Frequently Asked Questions
- What is home exchange?
- Who is Intervac and how does it operate?
- How can I exchange homes with a "stranger"?
- Are cars typically part of home exchanges?
- What about insurance?
- How much work is it to find a suitable exchange?
- Who would ever want to come to _______?
- How can I be sure that exchanges are "equal"?
- Why should I join Intervac - how are you different from your competitors?
- What should I look for in a home exchange organization?
- What are the negative aspects of home exchanging?
- I don't feel comfortable paying online - how else can I pay?
- Can I list with Intervac if I am renting my house or apartment?
- What if I want to list my second home (cottage)?
- Can you summarize again all the "protection" features of your program?
What is home exchange?
If you join Intervac you will become part of our global online database containing thousands of home exchange listings from 50+ countries which enables members to find the most compatible home exchange offers based on the search criteria important to each member. Once members come to an agreement they simply agree "...to stay in your house while you stay in mine". Therefore, by joining Intervac you can vacation "at home".... anywhere in the world! Of course we provide extensive checklists and online search & match functions to facilitate home exchanging within our Intervac system. In summary, we facilitate barter (exchange) transactions between members to exchange their homes (and cars as well) for up to several weeks without cash changing hands between the two exchange partners. And we have been doing this for over 50 years.
Who is Intervac and how does it operate?
Intervac International was started in Europe in 1953 and now we offer one of the larger database of home exchange listings in the world. Our secure (hacker-proof) and multi-lingual database operates in real-time around-the-clock and is accessible via the Internet from anywhere. Each member can upload up to 20 photos with their listing. Visitors can view our live database to check travel possibilities at anytime but without being able to contact our members.
We believe that we "invented" home exchange when we launched the first home exchange service in the world in 1953. We grew primarily by referrals from satisfied members. Our representatives (Intervac Organizers) reside in 35 countries, they know your local customs and speak your language. Intervac representatives meet annually to review our strategies and adapt our global operations to new market needs and challenges. Annually we elect our Board of Directors who coordinate our global operations on a ongoing basis. Our members feel more comfortable when there is an Intervac representative in their country who is part of the global Intervac network. We also have one Organizer dedicated to looking after those countries in which we currently do *not* have a resident representative.
How can I exchange homes with a "stranger"?
This is a natural reaction by some people who are new to the concept which is understandable as in: “I’m worried about having someone stay in my home”. New members report that the process of arranging an exchange with another member actually eliminates most of their concerns. Think of home exchange as "Internet dating" where before you would actually meet someone you met on the Internet, you would exchange some emails, talk on the phone and swap recent photos. By the time you meet, it would not be with a "stranger". You would not go on a date if you didn't feel an established connection, and the same goes for home exchanging.
Most Intervac members are mature, successful, family-oriented professionals, executives, business owners or retired people who own and respect property. Visitors to our website can preview our live database to see photos of the properties which are listed with Intervac. We encourage our members to get to know their exchange partner through emails, phone and Skype-video to establish mutual trust.... so you will be really staying in a friend's home who will be staying in yours. As the two families "talk" a sense of mutual responsibility develops fostered by providing information about the house, as well as tips on what to see, where to eat and local shopping. If necessary, references can be requested from prior exchanges and/or neighbours.
There's the famous exchange story of one member who locked up his Porsche and wine cellar only to arrive at his host's home to find a Bentley and a vintage wine cellar at his disposal.
Are cars typically part of home exchanges?
Car exchange is optional of course, but in most home swaps, car exchange is an important part of the negotiations. Both members should check with their insurance agents to ensure that guest drivers are covered. (Note - If necessary, short-term car insurance coverage can be purchased under exisiting policies - or a car rental arranged with a suitable cash settlement by one of the exchanging partners. In such rare situations, a cash payment would still be a minor amount in comparison to the huge savings of home exchanging due to "free accommodations".)
What about insurance?
You should check with your insurance agent(s). Our long experience in many countries indicates that most insurance companies clearly prefer that homes are occupied during owners' absences, while most car insurance policies cover guest drivers. In fact many home owner policies automatically reduce home owner's coverage if your home is left empty for a period of time. With home exchange, members live in and look after each other's homes when vacationing.
How much work is it to find a suitable exchange?
You get unlimited access to Intervac's private and secure online database containing offers to exchange homes from 50+ countries. Our easy-to-use search engine enables members to quickly find exactly what they are looking for. The basic search parameters such as geographic destinations and travel dates can be fine-tuned by including many more searchable preferences such as car exchange wanted, no smoking, no pets, need golf club membership plus high-speed Internet while a cottage (second home) would also be nice!
Since every member can customize their own listing and their online searches, this enables like-minded members to find each other very quickly within our leading-edge and easy-to-search member database. We provide checklists on how to organize an exchange. Any member can email any other member about a potential exchange at anytime. Due to the large size of our database with listings from 50 countries, there is high probability of members finding their "perfect" match. The chances of finding suitable exchanges are further enhanced by our powerful system functions such as Enhanced Search, Match-Alert, My Favourites, Hot List, Google Maps, links to members' own websites, multiple transaction types and ability for each member to upload up to 20 photos into their listing.
Clearly, finding a suitable exchange takes preparation, time, initiative and effort. But this is part of the total home exchange travel discovery experience that our members love and have been telling their friends for over 50 years! You will find that you will reap substantial rewards that far exceed your efforts.
Who would ever want to come to _______?
Even if your region is not considered a major tourist attraction, it could still be very interesting to foreign or domestic visitors for far away. Our personal experience is that one can have a delightful holiday in an out-of-the way place away from crowded mass tourism places. Every Intervac member is encouraged to showcase in their listing (and initial email) the special or unique features of their region. Also, please recognize that people visit friends and relatives nearly as often as they just visit locations. So staying in a separate home while visiting friends and relatives is for everyone's comfort.
How can I be sure that exchanges are "equal"?
We believe that home exchanging is primarily based on a location-for-location exchange so both partners can experience local regions from the comfort of a home during a typical exchange period of 2 to 4 weeks. As long as the combination of location + home/accommodation + car is acceptable to both sides, the exchange is a fair one and the "square meters" of the homes do not have to be exact equivalents. To repeat - for most Intervac members the key issue is location followed by comfort. For example, many "large home" owners would be happy to trade for an "adequate" apartment or a condominium in central Paris, London, Rome or New York City - especially considering the price of hotel rooms in those cities which can run into hundreds of dollars per night.
Why should I join Intervac - how are you different from your competitors?
Intervac has been around since 1953 and we claim to be the very first home exchange service in the world. We have a global presence based on a network of representatives who reside in over 35 countries who typically have been serving Intervac members for many years. We operate a large member-private (hacker-proof) database of listings where new members are admitted by their national representative and so you can be only contacted by other Intervac members. We believe that we have more experience and listings which are well-balanced by geography and demographics with national customer service in many countries. We believe that for North American members Intervac offers a far greater proportion of overseas listings than any other house swapping company.
In summary - here are the top reasons for joining Intervac:
- our large, well-balanced and hacker-proof database of member listings with up to 20 photos per listing accessible by our powerful searching and member matching tools
- customer support in many countries which is delivered by our network of Organizers who reside in 35 countries - plus we have an Organizer who takes care of all other countries where we do not have resident Organizers
- high member satisfaction with many long-term members who continuously refer new members to Intervac
- our guarantee to all new members that we will add another year of Intervac membership if any first-year member is not successful in finding an exchange during the first 12 months after making a reasonable effort.
- our longevity and reputation that we have built since 1953 - one exchange at a time.
What should I look for in a home exchange organization?
Choice, Experience and Security. Before joining any organization make sure they have enough listings in the area you want to visit to merit joining. Your home exchange organization should say what year they were founded so you know whether or not they are a stable organization. Also, make sure your home exchange organization and the individuals managing it have experience to help you find what you’re looking for. Do they have a phone number in your country where you can ask questions in your language? Do they have local presence in over 35 countries? Do they have a mailing address and physical presence in Canada? These are all questions you should ask before joining any organization.
What are the negative aspects of home exchanging?
To be realistic we estimate that one exchange out of several hundred does *not* work out satisfactorily due to differences in expectations. We believe that this is an excellent statistic given the huge amount of success experienced by our members over 50 years. To prevent most problems we provide a checklist and sample exchange agreements on how an exchange process should be conducted - plus both members can upload up to 20 photos into their listing to properly represent their offer.
Once every few years, a confirmed exchange has to be cancelled due to last minute emergencies related to a serious medical issue or even sudden death. As already noted Intervac has a network of national representatives residing in over 35 countries - therefore the organizers of the two countries involved in a cancelled exchange have successfully "salvaged" the other member's trip by quickly finding alternative accommodations for the arriving family.
I don't feel comfortable paying online - how else can I pay?
Actually it is quite safe to pay online since Intervac Canada processes all Visa and Mastercard orders securely with Moneris which is a trusted payment system operated jointly by the Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal. This Intervac Canada website outlines other payment options which include simply mailing a cheque. Alternatively, you can leave your credit card information on our private 24x7 voicemail operated by Intervac Canada at 403-210-2625 in Calgary.
Can I list with Intervac if I am renting my house or apartment?
Yes of course. Prior to listing with Intervac you may wish to check with the owner (landlord) or review your rental agreement if "home exchanging" is within the spirit of your rental agreement.
Our database has several searchable transaction types including rentals, house sitting, hospitality exchanges, etc. - and our system users can search the online database by transaction types.
What if I want to list my second home (cottage)?
There are two ways of listing a second property on our system: (1) members can click on the 2nd property checkbox to flag to other members that a second property is part of their offer - plus members can also simply mention their 2nd property in the text description and/or in their emails when initiating contact with other members. (2) Members can also list their second property in a separate stand-alone listing. Please contact Intervac Canada about the option to list your second property.
- Can you summarize again all the "protection" features of your program?