Are you one of the few to have not yet done a house swap? In the first two weeks of registering on the Dutch site www.homeforexchange.com I received twelve enquiries from people wanting to exchange their place with my maisonette in central London.
Emails came from `home exchangers` in Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, France, Spain, Sardinia, Italy, USA and Poland. It became a worldwide cyber swirl. Each new message revealed a lovely home, some with a pool, many including the use of a car, all promising to look after my place like their own.
I have long believed that home exchange was the way forward. Who wants to stay in an expensive hotel with loads of noisy holidaymakers? And the economic downturn has meant a surge of interest in exchange websites.
Ans Lammer, who has a sales background and a husband specialising in software development, decided the time was right to launch `homeforexchange` which counts 11,500 members - rising by 200 daily - from 85 countries.
40% cent are retired couples, but many academics want to exchange for study purposes. All are middle class, mainly professional. Not a yob among them.
`Bad experiences’ usually relate to miscommunication, or misinterpretation, says Ans, who endeavours to act as mediator in the rare event of a complaint.
Some people become friends. Like Robin, in New Zealand, who told me where his fishing rods are kept: and what bait I should use in the river near his home.
But some are also curious requests. A 19 year old girl seeking to swap a small flat in Croatia, wanted to know if she could bring her parrot with her..
Perhaps the reason why more people don’t consider an exchange holiday, is worry that guests will ruin their home. Registering with `accommodation insurance` goes some way to removing this concern. But naturally, personal items should be locked away.
`We plan a trip to London in springtime of 2010. Would you be interested in Budapest? Our flat is a second home, new and it is in the heart of the city. You could come at any time` is a typical exchange enquiry which arrived while I was writing this.
Image: House by the sea in Majorca.