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Hello HomeLink Members,
Welcome to the third installment of our monthly newsletter supplement addressing your comments on our survey.
To begin, we sincerely apologize for the delay in publishing this supplement, as it was due out last month. Unfortunately, I (Katie) triple-fractured my ankle in early May. We are happy to report I am now mobile enough to be in the office for extended periods of time, so the catching-up begins.
As a reminder, this supplement is dedicated to addressing the comments received from our survey and we expect to be able to cover the remaining topics in this supplement and in our Summer 2011, quarterly printing of HomeLink Connection.
However, there is one item outside of the survey that many members have brought to our attention recently. This recurring inquiry has necessitated an explanation in this supplement. It concerns the current format of our “Listing Alerts” and is the first topic we discuss below.
This month’s supplement discusses:
- Abbreviated “Listing Alerts”
- Guidance on Preparing Your Home For an Exchange
- Lead Time for Seeking an Exchange
- Exchange Request and Reply Content (cont’d)
- Website Instructions (repeated)
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss any of this in more detail. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karl & Katie Costabel
SUBJECT: ABBREVIATED “LISTING ALERTS”
We are aware of the cryptic "Listing Alerts" being sent out recently and are working to send more informative ones in the near future.
The reason for the change in content of the “Listing Alerts” is the new, abbreviated subscription forms used by our new members. New members only enter their name, contact info and home location on this new form and the 'Listing Alert' is triggered once we upload the new listing with the limited content.
Of course, we directly send instructions to the new members so they can finish entering details/photos of their listing, but that is after the 'Listing Alert' has been triggered.
For now, the 'Listing Alerts' you are receiving are valid, new members and at least let you know we have a new member from the country and region/state referenced in the Listing Alert.
SUBJECT: HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOME
COMMENT: “We would like to see a section of the website about "How to Prepare Your Home for a Successful Exchange," also perhaps periodic (annual) emails to members reminding them to look at this section.
For example, we greatly appreciate when we find a book or files with information both about the home (keys, garbage, how the TV works, etc., the neighborhood (local transportation, restaurants, food shopping, entertainment, and the like) plus standard tourist information. Maps (often available from tourism bureaus) are especially useful. Tips on what to show in photographs would also be helpful. Some HomeLink members have excellent photographs that give a very good picture of the home and neighborhood and others are not so helpful. You could include samples of what a good set of photos includes. For example, we like to cook, so a picture of the kitchen is important to us. “
COMMENT: “I like the fact that you give suggestions about how to prepare the house. Is there a way to have customers use a common format about how to make decisions about how the house should be readied specifically for each exchanger?
For instance - will the beds be made? Do you expect to have a meal prepared? Preference of wine or beer? etc.. I know that could be optional, but perhaps there is a courtesy card that could be looked at upon request, for more details. Oh, maps and information kept over time is fantastic. It really helps to arrive and have all that there.”
ANSWER: Thank you for your suggestions about preparing your homes for an exchange.
HomeLink International created our “Ten International Principles for a Successful HomeLink Exchange” years ago, which provides a solid foundation on how to prepare your home for an exchange. We do not go into a lot of detail on preparing your home, as we strive to provide basic and useful guidance for you to work from so that you can make your exchange experience uniquely yours.
Remember, you can always use our Exchange Agreement Forms to specify things relating to expectations about making beds,etc. Of course, the specific examples for this preparation you have included in your comments above are a great addition to our advice online.
Our “Ten International Principles…” had only previously been available through our “Visitors” area, but can now be accessed through our “Members” area, as well.
To access our “Ten International Principles for a Successful HomeLink Exchange”, go to our homepage, http://www.homelink.org/usa and click on the “Members” button. There you will find the link, “Tips on How To Prepare Your Home…”. (better late than never?)
SUBJECT: LEAD TIME FOR SEEKING AN EXCHANGE
COMMENT: “Your question regarding how far in advance we want or need to plan an exchange [varies]. For Europe, we buy a cheap seat and use our frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class. Because there are few upgradable seats and those go quickly, we prefer to plan 8-10 months in advance. For a domestic exchange we need very little advance planning. That is particularly true for someone with whom we have previously exchanged.
In January, we will exchange 60 miles from home. For that we need virtually no advance planning time. The same is true regarding length of exchange. 20 years ago we wanted at least 3 weeks, preferably 4, for a European exchange and 2 weeks or more for a domestic one. Now, like our January exchange, we are fully satisfied with half that time.
We are very flexible and, generally, follow the lead of our exchangers' requests. Also, we have used home exchanging to visit our daughter and family, perhaps a dozen times in the Washington D.C. area and three times in Frankfurt, Germany. Those could be much shorter than the exchanges wherein we were exploring a place we'd not previously visited…”
COMMENT: “In the question about how far in advance do we like to plan, it varies a lot depending on distance from here and length of stay. For example, a weekend in a northern California location could well have a short plan whereas a trip to Europe would need something farther in advance.”
ANSWER: Thank you for expounding on the variables involved planning an exchange. It has certainly been our experience over the years that this time frame varies, but through the survey, we are better equipped to provide our members and potential members a ballpark answer for this.
Our general rule of thumb is 6 to 10 months in advance for an international exchange. However, if you are seeking an exchange for a major event such as the 2012 Summer Olympics, or for a highly sought after city, you should begin your search at least 12 months in advance.
Domestic exchanges generally require less advance planning, however, if you are looking for a specific time period such as a school holiday, then the 3 to 6 month lead time seems to work well.
SUBJECT: REQUEST MESSAGE & REPLY CONTENT
COMMENT: “We love the service you provide, but find one aspect of the process rather frustrating. Receiving requests not suited to what we are seeking.
We live in Manhattan in a small, one-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to 3 people comfortably. We have indicated this pertinent information within our listing. However we receive multiple requests every day from HomeLink members who have obviously only looked at our location and not what we offer. Most of the requests, and there are many, actually state they are a party of 5 or more who “…can’t wait to go to NYC…” and go on to state that their home is not centrally located, requiring car exchanges.
We do not own a car and have expressly stated that we seek central, major city destinations, convenient to shops, restaurants, etc. It is very time consuming to have to answer these requests and a source of frustration for us in that the majority have given zero consideration to what we offer and are seeking.”
ANSWER: You bring up a very valid point and are not the first to point this out.
We want to emphasize the importance of this issue. In the true spirit of HomeLink, we ask that all members be thorough in their research when seeking an exchange. Please be sensitive to the preferences and accommodations offered by potential exchange partners before sending out requests.
SUBJECT: WEBSITE INSTRUCTIONS
We have decided to include this section again as a reminder about our “Member Help” section found at our website after you log-in.
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”
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