.
Our British partners were sympathetic, making the point that if we couldn’t make it to the UK for a simultaneous exchange they would allow us to use their home in the future when they were on a traditional vacation.
As the weeks passed I felt better about the trip. A former manager agreed to come out of retirement to man the fort during my absence. Two new employees were hired. An important trip objective was to see our daughter, who is studying in Edinburgh. Less than 3 weeks before the exchange we booked airline tickets. We had a second exchange planned in England for June, and if we decided not to go in April we could always change the dates on the tickets (for $300 plus the difference in cost.)
Less than two weeks before departure the gentleman of our British family was in a horrible road accident. The lady sent me a long e-mail with a photo showing her partner heavily bandaged in a hospital bed. We agreed to cancel the swap; I changed the dates of the air tickets for the June exchange. My wife went as scheduled to Britain to visit her parents and our daughter. I am very sorry that our partners had a family tragedy but ironically it was better for me to be at work during a challenging time. If I had been free for a vacation I could have gone and stayed with the in-laws, which admittedly isn’t as much fun as an exchange.
Life and home exchange are unpredictable. We have enjoyed 19 exchanges, this is the first cancellation. Home exchangers need to be flexible, creative, and gracious in dealing with problems. There are many benefits to house swapping; you need to keep this in mind when it occasionally doesn’t work out as anticipated.

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