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FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE

 

Contact: Helen Coyle Bergstein

Email: helenb@digsville.com

 

Dec. 8, 2008 Romance and Travel Not Just For Kate and Cameron- Home Exchange Members Tell Their Real Life Versions of “The Holiday”

When movie goers sit down this Christmas season to watch Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz  in “The Holiday”, they might suspect that the tale of two lovelorn women who swap homes for the Christmas holiday-and in doing so, land themselves in romances with local men-is a sweet, yet hollywood-crafted confection.  But for members of Digsville.com, and a growing number of intrepid travelers, finding true love via house swapping is the stuff of real life.
House swapping?  No, this isn’t a twist on wife swapping, or some other new fangled swingers club.  House swapping (aka home exchange) is an alternative to the traditional house or hotel rental.  Instead of paying rent, people use their own property and ‘swap’ their home with another family in their desired destination. Over the last few years, it has developed a cult-like following among vacationers looking for something different in the way of comfort from the Holiday Inn mini bar.

“Fans of house swapping are looking for something more intimate, something that makes them feel like they’re not a tourist, and home exchange does that. You're home, but in a totally new environment” says Helen Bergstein, founder of The Digsville Home Exchange Club (www.digsville.com), one of a growing number of vacation sites that cater to people looking to trade room service tabs for a set of house keys. “You feel more comfortable at home, and on some level, that makes it easier to meet people.”

Enter Jen H., a 60-year-old former health psychologist who decided on a home exchange vacation to celebrate her retirement. She found a quaint couple with a villa in New Zealand and arranged to swap her townhouse apartment in Suffolk, UK for two weeks during the summer.  Unknown to her, she landed within hours of Jack, a home builder who was there touring the local town for a construction project.  They missed each other at the airport, but Jack was there to catch her when she stumbled on the observation platform at a local attraction the following day.  Jen and Jack “fell’ for each other on the spot, and this year, they’re planning a home exchange vacation for two.

Another oft-sighted advantage to house swapping is the location.  Hotels are likely to be in segregated, commercial neighborhoods, and the chances of hooking up with locals is diminished by the geography.  But a house or apartment is as close as you can get to the natives.  Take Hagit, who traded her apartment in Tel Aviv for a NYC pad on Union Square. Hagit didn’t have any plans for romance, but it was love at first sight when her neighbor, a handsome young lawyer by the name of Harold, stopped by to welcome her to the building.  

 

But home exchange is not just for retirees, and not just for those looking to meet someone new.  The younger set is taking to zip code swapping as a way to cut their travel budget while hanging on to the comforts of a full-fledged vacation home. “I have a beautiful one-bedroom in Manhattan, but the cost of living in the city makes a real vacation prohibitive.  When I looked into home exchange, I realized that by using what I already have, I could eliminate my hotel bill and still stay in a great neighborhood,” says Paula, a 28 year old graphic designer who has used Digsville.com over the past two years to travel to such places as far-flung as Barcelona and Tokyo.

For the founder of Digsville, the advantages of home swapping, romantic and otherwise, are no surprise.   Mrs. Bergstein is herself a lifetime home swapper, and after using other services for a number of years launched Digsville.com in 1999 after finding other services to be impersonal and restrictive.
“We wanted to create something that had an intimacy with our clients which reflected the home swapping experience.”  To wit, members can  connect one-on-one with each other using an internal email program, and listings are rated by former swap partners, a feature that makes Digsville.com what Helen calls a full-fledged “community of review.”

“By allowing members to interact with each other from the start, people develop a rapport with their exchange partners” Helen says, “and that leads to further connections in their community. By the time you get to your new digs, you have a group of people ready to make friends with you.”
In some cases, more-than friends. 
  ###

Current Trend in the Industry

Two of the trends driving the current boom in the home exchange industry are the rise in secondary homes (including big city apartments) and the baby boomers being attracted to home exchange for reasons as wide ranging as their independent (rebel) streak i.e. the fact that 'hotel restrictions' are more irritating to these second home owners than the importance of saving money to this younger, wealthier segment looking forward to new experiences and willing to take more risks than their parents did. Their general financial awareness, savvy use of assets, and global mobility make for a perfect match to start traveling the home exchange way - and they are.
 
Below is a press release that has some examples of Digsville clients fitting this demographic and lifestyle.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 10, 2006

BABY BOOMERS AND EMPTY NESTERS TAKE THEIR WEALTHY INNER CHILDREN ON VACATION

With age 50 dubbed the new 35, hard-working second and third home owners are leveraging their assets to travel more and for longer periods: it's a whole new generation.

America's suburban families are growing up – and out. As baby boomers say good-bye to their adult children, this career-driven segment of society is rediscovering leisure time. The trend of swapping their city apartments (originally purchased as relief from killer commutes)  with like-minded travel-bugs from around the world, has been on the rise, according to a recent member survey conducted by the website digsville.com. Helen Bergstein, founder and owner of Digsville Home Exchange Club says, "secondary and vacation home listings have been increasing every year and now comprise over 20% of the Digsville home listing database."

A Long Island couple, who bought their NYC apartment about nine years ago when they were still working, say they "get an exchange request almost every day." In fact, they didn't even purchase their city digs with vacation home exchange in mind, but because "hotels are far too expensive, and restrictive (ie., can’t sign in before 4 pm--must sign out by 11am). We have our place for 24 hours a day."

Joyce, of Buck's County, PA, says she and her husband spend a good bit of time in their NY apartment, and appreciate its "ease of maintenance, super and doorman, 24-hour access to local things (24th & Lex), good restaurants, transportation, and parking lot." Because the city home "is filled almost constantly with friends, relatives and occasional short-term rentals", they tend to use their principal residence and another home in Spain for exchanges, advocating the lifestyle because "it just makes it more interesting and we get to meet very nice people and see environments that are 'real', not plasticized like in hotels."

"The second home market is really booming," says Bergstein. "It's expected to double by 2009, which means that a full two-thirds of residential real estate purchases will be vacation homes or investment properties. Second homes are viewed both as a solid investment and a lifestyle enhancement. They make even more financial sense when used in vacation swaps from the substantial savings that are had on hotel bills, car rental and insurance fees and by taking advantage of destination-specific or other airfare specials."

Digsville Home Exchange Club was founded in 1998 to provide travelers with an alternate travel lifestyle, freeing them from hotel bills forever. The site offers a range of informative articles, tips and stories by first-time and veteran home exchangers, with hundreds of home exchange listings to browse (for free, of course).

###

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February  19, 2005

Home Exchange: A Growing Travel Trend Among Savvy Homeowners.
Secondary/vacation homeowners the fastest growing segment of the industry.

HOBOKEN, NJ - Home exchange provides no-cost accommodations by trading one’s primary or secondary home with someone else’s. You stay in their place; they stay in yours – and no money is exchanged. The payoff comes in the opportunity to live like a local, have extra space and freedom and save money. For example, a family of four from Vermont trades their chalet for a week’s stay at an upper eastside Manhattan condominium. With the money saved on accommodations, the family takes in a few extra Broadway shows while the Manhattan couple, after a day skiing the slopes with their 12-year-old twins, relax around the stone fireplace recapping their day in the country.

A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors estimates there are as many as 7 million vacation homes in the United States alone with an occupancy rate averaging 8 weeks per year.  NAR’s chief economist, David Lereah states the primary motivation for second-home buying is recreation and location with ocean, river, lake, mountain, and other natural attractions topping the list. 

“With such a large number of vacation homes vacant close to 44 weeks per year, it’s no surprise that these savvy homeowners are looking to leverage their desirable asset to travel more than ever before.” says Helen Bergstein, founder and president of the Digsville Home Exchange Club (www.digsville.com)  “Secondary/vacation home listings have increased every year and are now 20% of the Digsville home listing database. A vacation homeowner has a lot more flexibility in arranging travel dates since the exchange can be non-simultaneous. Additionally, since these homes tend to be located in recreational areas, they are highly desired by other exchangers providing them many options when planning their next vacation exchange.”

Home exchange or “swapping” as it is affectionately referred to was a little known travel secret in academia since the 50’s and has quietly grown to include families, singles, and seniors spanning many professions and lifestyles. Why the swell of interest? According to Bergstein, the reasons vary. “Maybe it’s the softening economy, the large number of secondary homeowners who want more out of their investment or the increase in independent travelers, or all three. Whatever the reason, home exchange is definitely on the rise. Instead of vacationing in an impersonal hotel room, it’s much more fun to “stay at home’.”

Of course, the Internet has played a key role in the growth of home exchange.  It’s no surprise that history’s greatest communication tool would become travel’s hottest matchmaker.

###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Posted: July 22, '03

Home Exchange: A Growing Trend Among Today's Travelers
Looking for Great Accommodations at No Cost?
Try Trading Your Home.

Spouse is unemployed, economy is shaky, school's out....
and you're overdue for a vacation?! 
This may be the year to travel the "home exchange" way.

LYNDHURST, NJ - Home exchange, one of the best-kept secrets in travel, has become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, aficionados of home exchange believe it is the only way to stay.

Simply put, you stay in their place; they stay in yours - and no money is exchanged.

"When I first learned about home swapping, it's like a light bulb went off in my head. " says Claire Pertalion, a member of the popular Digsville.com site since 2000. "Here I am, a self-confessed 'travelholic,' and I will never have to pay for a hotel room again? So far I've been to Paris and North Carolina, saving at least $4,200 in lodging and meals."

"Saving a ton of money is only the beginning of the story," says Helen Bergstein, founder of the Digsville Home Exchange Club. "The real payoff comes in the opportunity to stay in a home, enjoying a place as a local.  You have more space than most hotel rooms can offer with amenities such as a full kitchen and the use of extras such as a home office, automobiles, sports equipment and toys for the kids."

Home exchange offers travelers a whole new world of opportunity. An art teacher in Chicago trades apartments with a financier from Milan; a retired couple from Boston exchanges their Cape Cod summer home for a loft in San Francisco. The possibilities are endless - and so is the flexibility to accommodate extra family members and special needs.

Why the surge in popularity?  According to Bergstein, "the softening economy, the large number of secondary homeowners who want more out of their investment and the increase in independent travel" are all fueling the growth of home exchange.

The Internet, with dedicated websites such as Digsville.com, plays a key role. Travelers in general tend to be very computer savvy. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, over 64 million people used the Internet to make travel plans in 2002. Add in the fact that the average traveler's largest single expense is usually for lodging and it's no surprise that history's greatest communication tool would become travel's hottest matchmaker.

What advice does Bergstein offer the newcomer to home exchange? "Be as descriptive as possible in your home listing and establish 'do's and don'ts ahead of time. Most importantly, be flexible and open to offers -  you never know what jewel of an opportunity will come your way."

X X X

Digsville Home Exchange Club is dedicated to providing the most secure home exchange, peer-to-peer network in the industry today.  For more information including demographic statistics and Helen B's 10 Tips for a Successful Home Exchange or to schedule an interview please contact via pr@digsville.com for immediate assistance.