Home Exchange is Gaining in Popularity in the Czech Republic
This article was provided by Home Exchange Czech.
A home exchange holiday is not considered a usual way of travelling in the Czech Republic. The Home Exchange Czech agency was the first to introduce this interesting way of travelling to potentially interested people in the Czech Republic, and the trial run produced its first results. At present, the agency is offering nearly a hundred properties to be exchanged from 19 different countries around the world.
We asked the agency’s founders, Hana Ferstl Darlington and Kateřina Zátková:
When did you come up with the idea to establish a company that would offer the holiday exchange system?
HFD: I participated in such home exchange myself, and because we were captivated by the idea, and moreover, we found out that there was not a single agency offering such services in the Czech Republic, last spring we launched the Home Exchange Czech project.
Do you focus solely on the Czech market, or do you also offer international home exchange?
KZ: We have two target groups: international home exchange belongs to the first target group. Through this type of exchange we strive to promote incoming tourism, and show the foreign tourist that our country has more to offer than what is generally known abroad, and on the other hand, allow Czech citizens or foreigners residing in the Czech Republic to travel abroad at low cost while enjoying total comfort. At present, our database includes interesting properties e.g. in Munich, Madrid, Paris, Barcelona, and other locations. Persons interested in a home exchange holiday abroad have a lot to choose from.
The second target group consists of Czech cabin and cottage owners. Cabins and cottages located mainly in the exquisite settings of Czech mountains are an ideal exchange instrument. This is not only true for international home exchange, but also for property swapping within the Czech Republic. The cabin and cottage owners may even offer these second homes several times a year, and what is important – even beyond the main tourist season.
Who would you suggest the home exchange holiday to and who should refrain from it?
HFD: People who participate in home exchange holidays are people who have travelled around, speak foreign languages, and are to a certain extent open – in a way, they are “cool”, if you will. The community of these travellers adheres to a certain reciprocal ethical code – I treat your personal property as if it was mine. Everyone respects the property of their exchange partners. People from abroad possibly find it less of an issue than people from our country.
Some people may consider it unpleasant to think that strange people will be living in their home surrounded by their personal property, and they may be worried if they will not be robbed. However, it is difficult to imagine that someone would take the trouble to register their own property, search for an exchange partner, and then travel half the globe only to steal, say, a radio from you. If, however, it is impossible for a person to overcome such ideas, he or she should not try to participate in the home exchange holiday.
What kind of property can be swapped this way? Does it have to be adequately representative, or can I exchange for example a flat in a prefab house as well?
KZ: Properties in greatest demand are especially the attractively located ones. So far, of greatest interest to people from abroad is naturally Prague, which means flats located downtown or houses in attractive Prague neighbourhoods. Less interest has been shown for other attractive Czech locations – mountains, spas etc. The home exchange holiday is optimal for example for foreigners with families who are going to spend several years in Prague for work related reasons, and would like to take advantage of the city’s central location to travel around Europe a little. However, through Home Exchange Czech we want to attempt to make more attractive also the beautiful places of our country which have not been of much interest abroad yet. For the Czech citizens who wish to travel abroad this way, the possibilities are endless; they have the opportunity to travel the entire world.
Isn’t it extremely risky to offer your house to a stranger free of charge? What about insurance?
HFD: There is greater risk involved in renting your cottage. People you do not even know will be taking turns renting the property. When participating in the home exchange holiday, you will get to know your exchange partners long before the exchange takes place, you may often even meet them in person, in case you exchange your properties non-simultaneously. You will have a lot of information on them, and what is most important – you make the choice. If you feel someone is not right for you, you do not have to exchange your property with them. It is entirely up to you, the agency does not interfere with your decisions in any way.
When it comes to insurance, it is a good idea to have your property and your household insured, which the majority of property owners already has anyway. Furthermore, there is the liability insurance – which is also a very common type of insurance, especially with families with small children, sportsmen, pet owners etc. No other type of insurance is required.
How long does it take before the exchange can take place?
KZ: This is very individual; sometimes you get an offer which you immediately agree to, sometimes you wait for several months. It is a good idea to start planning a few months ahead of the holiday you intend to take. We have our first season ahead of us this year, and many of our customers have already made arrangements to realize their first home exchange holiday. Some of them will even be taking advantage of their property several times this year.
And we will conclude our interview with the most important question. Is it possible to calculate the amount of financial resources from our family budget we may be saving by vacationing this way?
KZ: It is fairly easy. If you rent a cottage these days, you are going to pay between CZK 10.000 and CZK 15.000 a week, possibly even more – depending how well furnished the cottage is. A two-bed hotel room starts at EUR 100 a night, provided you want a decent standard. In total, you are saving at least 50% of your holiday costs; all you are paying for is your transportation and your meals. In addition to that, often you have the option to take advantage of a car, bicycles, free internet connection etc. It is also important to realize, that you have the entire house or flat at your disposal, and therefore you and your entire family are not jammed in one tiny hotel room. The current trend is to participate in the home exchange for short-term and more frequent exchanges. Especially extended weekend exchanges are on the rise, particularly in larger cities. Thus, the home exchange does not necessarily have to be of holiday nature, it may well be used for study or work related stays.
For contact details, see Home Exchange Czech's Prague Directory listing.
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