Post contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion
Last weekend, San Francisco experienced an unprecedented heat wave. The city, normally cool, grey and foggy during summer, topped out at a scalding 106!
I was rescued from the heat by a last minute invite from my BFF Megan to join her poolside at a 5,000 sq. ft. mini mansion in the lush, stunning Santa Cruz Mountains. An offer I couldn’t refuse.
The home is situated on five acres 1,000 feet above sea level overlooking a redwood forest.
We were joined by other members of Meg’s family to swim in the pool, cook in the tricked out chef’s kitchen, play pool or tennis, lounge on the deck and patio, and relax among the staggering views.
But none of us have met a single member of this family.
The family, like my friend Megan, is a member of HomeExchange, a home swapping site that facilitates the exchange of residences for a nominal monthly fee. Beyond that fee, no money is exchanged. Members can arrange to loan their cars, boats, or bikes or even ask for swappees to care for pets. On this swap in Santa Cruz, we were entrusted to the care of Isaac, a sweet, 10-year-old Golden Retriever, who quickly became my new BFF.
While not everyone is comfortable allowing complete strangers to sleep in their beds, bath in their tubs, and cook in their kitchens, those who are have figured out an economical way to travel to places they might not be able to afford, and live like a local in neighborhoods that tourists might never see or enjoy.
My friend, for example, has taken advantage of home exchanges in Maui, Santa Fe, and London. She reciprocates by offering her home in the desirable Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.
Homes and members are vetted by HomeExchange much in the same way as Airbnb vets hosts and guests. Of course, it requires the home lenders to deliver a clean, comfortable place in an area that travelers want to visit. And, like Airbnb, guests have to adhere to the house rules and leave the home/apartment/villa clean and presentable.
Photos by Lisa Dion