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HomeLink Connection March 2011 Supplement

 

Hello HomeLink Members,

Welcome to the second installment of our monthly newsletter supplement addressing your comments on our survey.

Once again, however, we need to address another item before getting into our survey comment topics.

We shut down another scammer recently.  The key items in this scam were 1) asking to communicate via their personal email addresses coupled with; 2) asking for a security deposit.

Fortunately, with the help of our vigilant group of HomeLinkers, we were able to shut it down after they had contacted only two of our members.  We informed those members directly.

We decided to wait until this newsletter to discuss it with all of you as we were--and remain--confident that no other member was at risk.

Also, we immediately added a step when processing new listings to prevent them from being uploaded in the first place.  We now track the IP addresses from each subscription form received and if it can’t be traced to the corresponding home’s location or vicinity thereof, we try contacting them to confirm details about their home and intent as a HomeLink member.  The IP address of the scam we shut down recently was traced back to Nigeria.

Again, please contact us about any messages you receive requesting any type of financial compensation for an exchange. 

Now, on to our survey comments…

This month’s supplement discusses a variety of topics, including:

  • Email Address Updates
  • Increasing Odds of Finding an Exchange
  • Exchange Agreement Forms (EAF)
  • Exchange Evaluation Forms (EEF)
  • Website Instructions
  • Message Type & Content

 

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss any of this in more detail.  Our email address is: us@homelink-usa.com 

Kind Regards,

Karl & Katie Costabel

HomeLink USA

 

 

 

SUBJECT: EMAIL CHANGE

COMMENT: “…How do we update our email address for the emails we receive directly from you? We thought we had updated our email on the site but we’re still getting some random email to our old email address…”

 

ANSWER: I have updated your email address at our local database, which corrects the issue at hand.

I appreciate the reminder as I have been meaning to include this in our newsletters and now it will go into our survey comments. 

To all HomeLink Members:  Please contact us directly via email us@homelink-usa.com or phone: 800-638-3841 with any updates to your email address.

This was previously done automatically with our “Edit Book Listing” function.  This function has obviously been removed with the discontinuation of our printed directories.

You can still update your email address online, but please let us know, as well, so we can properly update our local database.  Thank you.

  

SUBJECT:  INCREASING ODDS OF FINDING AN EXCHANGE

COMMMENT:“…I have a beautiful home, very close to San Francisco, so I had hoped that I would have better luck. If it is [possible could someone review my entry, and tell me if I am doing something wrong? So far I have only had one exchange, and the couple who came to my home were very happy. Thank you!...”

 

ANSWER: There are a few items we have found useful in increasing your odds of finding a suitable exchange.

The first is to be proactive in sending out your exchange requests instead of waiting for inquiries to come to you.  The more active you are in the process, the greater your odds of finding a suitable exchange. 

Also, our members have found they prefer to arrange an exchange at least 3 to 6 months prior to the actual exchange.  Flexibility of time is always a bonus, however, if you are only able to travel a specific time of year, the sooner you start seeking an exchange the better your chances will be of finding one.

Another item to consider is adding more appeal to your listing.  The first way is to upload as many photos as possible to your listing.  You can add up to 20 photos total.  

The second way to add more appeal is to add more descriptive text about your home and surroundings (distance to town, proximity to and description of activities nearby, etc).  This will add some emphasis to your photos.

We also have our "Hot lists" on which to include your listing.  Our members monitor these lists daily for new and interesting homes.  To go on the Hot Lists, select the link called "Add to Hot lists" found under "Member Options" at the left of your page. 

Your listing also goes to the Hot Lists automatically whenever you edit your listing.

Your listing will automatically drop from the Hot lists in 48 hours and 7 days respectively.

 

SUBJECT:  ELECTRONIC EXCHANGE AGREEMENT FORM

COMMENT:   “…This year it was hard to get two of our four exchangers to complete all parts of the exchange agreement form. It seemed that the automobile part was the most difficult…”

COMMENT:  “…Please, please offer guidance on completing your agreement forms, they can be a bit overwhelming…

 

ANSWER:  To help familiarize you with our Exchange Agreement Form (EAF), we have included some detailed instruction for completing the form.

We realize this seems like a lot of info to absorb, but just take it one step at a time and it should come pretty easily to you.  Please do not hesitate to email us (us@homelink-usa.com) with any questions you may have.  That is what we are here for.

To create an Exchange Agreement Form (EAF), log in to the website, click on link, "Exchange Agreements" found at the left of the page under “Member Options”. 

Once you are at the initial Exchange Agreements Form page, click on the link called, "questions and answers".  Please look over this section before getting started, as we found it very useful during our learning curve of the system.

If you want to refer back to the "questions and answers" while in the middle of creating a new agreement, we suggest you open a separate web window, log in to HomeLink and get to the questions and answer page.  This way, you don't have to keep using the back and forward arrows to look up answers to your questions.

Now you are ready to start.

If you plan to exchange your car now or in the future, the best place to start is to add your vehicle information.  To do this, click on the link, "Add new vehicle for exchange” and enter your car’s details. 

When you have completed your car’s information page, click on the button, “Save this vehicle” found at the bottom of the page.

You will be prompted to add this vehicle to the agreement at Step 9 of 9 when creating the EAF (this is explained below).

To create the actual agreement form:

Click on the "Add new exchange agreement" link.  At the next page titled, "Step 1 of 9 - Locate your exchange partner" enter either their last name or HomeLink member number in the appropriate field and click "Search". 

If you entered their last name, click on the name of the correct exchange partner at the list of results.  If you entered their member number, click on their name at the next page.

From here, read all the information provided and enter the requested information at each step before you click on "continue", which is found at the bottom of each subsequent page.

Also, be sure to check or un-check the conditions and special conditions you would like to be included or not included in the agreement.  Please note that you can change the text of any/all of the conditions that we have entered for your guidance.

Go through all 9 steps and then you will be taken to the summary page of the agreement.  You can edit any/all of the info you have entered thus far at this page.  Once you are satisfied with the info you have entered, click on the "save changes" button found at the top of the page. 

Once you have saved the info, click on the "Ready to sign" button and this will send an automated message to your exchange partner that there is an agreement waiting for them to sign. 

Once your exchange partner has followed all of the above at their end, you will receive a message in your personal email that there is an agreement for you to sign.  Once that is received, go to our messaging system and click on the "Sign agreement" link to finalize.

 

***If you wish to amend an EAF, there are additional steps to be taken.  Please contact us for further instructions for editing an EAF, if need be.

 

SUBJECT:  EXCHANGE EVALUATION FORM

COMMENT:  “…I do not know how to find comments on our home after the exchange. I would like to know what others thought of our home…” 

 

ANSWER:  In an effort to provide our members with the ability to evaluate their exchange experience, we developed our electronic Exchange Evaluation Forms (EEF). The EEF is available online. 

Unfortunately, less than 5% of our USA Members complete an EEF each year! 

We highly recommend that you not only complete this form after every exchange you experience, but also ask your exchange partners to complete the form, as well. 

When the EEFs are completed, we automatically receive a copy and post it to the respective exchange partner's file. 

We have also recently included an option on the form where you can now opt out of sending the form to your exchange partner.  If you do not select the opt-out option, we forward the entire EEF to your exchange partner.

Either way, we retain copies of all EEFs received for future reference.

Prior to the opt-out option, the only part of the EEF that was forwarded to the member being evaluated was the section titled, “Comments for my exchange partner” when a comment had been entered there.

You can find the link to our EEF at the left side of the page, under “Member Options” after logging in. The link is called, “Exchange Evaluation”.

 

SUBJECT:  WEBSITE INSTRUCTIONS

COMMENT: “…More information about how to use the site would be helpful. I didn’'t know there was an evaluation form, for example. But, we LOVE the option to do hospitality exchanges and youth exchanges and have had terrific experiences with those as well as the traditional exchanges…

 

ANSWER:  We have a comprehensive help section at our website for members.  The link to this section is found at the left of the page, under “US Functions” once you are logged-in. The link is called, “Member Help”

 

SUBJECT: MESSAGE TYPE & CONTENT

Message Type: 

COMMENT:“…I love home exchanges and HomeLink and have referred several friends and family to your network. Any time I have had a question or an issue, Katie and Karl have been quick to help. My only gripe about your internal message system is that it's too easy to have someone send you an "information" message but classified as an exchange request. Then if I don't respond to that message (even if no response is necessary, particularly if it's part of an ongoing dialogue with potential exchangers), then my response rate to requests goes way down. I don't really know how you would address this though. I have had wonderful exchanges and I very much look forward to more in the future…”

 

ANSWERThis is a good point to bring up.  For everyone reading this, please take time to make sure the proper ‘type’ of message is in the “TYPE” field in the messages &/or requests you send.  This pull-down, menu-driven field is found beneath the “From” and “To” fields above the text box of the message you are composing.

 

Message Content:

COMMENT:“…I have been exchanging homes for 10 years and have had 6 wonderful experiences in Europe, Mexico and the US.  Recently, I am noticing that quite a few of the inquiries I get fail to tell me where they live, and often very little about what they are thinking--dates, duration, size of traveling party, etc. …You might suggest some of the pertinent details that should be included in the very first e-mail message--location of their home, size and type of property, approximate dates and duration of exchange and number of people traveling, for starters…”

 

ANSWER: This is a great suggestion. 

Try to include basic, pertinent details in your initial exchange requests.  This will certainly save time at the receiving-member’s side.  It also lends a more personal touch to the message. 

Items to include:

  • Your Home’s Location
  • Your Preferred Dates and Duration of Exchange
  • Your Exchange Party Size
  • Your Property Type and Size (number of bedrooms/baths)

 

 

 

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