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Welcome to our Summer 2011, 1st anniversary edition of HomeLink Connection!
We hope all of you have enjoyed yet another fun-filled year of home swapping and wish you many more to come!
This issue arrives during the height of our home exchange season and with it comes some very useful advice sent in from our members that we hope will help us all.
We are always looking for home swapping stories to share with you and this issue brings a couple of experiences that emphasize the importance of remaining forthright, thorough and respectful throughout the process of home exchanging.
Our “Media Focus” section has a couple articles that have come our way over the past few months. We are pleased to report that the articles are from HomeLink members. Our thanks to both of you for your wonderful articles and help in expanding the awareness of the incredible world of home swapping.
Don’t miss our International News section for upcoming events you simply can’t miss!
We hope you enjoy the rest of your Summer and wish you safe and wonderful home exchanges over these coming months.
Karl & Katie Costabel
HomeLink USA News
Just a Reminder…
As Always, Please Update Your Listings…
We frequently receive comments about member’s listings that still contain dates from previous years. Further, visitors viewing our listings through the free database search more than likely assume these outdated listings are not current members of HomeLink.
We have included some detailed instruction for updating your listing as well as uploading new photos at the “Member Help” link. This link is found under “US Functions” at the left side of the Database Main Page after logging in.
Refer Your Friends and Save!
Long-time HomeLinkers know that, since 1953, our community has grown almost exclusively due to great word-of-mouth. Simply, our members enjoy their experiences with us so much, that often they can't help but speak well of HomeLink to others too! In recognition of this, we offer a special Referral Discount to our members.
It is very simple – if a new member joins HomeLink, and mentions that you told them about us, then we will say “Thank You” by giving you a 10% referral discount on your next membership renewal with HomeLink.
There is no limit to this offer, so potentially, if you were to mention us to 10 of your friends, relatives, or acquaintances each year, your own membership with us can be entirely free!
Please Reply to All Offers You Receive…
If you find yourself pressed for time, don’t hesitate using our automated, “No thank you” replies. These are found both at the top of the reply field at our website and at the bottom of the automated notifications we send, notifying you of messages in your inbox.
The important thing is to be courteous and respectful of your fellow HomeLinkers in acknowledging their contact with you…even if it is with a polite, No Thank You.
Below is the article written by our member, Emily Hedrick, from Charlotte, NC. She goes into great detail explaining the process of house swapping, from deciding if it is for you to searching for an exchange partner and then how to prepare for the exchange. Thank you very much for this informative article on the world of house exchanging!
Tricks of the Trades, by Emily Hedrick, HomeLink USA Member, Savor NC Magazine, May/June 2011
This next article is from HomeLink Canada members, Michael & Sally Geller. Michael is a well-known architect and brings an interesting perspective to their exchange experience by way of his architectural perspective and expertise while visiting Spain.
Finding the Exotic in Familiar Places, by Michael Geller, The Vancouver Sun, July 16, 2011
We would very much like to hear about your home swapping stories and include them in HLC.
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if it would be okay to include your name.
We often receive emails from members telling us about their home exchange experiences. Of course, the vast majority of these are stories of their wonderful experience. However, every once in a long while, we are informed of less-than-positive experiences and believe it is our responsibility to share these stories with you, as well, in an attempt at finding constructive insight for all of us to consider.
This HomeLink Connection issue brings together two rather unfortunate situations, where our members have suffered last minute cancellations.
Of course, unforeseen events happen that leave no other option than cancellation and we are fully aware that 99% of our members hold themselves to the highest standards of honesty and respect for one another. However, the two instances we refer to here did not have legitimate reasons for cancellations. Further, the fact they happened within a month of each other, recently, has raised enough concern that we believe it necessary to address this with all of you.
We are confident these members believe their reasons for cancelling are valid but both could have been resolved through a sincere and thoughtful effort on their part. Unfortunately, this was not the case and, as a result, two unsuspecting and trusting HomeLinkers found themselves in very unfortunate economic situations.
We have decided to leave the specifics of each story out of this discussion in order to remain focused on the items needing to be addressed.
The first incident occurred due to a new member juggling multiple exchange requests simultaneously without informing his potential exchange partners of this fact.
In a nutshell, he agreed, in writing, to two exchanges, then cancelled the first one without a valid reason (especially in light of the fact he had not cancelled the second). After repeated, failed attempts at asking for his help and for an honest explanation of his actions, his membership was permanently revoked.
We can’t emphasize enough, the importance of being honest with your potential exchange partner about your expectations and conditions surrounding the exchange.
If you are not certain of your dates and destinations, simply tell your exchange partner so. Also, let them know if you are considering other offers for particular dates and destinations and that you will be making a decision within “X” amount of days. Don’t string them along with the false assurance you are discussing an exchange only with them. This way they know the exchange is tentative and won’t purchase tickets &/or commit to dates until further communication from you.
Once you are certain you can travel to their country during the dates discussed, agree to these details and any other specific items you deem important either through written email communication or through our electronic Exchange Agreement Forms (EAF).
When some written form of your agreement is in place, both exchange partners should be able to move forward, with confidence, in purchasing airline tickets.
Of course, we are always here to help in anyway we can in finding an alternate exchange. Fortunately, for the exchange partner who was at the receiving end of this cancellation, we were indeed able to find an alternate exchange.
The second instance of an exchange cancellation without valid reason raises concerns about the ability to see potential obstructions to an exchange before they occur and to take these into consideration before committing to an exchange.
This cancellation occurred because the renter of the home that was to be exchanged refused to vacate the home for the dates agreed upon. Therefore, our member was not able to stay there.
The exchange partner who cancelled stated it was out of her control that her renter refused to leave the home-for-exchange. However, this member should have foreseen this scenario as renters usually have all the rights when it comes to vacating the premises.
That being said, we are not certain about the laws in that country regarding renters, however, the HomeLink member who cancelled should not have offered this home in the first place since it was being occupied (by a long-term renter) and there was no guarantee, evidently, that it would be vacant for the exchange.
In contrast to the first story of cancellation, this member had offered alternate accommodations for our members, but the offer did not cover the two-week time period originally agreed upon via signature on our EAF. The offer was for just 4 days. Further the alternate offer was for a hospitality exchange, which our members were not comfortable with.
Unfortunately, this attempt by the cancelling member was not a sufficient alternative for our members and they now have to pay for commercial accommodations. I do want to say, however, our HomeLink Organizer from that country did everything she could in finding a solution and ultimately helped in a very meaningful and generous way and we thank her again for going above and beyond for our member.
So, in the end, below are the items we believe pertinent to these circumstances and hope we can all come away from this better equipped for the next exchanges we enter into.
¨ Be very thoughtful and thorough when planning your next home swap vacation.
¨ Be up front about all of your concerns and surrounding circumstances of the exchange. Don’t offer something that you can’t guarantee will be a part of the exchange (barring unforeseen circumstances, of course).
¨ Let your potential exchange partner know if you are considering other offers and be specific about when they can expect a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from you.
¨ Agree to create some form of written agreement for the exchange. We have our online Exchange Agreement Forms to use and you can always ask us for advice on what to include in an agreement.
A side note about our EAF, we are aware of the confusion our current form creates for many of you and assure you we are working to simplify the form. We will keep you posted on our progress with this.
¨ Read and re-read all written forms of communication that are pertinent to your exchange agreement before sending the email or signing an exchange agreement form.
¨ Finally, if for any reason, your exchange is cancelled, please do not hesitate contacting us for help in finding a solution. We Are Here To Help!!!
As you are probably aware, all messages through our internal messaging system carry a symbol indicating what type of a message it is. You can find the key to the symbols under the link called, "Full Help" at the messaging area. (Look to the lower left area of the listed messages).
The member who had inquired about these symbols also mentioned that they are not very effective indicators as to the type of message they represent. The message sender is responsible for selecting the appropriate symbol for the message, except for the initial exchange request sent.
I have informed him, and now all of you, that I have added this to our list of improvements for our website and will inform you or our progress with this.
Annalisa, our HomeLink Italy Colleague, recently addressed the issue of how her members are accustomed to trading keys with their exchange partners.
Of course, the manner in which you choose to do this is completely left to your discretion, however, we felt it important to inform you how our Italian member are accustomed to doing so.
I have included a couple of her emails directly below to avoid any misinterpretation.
Please inform your subscribers that Italian postal service is not so reliable as in other countries so hardly no one in Italy will accept to send their keys. [an exchange will not happen if their exchange partner] insist on having keys sent via post.
It is not a matter of trust of the families, It is simply a matter of trust on the Postal service.
“…People here want to hand keys personally or ask friends to hand them. Much safer and more friendly.
HomeLink International News
Upcoming Events Worldwide…
Rugby worldcup 2011
For the latest information, please go to…
New Zealand World Cup Rugby 2011
October Fest 2011 is just around the corner and Manfred, our HomeLink Germany Colleague, has once again supplied a comprehensive website for this fun time of year in Germany.
Click here for October Fest 2011 information
Summer Olympics 2012
Our HomeLink UK Organizer is setting up a registry of their HomeLink members’ homes near Olympic 2012 venues. Once they have a significant number of members on this list, they will let us know and we will pass this valuable information on to you.
Click here for HomeLink UK Olympic Registry
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