Dear Fellow HomeLinker,
Happy Winter 2017!
We are pleased with our ongoing effort implementing improvements to our website. Please see the “IT Update” for detail on the latest upgrades.
The “Helpful Hints” section includes a follow-up from the last newsletter explaining how to go about evaluating an exchange if you did not create an online Exchange Agreement Form prior to the exchange. We felt it timely to include this, as this is the busiest time of year for arranging exchanges. We hope this piece on a our automated exchange agreement/evaluation system will further encourage you to complete an online Exchange Agreement Form prior to your next exchange.
We’ve included a HomeLink International Section in this edition regarding the latest from the New Zealand earthquake last November. It is good to learn they are persevering despite the quake’s magnitude and our thoughts and best wishes go out to all who’ve been affected.
Finally, Karl & I are venturing into a new chapter in our lives over the next few months, as we move nearer to family. Of course, we intend on providing our high level of personal customer support during this time. There will be a couple windows of time where there might be a slight delay in our response. We will keep you informed both on our local site’s contact page and our outgoing phone message.
Karl & Katie
“Seeking My Country” Advanced Search Criteria: Some of our members have asked what happened to the previous advanced search criteria selection, “Seeking my County” found in the black box to the left of the search results (previous search results design). This selection remains, however has been retitled to “Exclude “Open to Anywhere”. We retitled this to clarify it’s function. This selection appears in the upper right of the page after performing a Reverse Search using the field titled, “Location of your home”.
Selecting “Exclude ‘Open to Anywhere” at the reverse search results page, narrows the results further by omitting the listings that only included “Open to Anywhere” under the “We are looking for…” section of their listing.
Replying To Messages from our Automated Message Notification System: The message notifications we send to your personal email address are “No-reply” emails, so clicking the reply link for your mail browser you would normally click to reply to an email received will not work.
You need to click the “Reply” link found within the content of the notification and follow the prompts from there.
TIP: If you had previously selected the “Remember me” option for your HomeLink login, you will be taken directly to the message for your response. Otherwise, you will be directed to the login page. You then login and navigate to the message for you to reply.
Evaluating an Exchange without having a completed Exchange Agreement Form: To follow-up with our previous newsletter under this section, we wanted to let you know how to evaluate an exchange on our site if you have not completed an Exchange Agreement Form (EAF) prior to the exchange.
Our new Exchange Agreement Form (EAF) system tracks your exchanges as long as you complete/validate the form prior to the exchange. Once the dates on the form have passed, the system prompts both you and your exchange partner to evaluate the exchange.
TIP: The most effective use of our site would be to create/finalize an EAF for each exchange to enable the automated system.
If no EAF is in place prior to an exchange: If you go on an exchange without completing an EAF prior to the exchange, we recommend you complete an after the fact EAF with your exchange partner, using dates that are very near…be sure to enter an arrival date that gives both you and your exchange partner enough time to “validate” the form prior to the arrival date.
Once the dates have passed you will both see there are documents requiring your attention that will lead you to prompts to create an evaluation form and enter Guest Comments on one another’s listings.
Below are instructions to create an EAF. There is no need to enter exhaustive details on the form since it has already occurred. Simply enter something in all the mandatory fields indicated with an asterisk.
Of course, we are here to help with all of this. Simply contact us and we will take it from there.
To create an Exchange Agreement Form (EAF):
2. click the envelope icon found to the left of your name at the upper right corner of the page
3. click into the message with your future exchange partner by clicking on the thumbnail photo or location text corresponding to the sender.
4. click the button “CREATE AGREEMENT FORM” found in between the photos of your home and your exchange partner’s home and follow the prompts from there. The EAF system will send notices to your personal email accounts along the way with further instructions.
TIP: to keep the form in the edit mode, continue to click ‘Save, Comment & Submit” button at the bottom of the page. Once both parties click the “Validate” button the form will lock preventing further editing.
Just a Reminder…
Send Requests to Members With Similar Preferences: Please do not send exchange requests based solely on a home’s location. It is very important to read the entire listing’s contents (Preferred Periods & Destinations, home details and descriptions, etc) of your potential exchange partners to make sure your basic details are a good match.
As always, this mutual respect for one another is essential for successful home exchanging and we appreciate your considered efforts when sending your exchange requests.
Leave Sufficient Storage Space for Your Exchange Partner:
A member of ours writes: “Hello, We are members and have really enjoyed exchanging (10+). I have a suggestion for the next newsletter unless it has been covered elsewhere: My suggestion for exchanger hosts is regarding hanging space in a closet of the exchange home. We usually travel for several weeks at a time with one small-ish suitcase each. Often we arrive with wrinkled / ‘pressed’ clothes and are eager to hang them up so that the wrinkles have a chance to fall out. We also use the steam in the shower trick. It is really helpful if there is generous space in the designated closet for our clothes. We have arrived at a few exchange houses with less than 6 inches of space for all of our clothes. I suspect it would be helpful to most travelers to have at least a foot+ of space for hanging clothes. We want to look our best when visiting your city!! It seems like a small effort to move clothing in the exchange home to another location so that your exchangers can settle in without hanging clothes all over your home …. Many thanks. Pat “
HomeLink Referral Discount: We offer a 10% (per) referral discount on your next renewal fee after referring a new member to HomeLink. There is a “Referred by” field on their new subscription form, so they can let us know you referred them.
Respond to All Exchange Requests Received: We certainly appreciate that responding to all exchange requests received can be burdensome at times, especially for those members with homes in the more popular destinations.
To begin, we, as HomeLink Organizers, encourage all of our respective members to continue replying to all messages received for a couple of reasons. First, it is the polite and respectful thing to do and second because of our Response Rate feature posted within each listing. Many members have informed us that they shy away from listings with low percentage rates.
We wish we could magically remove the onerous task of replying to all the requests received, but want to assure you that the semi-automated “No Thank You” message is more than just those words. Below is the actual message content,
“Thank you for your kind offer. Unfortunately I cannot accept, as it does not suit my plans at this time. I wish you all the best with finding a suitable exchange.”
Our automated response is especially intended to help those HomeLinkers who receive numerous requests on a regular basis. This automated response is designed to minimize the time it takes responding personally to the numerous requests received and enables the sender to move forward with their efforts in finding a suitable exchange.
We would love to hear about your HomeLinking experiences so please email us your stories to include in our forthcoming newsletters.
We received a kind and informative email from our long time fellow HomeLinkers, Dick & Ginny Kramer who live just outside of our nation’s capital. Their story touches on an important element unique to home swapping where you are staying in another’s home, so are able to enjoy the benefit of a house stocked with everyday essentials.
Thank you for your kind words, Dick & Ginny and we wish you many more successful home exchanges in the years to come!
Update on New Zealand Earthquake:
Below is an update received from John, Valerie & Sarah, our HomeLink New Zealand colleagues regarding the impact of the earthquake on the South Island.
They write: “Please add an item in your next newsletter about New Zealand. We had an exchange in France this year and our exchange partner was due to come here in March next year. She now wants to cancel until the following year because of the NZ earthquake. Reason …….. she wants to travel in the South Island.
Please assure your members that although the earthquake was the biggest in 150 years it is located in a very isolated area and the rest of New Zealand is open for business.
It’s sad that the small tourist town of Kaikoura is virtually cut off by road and rail with many kms of road destroyed. To give you and idea the sea bed has risen 2 metres in places leaving the shell fish beds that Kaikoura is famous for exposed. This town has a population of 2,000 and 1,000 tourists were there when the quake struck. No body was hurt but a lot of tired people with over 3000 after shocks recorded. Have a look………….Drone footage Kaikoura earthquake
Please encourage your members not to cancel plans, as New Zealand remains a thriving destination!”
They sent a follow-up this past week, for your information:
They write: “To follow-up with our previous report on the New Zealand earthquake, unlike a lot of countries New Zealand has a thriving economy, a stable government and is very safe. From the West coast USA it is a relatively short flight.
Best to you & Karl,
John, Valerie & Sarah
HomeLink New Zealand
Below are various photo-related improvements implemented since our December update on our Search Function Redesign. We continue to tweak various speed issues with the site and are happy to report a significant improvement to retrieving search results was just implemented last week.
Individual Listing View through search function: In response to member feedback about the number of clicks involved in scrolling through photos and the size of the images. The listing view has been changed to remove the overlapping buttons from the photo and thumbnail images to maximize the initial photo size.
- A new ‘VIEW PHOTOS’ button enables the user to open a slideshow where a single left or right click will move through all the photos.
- Thumbnails are displayed below the main image – these also have left / right arrows for navigation.
- Captions and the number of photos are displayed in this section.
- There is also an automatic slideshow function that can be played / paused.
Member’s “Our Photos” Page Display:
- A photo rotate function – Members can now rotate a photo during upload and afterwards so they can edit existing photos
- A photo re-ordering function – Members can now drag and drop photos to change the order. The photo album display now shows all thumbnail images in a single view for ease of the drag & drop re-ordering function.
- The ‘use this photo as thumbnail’ button has been removed and now the first photo will be used as the thumbnail (a.k.a. representational photo of the listing).