Home exchange program helps Sun Peaks residents see the world

International travellers take advantage of vacation home swaps
Roger Mirka’s vacation home in Mexico.

With travel back in full force but accommodation prices rising, Sun Peaks residents have been embracing home exchanges to facilitate domestic and international trips. 

Community member Roger Mirka said he’s been doing exchanges for over nine years using Intervac Home Exchange. Mirka has swapped his two-bedroom Sun Peaks home with a family from Salzburg, Austria, and has also used his three-bedroom oceanfront vacation home in Celestun, Mexico for overseas exchanges across Europe.

“All of our experiences have been positive with no major problems,” Mirka said. “Hosts usually provide extensive local information to help with tourism, transportation and household info … and an emergency contact.” 

Home exchange sites let users create online listings with details about their homes, destinations and photos. Interested parties reach out through the site’s communication portal for a potential swap. 

There are various ways of curating an exchange. Users can set up a direct simultaneous exchange between properties, but can also choose staggered exchanges. 

“Most of our swaps have been non-simultaneous as we wanted to travel in the summer but they usually wanted our Mexico home in the winter,” Mirka said. “Easily accomplished with a vacation home.” 

There are also options to book one-way exchanges with earned points. Homes are awarded a points value per night by the exchange site and owners accumulate more by offering one-way stays at their home.

There are occasional downsides, according to Mirka.

“We twice had a home exchange cancelled on us at the last minute,” he said. “Both times we were able to find an alternate exchange, although one time it cost us a bit in changing flights. There is no way to protect yourself against this type of situation other than buying trip cancellation insurance on your flights.” 

But overall it is a win-win situation, he said. Occasionally car and pet swaps are available, and circumstances can lead to meetings with exchange partners. 

Judy Bartha has also hosted at her Sun Peaks vacation home three times since joining HomeExchange around 18 months ago, with more swaps planned for this winter. Her own travels start in 2023, when she’ll be gradually crossing off her bucket list by visiting New Zealand, Scotland, Germany and French Polynesia. 

“We get more inquiries than we can handle, mostly couples,” Bartha said. 

HomeExchange recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Alex Luckey, HomeExchange collection brand and communications manager, said the website has had over 470,000 bookings since the beginning of the year. 

“The company has grown to over 100,000 members across more than 130 countries, with one exchange being completed every two minutes,” he said.

While travel needs have intensified since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, inflation and the rising cost of transportation has led many people to seek more cost effective options. 

“The biggest thing to remember is that HomeExchange, at its core, is a community. Our members are both hosts and guests, meaning they have a shared respect for one another’s space,” Luckey said. “They truly treat the homes they exchange with like their own, often leaving them better than they found them.” 

While summer holidays are the predominant choices, HomeExchange has plenty of ski homes listed. So if B.C. ski resorts are on your bucket list, Sun Peaks residents could use their own home to achieve their skiing goals this winter.

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