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Hello HomeLink Home Exchange Readers,

Welcome to the Spring 2011 edition of HomeLink Connection!

This issue focuses on The HomeLink Experience and how to create enjoyable home exchanges.

The articles and stories presented in this issue have been provided by HomeLink Members and we sincerely thank all of you for sharing your experiences.

Our “Media Focus” section has an informative video provided from CNBC-Africa, featuring HomeLink Africa Members sharing their home exchange advice.

This issue also includes two amazing home exchange stories representing the true “Spirit of HomeLink”. The genuinely caring and selfless spirit shared throughout our HomeLink network is key to the successful home exchanging enjoyed by our members, worldwide.

Finally, our “Helpful Hints” section includes a comprehensive guide to creating and enjoying your home exchanges.

We will save our “Survey Comments’ section for our next, monthly supplement.

We wish all of you a very happy Spring season, as well as safe and wonderful home exchanges over these coming months.

Kind Regards,

Karl & Katie Costabel



Just a Reminder…
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 Further, visitors viewing our listings through the free database search more than likely assume these outdated listings are not current members of HomeLink.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.

Please Reply to All Exchange Requests:
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of replying to all of the exchange requests you receive.

This being our busiest time of year for creating exchanges, we have had many inquiries from our members asking how to follow-through with an unanswered request they had sent.

Our general rule of thumb is if a home exchange request of yours has gone unanswered for a week+, send a follow-up message re-iterating your request. Further, kindly explain you are sending the request again in case your initial one was not received or somehow got overlooked…or something to that effect.

On the other hand, many of our members are inundated with requests and find it overwhelming to reply to every one of them. If you find yourself in this predicament, please take advantage of our automated, “No Thank You” reply button/link.

This function is available for use at both our internal messaging system and contained within the message notifications you receive at your personal email address. This sends a polite “no thank you” to the sender with just a single click of the mouse!


Media Focus…

Tania Sanahewe from CNBC Africa and her cameraman recently joined our South Africa Organiser, Avril Mitchley and two of South Africa’s most experienced exchangers, Marianne Morgan and Roy Watts at the Morgan’s lovely Constantia home. Marianne gives you a good insight into what it is like to exchange for the first time and what the many exchanges she and David have had over the years have meant to them

Click here to view the video


Member Stories…
We often receive emails from members telling us about their wonderful home exchange experiences. We would very much like to hear about yours and include them in HLC.

Please send your stories to and let us know if it would be OK to include your name.

Below are two of these stories…

This first story is from our member, Margaret.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing this story with all of us and for your kind words. Karl & I are happy we could help!

 Our First Home Exchange

Starting off, I have to say that Katie was so helpful in getting us started in Home Exchange, all conversations were with such warmth and friendliness.

When I listed our home, I thought I would sit back and receive endless streams of emails from the people in the country that we wanted to visit. When I didn’t receive one email, I called Katie and she said that I needed to be very proactive. With that in mind, the start of my Italia trip began.

I sat down with the map of Italy and went through region after region, and learned as much as I could.

When our first answer from a family in Verona came we jumped up for joy. The email was so kind. And, our exchange of emails continued until the day we left for Verona.

We can’t tell you how fortunate we were. The family, whose 2nd house we were using, was so kind, generous and fun. When [our exchange partner] met us at the airport he told us the rest of the family was waiting for us at the house. We came in and received the warmest welcome from his wife and two children. They showed us all the ins and outs of the house. And there was the most delicious home cooked food brimming over in the fridge. The cupboards were filled with all of the Italian delicacies that one can dream of.

[They] invited us to their home for the most beautiful dinner with their friends. They were so genuinely interested in us. Days later they took us out for the best gelato in Verona and to their community center. When they told us that they wanted to show us more sites, we told them we were leaving on a road trip. The family was so disappointed that they could not spend more time with us, and us with them.

We felt like we were part of their family. Text messages were received from them during our various road trips to make sure we were ok and to see if we needed their help with anything.

Even though we want to visit new regions in Italy, we know that our First Italian Home Exchange family will always be part of our Italian trips.”


This next story is from our members, US19225. We send our sincerest thanks to them for sharing their personal and miraculous story with us and are very grateful that HomeLink could be a part of your journey!


A HomeLink Miracle

One of our first exchanges several years ago was a hosting home exchange. It happened right after the first serious wildfires in San Diego.

Dr. JM (name omitted for privacy) and his girlfriend came to visit us over the Thanksgiving holidays. We were just happy that it was a wonderful experience and started developing plans to visit them sometime in the future.

During their visit here I was able to arrange a day that JM could spend with a doctor who practiced his specialty, Ear Nose and Throat medicine.

A few years went by, but we planned the trip. Two summers ago, while we were enjoying a hosting home exchange near Zurich, my oldest daughter told us that she had some “lumps” on her neck. My wife suggested that when we got to JM’s home, we have him check her out.

Our time in Zurich and subsequent stay at our host’s chalet in the Alps were wonderful. We were so happy, but had no idea of what was to happen very shortly.

After we settled into our rooms in France, we talked to Dr. JM about [the bumps on our daughter’s neck]. He suggested that she come to the office the following day. JM checked her out with a scope, but that did not show any infection. He suggested a needle biopsy. As you can imagine, our hearts sank at this prospect and we also did not know if our insurance would cover such a procedure, or how long it would take to get the results.

Dr. JM told the hospital to “look the other way” in regards to the biopsy. A blood test was also needed and he put that in his name. He wanted x-rays of her neck and chest and [explained that a friend of his in their town would provide them]. Cost….one bottle of wine.

The biopsy was quickly given to a pathologist who was on his way out the door, having just completed a surgery with our friend.

The next day, the Friday before Bastille day, we got the results. Our daughter had lymphoma. First, we knew that God was in control. None of this could have happened without Him putting all of these people in our lives. We quickly called our doctor at home. This was the same doctor that Dr. JM had spent the day with. We advised him of our daughter’s diagnosis and he made all of the arrangements to see her the day after we arrived home.

Although we had to cut our trip short by two weeks, we were all confident that everything would work out. After contacting our hosts in Zurich, they offered their home to us, even though they were traveling at the time. We returned to Zurich and left for home.

Within a few days, we found out that daughter had Hodgkins disease. We were relieved to find out that her disease was very treatable and the prognosis was excellent. Over the next few months she went through Chemotherapy and suffered all of the side effects that can occur with that treatment. Her school schedule at San Diego State was reduced to accommodate her treatment.

Our daughter is now cured. She has had several clear PT scans. I don’t know if you have any other stories quite like this one. I just wanted you to know how you were used by God to keep our daughter healthy. Thank you for your services. We certainly have a lot of fun meeting new people and seeing new places, but HomeLink for us is really more than that and we will never forget it! Thank you…”

Just a quick follow-up to their story, they emailed us yesterday and let us know that their daughter “remains in remission and is a full time student at the Art Institute in San Diego. She is studying computer game design. She is doing well.”


Helpful Hints…
We are happy to share with you the very experienced guidance from our members Kenneth & Regina. They have also generously provided a comprehensive Table of Contents to their 88-page home manual.

One item Regina has emphasized through our correspondence is the importance of letting other members know you have created a home exchange manual for exchanging through the content of your listing’s descriptive text. This goes a long way to showing your commitment to creating the most-positive home exchange experience possible with your exchange partners.

She also states that their 88-page manual presents one problem: “Though we used lots of headings and subheads and paragraph breaks to try to make it easy for users to find what they want, still, it is very long and we find that keeps people from reading it. So, there’s a balance to be aware of…”

Immediately below this introduction, they provide great advice on creating a home exchange. Subsequent to that is the Table of Contents to their home manual.

F.Y.I., HomeLink offers an abbreviated section on this topic at our Visitor’s page under “Beginner’s Guide” titled,”Ten International Principles for a Successful HomeLink Exchange”.



Home exchanging agreements we’ve made with our various partners

Basically, we seek and give a serious commitment to take good care of one another’s homes and cars. We also want our partners to fully enjoy our home and facilities. We specify anything not to be used (the only prohibition we’ve ever made was one computer that had records for the organization that operated from our home). We respect any restrictions on the use of things in our partners’ homes.

We ask for and leave a written statement that we are involved in a home exchange and where we can be contacted, so it’s clear to anyone with a need to know that we’ve authorized the use of our home and cars.

Homes are provided and returned clean and tidy, as described on the Homelink website. Information on the home and emergency services are supplied, as described on the Homelink website.

We lend our two cars, insured, and provide our membership in an automobile club with emergency service. The guest family, if they have an accident, agree to pay the uninsured part of any costs (currently there’s a $500 minimum before insurance coverage begins). Cars are supplied and returned clean and with a full tank of gas. We seek the use of a car in exchanges, where possible.

The host family pays for all utilities (electricity, water, phone, etc.) and the guest family agrees to be moderate in their use. We agree [what the guest family will do about foreign phone calls made from the host home].

Each family feels free to use supplies in the host home and agrees to replenish any they’ve depleted. This applies to paper products, cleaning supplies, basic toiletries and medicines (hand soap, band-aids), light bulbs, food staples, etc. To welcome the guest family, and to welcome the host family on their return home, partners make sure there is a supply of basic, perishable food, such as milk, juice, eggs, bread, cheese, and fruit (plus wine and chocolate). Usually we’ve supplied and received a pot of soup or a frozen casserole or a cake, etc.

Host families are responsible for normal wear and tear in their home and car during the exchange. Guest families are responsible for any damage. We recognize this principle is clear but the application may not be. However, we’ve always tried to be generous and have found our partners have, too. Also, there’s never been any significant damage in our numerous exchanges. If something breaks, the first thing to do is to contact the partners — it may be an ugly vase they’ve always wanted to get rid of!

Agreements are made about cleaning the house, tending plants indoors, mowing the lawn or watering the garden, etc., as appropriate in each home exchange. Some partners normally pay outside companies to provide some of these services and may continue or suspend them during exchanges.

We believe that home exchange houses and facilities and services are rarely equivalent and don’t need to be. In the past we provided housecleaning in our home by a local company but only received that service in one home exchange. Currently, now we’re retired, we have no housecleaning service but ourselves.

We sort out what services each host family has (such as automobile club membership with emergency service, newspaper delivery, library membership, gym or pool memberships, etc.) and if they may be extended to the guest family, if the guest family wants them, and make appropriate arrangements for their use by the guest family.

Regina and Kenneth, 20 January 2011


My husband and I have created an incredibly extensive home manual (currently 88 pages long!) covering EVERYTHING in our home, emergency services, plus information on living in our area (shopping, how to drive into New York City, etc.), plus tourist information. We’re happy to share the Table of Contents with Homelink members, to serve as a checklist for other home manuals.

***Two warnings: First, we found, as we wrote it, we had to go around our house with a clipboard; it’s amazing how often we couldn’t say which way a valve should be turned to let water flow or what was stored in certain places.

Second, we’ve been amazed how much has had to be updated from home exchange to home exchange, either we’ve gotten a new dishwasher or the city has changed recycling pickup days or we’ve rearranged closets, etc.

Finally, in addition to the manual, we’ve labeled many things around our home (switches, cutoff valves, contents of cabinets, etc.) and provided crucial information, such as simplified instructions for the air conditioner, in plastic sheet protectors that are kept right next to the equipment they describe.

Regina and Kenneth

Info for Living in

Our Home and Area

[Home Address, Phone, email address, etc here]


Dear Guests,

Welcome to our home!…

[You might want to insert an introduction letter here to make it more personalized]



Introduction to this area and our home iv


Section One – Critical information

Emergency information, emergency services, contact information
Home and car security and safety
Utility lines, cutoff information, meter readings
Map of cutoffs, etc
Telephones, answering machine, telephone service, internet service
Telephones, answering machine, telephone service, internet service
What needs to be tended and remembered during your stay
Recycling, throwing things away


Section Two -Through the house: room by room, plus outdoors

Room by room through the house
Entry hall, front porch
Living room
Dining room
Kitchen and back hall
Maps of kitchen
Powder room, plus
Back entry area
Stairway and upstairs hall
Guest room
Dressing room
Sitting room
Map of attic contents
Laundry room, toilet
Upper and lower decks and balcony
Tending houseplants and garden
Map for watering the garden


Section three: “ House systems: communications, entertainment, heating and cooling

Telephone and internet service
Audio visual equipment
Central air conditioner
Hot water heater, furnace


Section Four – Living here

Tourist and travel information sources
New York City
Enjoying New Jersey and nearby areas
Summit area restaurants, groceries, and other stores
Driving directions to and from our house
Map illustrating driving directions


HomeLink International News

Upcoming Events Worldwide

Rugby worldcup 2011

For the latest information, please go to:

New Zealand World Cup Rugby 2011



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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