Trading Spaces: Home Sweet Swap

Who needs a hotel when you can trade your own abode for a fabulous flat?

The first time Lauren Ragland spoke with Philippe she listened closely to everything he said for any sign of a criminal past�or even just a very messy one.

“Swapping my Brooklyn, NY apartment for Philippe’s Parisian flat was the springboard to my fabulous French vacation, the icing on my Ã?©clair!” said Ragland. “Before you can play house in your new pied-a-terre you’ll need pictures of your own home from the inside out.”

Ragland also makes these suggestions:

Begin your search at least two months prior to your planned departure.

Be flexible.

Consider not only the destination but also the full package – home amenities, bedrooms, and bathrooms, proximity to points of interest, public transportation; etc.

When listing your home describe it as one part of an entire travel experience.

Find out if public transportation is available.

Ask if there are pets?

Ask for references.

Prepare a written agreement stating that the respective homes will be left as they were found.

Request and provide access to a backup set of keys.

If you want your valuables to be off-limits, instead of roping off areas of your home, store them elsewhere.

Create an air of hospitality.

A handful of online services are targeted towards gays and lesbians who want the security of knowing their sexual orientation won’t be a problem and who simply feel more comfortable staying within the gay community.

The GFN Home Exchange Club guarantees you’ll find a home exchange partner in one year or the next year is free. They have 2,000 listings. Membership fee is one year for $44.95.

To find a gay swapping service, go to OutTraveler.com.

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