Dos and Don'ts
Do make sure you write the most informative profile you can so other swappers can get a feel for your family, your home, and your neighborhood.
Do look for other families with kids. "If you've got two toddlers, you don't want to end up in a house with antiques," says Bergstein.
Don't forget the details. HomeExchange.com provides helpful sample correspondence and agreements.
Do communicate with the other family by e-mail and phone. Don't be shy about asking for references.
Don't swap cars unless both parties have consulted their insurance companies first.
Do plan to spend a full day preparing your house and putting away certain items. Bergstein warns that anything you leave out will be used, played with, or eaten.
Don't leave valuables out; lock them up in an attic or a garage.
Do swap contact info for pediatricians, babysitters, take-out, kid-friendly restaurants, and parks.
Don't forget to do a complete walk-through when you get to the house.
Do follow up during the exchange by e-mail or phone to ensure all is okay, or have a friend or neighbor drop in from time to time.
The best advice of all? Log on to some house-trading sites and spend time browsing the listings to get a feel for the homes and their owners. This will give you ideas about the kind of information to include when writing a profile of your own. You may just find a new way to vacation. As Nicole Dewell says, "We live in a global community, but hotels can be so sterile. This is a nicer, gentler way to travel."