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ABC7 On Your Side: Home exchanges

May 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
How would you like to stay in a beach home in Australia, a home on Egypt's Red Sea, or a chateau in France -- all without spending a dime? Many travelers are ditching hotels for the comforts of home and saving a bundle. In a home exchange, people swap their homes for a few days, a few weeks, or longer. You move into someone else's home, and they move into yours. Some home exchangers from Southern California told Eyewitness News that it's a fantastic way to travel.

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In "The Holiday" Kate Winslett is thrilled to find a stunning Southern California home through a home exchange website. Companies like HomeLink International and Intervac International Home Exchange allow its members to search for homes all across the world.

At HomeExchange.com, based in Hermosa Beach, you pay an annual fee of $60, which allows members to list their homes and exchange them with other members for free. The Web site lists some 15,000 homes around the world, includes pictures and detailed descriptions, dates the owners are available for an exchange, and the places members would like to travel.

"It's a great way to travel," said Ed Kushins from HomeExchange.com. "Basically, you stay at my house, I stay at yours, so there's no hotel bills. You save a lot of money on your vacation."

Southern California is a favorite destination for many home exchangers. Living just across from the ocean and the Redondo Beach Pier doesn't hurt. Maria Carlson says she gets e-mails all the time from people willing to swap their home for hers.

Maria and her husband Robert were at first reluctant to exchange their home, so as a trial they swapped their home over one weekend for a house in Carmel, and on another weekend for a luxurious San Diego condo.

"We tried it out. He loved it, I loved it, and we've just been doing it ever since," said Maria.

Like many home exchangers, Maria and Robert have become friends with people they never knew until just before the exchange.

"If you feel like strangers are staying in your home, then home exchange is not for you. If you're going to be nervous about it, it's not for you," said Maria. "It's not for everybody."

Home exchanges are strictly voluntary between members. So it's always a good idea to talk with the person you're swapping homes with several times before you make the exchange.

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