A home away from home

Baby boomers are opting for home swapping over hotels, drawn to its financial benefits and a sense of connection to the community, as Miji Kang reports.

Reporter: Habour view from a house balcony, a lovely suburb to walk about. Living in East Balmain, Susie Stevens, who referred herself as to a baby boomer, loves her place as much as she loves to ski in Canada. Mrs Stevens and her husband went to Vernon in Canada to ski for their holiday. While the couple was skiing in a mountain. They met Gloria who first suggested them to swap their homes. That became the couple’s first home swap in Canada.

Susie Stevens: My husband was catching a lift back up to the top of the hill and a woman, next to him on the lift chair, said ‘oh who are you how are you, where do you live’ and he said ‘Sydney Australia’ and she said ‘do you have any children?’ and he said ‘no’ and she said ‘Good’ she said ‘Good, do you want to house exchange?’

Reporter: Since her first house swap in Canada, Mrs Stevens had five times of house exchanges travelling only to Canada to enjoy skiing in Vernon.

Susie Stevens: We are mad skiers. So we actually go to six weeks and ski everyday for six weeks. So I mean that’s what we do. We do travel around a little bit to a couple of few other resorts. But we are based in one resort. We’ve sort of like the locals. We went to locals now. Everyone  knows us so we feel pretty much home there.

Reporter: Mrs Stevens says that she and her husband love to be a part of the community as locals in Vernon as well as skiing.

Susie Stevens: You immediately got a sort of sense of community happening straight away. I think that’s nice. I think you are moving into someone else’s house. So it’s not just a rental, holiday rental. There is a sense of feeling like you are in a home. I know that people who come to our place feel the same.

Reporter: Mrs Stevens says home swapping websites do not always work successfully to organise a house exchange. She found that local newspaper, advertisement and word of mouth are better to find a right swappee.

Susie Stevens: We’re actually got our apartment listed on a house exchange website, which is an international one. We’ve often looked at that to see what’s available in where we want to go. We’ve, in fact, contacted a couple of people but never been able to really organise a house exchange. We tend to find that with either people we know who know someone else in the area or through our advertising in the newspaper has been really successful.

Reporter: Jennifer Small, a tourism professor at University of Technology, Sydney says home swapping is a unique form of a tourism accommodation for those Baby Boomers who look for an inexpensive travel cost and a sense of connection to the community.

Jennifer Small: Well, I think there is a financial advantage in a sense that you’re not paying for a commercial accommodation, you’re not paying for hotels. It takes you often out into a different area. You’re actually out in the community so you get that community feel of the place. More of authentic experience of the neighbourhood in which you are. It takes you to the places you might not normally go.

Reporter: Mrs Stevens thinks that her age group is more likely to do home swapping that any other age group since they have no mortgage to pay and no more responsibility to their grown up children.

Susie Stevens: I think younger people are too busy to tell you the truth. I think that’s why it works so brilliantly for Baby Boomers. Because we’ve got more time on our hands and we’re more free. We have our own places. So it works for every level.

Reporter: Campbell Fuller from Insurance Council of Australia recommends that those who organisa home swapping should check their insurance coverage on home exchange with their insurers.

Campbell Fuller: Insurance Council recommends that if you are involved in a home swapping, contact your insurer and discuss it with them first. Policies differ widely and you should contact your insurers and ask them whether home swapping is covered. In most instances, it probably is but they may have certain terms and conditions in your policy that may apply with restrictions to it. We would also suggest that people who are moving into the house, investigate their own insurance option to make sure if their own property, if something happens, whether they are covered.

Reporter: Mrs Stevens and her husband are going to exchange their home with a sailor in Canada next year in January. Miji Kang for Baby Zoomers.


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