An alternative to renting is to exchange your home abroad with one in France. This way you can experience home living in France for a relatively small cost and may save yourself the expense of a long-term rental. Although there’s an element of risk involved in exchanging your home with another family, most agencies thoroughly vet clients and many have a track record of successful swaps (a recent UK Consumers’
Association survey found that 99 per cent of house swappers were happy with their experience). Apart from the obvious advantage of providing you with free accommodation, home exchange has the major benefit of putting you in direct touch with people who live in the area you’re interested in moving to (i.e. the owners of the home you’re occupying).
There are home exchange agencies in most countries. Global Home Exchange ((250-740 1740, http://www.4homex.com is based in Canada. Those in the US include http://www.homeexchange.com or (310-798-3864, Home Exchange or House Swap International http://www.singleshomeexchange.com and HomeLink International ((305-294 7766 or 800-638 3841, http://www.homelink.org or http://www.swapnow.com , which has some 16,500 members in around 50 countries. HomeLink also has an office in the UK (7 St Nicholas Rise, Headbourne Worthy, Winchester SO23 7SY, (01962 8868822, http://www.homelink.org.uk , which publishes a Directory of homes and holiday homes for exchange. Other UK-based exchange agencies are Home Base Holidays, 7 Park Avenue, London N13 5PG, UK (020-8886 8752, http://www.homebase-hols.com and Intervac Home Exchange, 24 The Causeway, Chippenham, Wilts SN15 3DB ((UK 01249 461101, http://www.intervac.com), which has representatives in some 30 countries. Green Theme International is a British agency based in France, at 9 rue des Insurgés, La Maillerie Ouest, 87130 Linards (05 55 08 47 04, http://www.gti-home-exchange.com
Most agencies charge (usually between GB£40 and GB£100 per year) to advertise your property and allow you to view other properties, which means that only bona fide house swappers have access to your details. If you decide to house swap, take the following tips from those who have done it:
1 Don’t expect to house swap at short notice, and be flexible over dates.
2 Ensure that all agreements are in writing and that they specify the people who will be staying in your home and who is responsible for paying bills.
3 Check with your insurers that your guests will be covered in your home and (if appropriate) when using your car.
4 Leave your guests lists of useful information, including emergency contact numbers (e.g. doctor, electrician, plumber and neighbours).
5 Put away fragile and valuable possessions to prevent damage.
Excerpted from “Buying a Home in France 2006” It can be purchased from Survival Books.