The benefits of owning a home are many: pride of ownership, equity buildup, tax advantages, security for equity loans, etc.
It can also cut your vacation costs dramatically. An increasing number of homeowners are discovering this opportunity as they participate in home exchanging.
This process is simple. Typically, a homeowner first lists his house with a home exchange network. When he decides to spend some time in an area, he contacts a network member in that locale and works out mutually agreeable dates to exchange their residences.
Normally, no rent or other fee is paid by either party. A large chunk of money is thereby saved, particularly for families with children.
Many home exchanges are taking place domestically and internationally, according to Lori Horne, owner of a regional operation of Intervac US, the nation's largest home exchange network.
Currently, 22 regional Intervac US companies are independently owned and operated.
The network now lists about 8,300 members in 28 countries. The United States has the greatest number of listings of any single country -- 1,700 home listings. France comes in second, followed by Britain.
"Now that the war is over and tension is eased, more U.S. homeowners are again seeking an exchange abroad," Ms. Horne said. "But many exchanges are within the U.S."
Two types of household groups most actively participate in home exchanges, she pointed out. These are families with children and retired couples. They usually stay at their destination point for periods of a week to a month.
Ms. Horne's network operation, based in San Francisco, has doubled its membership during the past three years. The regional network roster added 2,000 listings last year alone.
The network charges a flat $45 for new listings. A 20 percent discount is given to senior homeowners.
In some cases, the exchange even includes use of the family car. In at least one case, use of a boat was included. Any type of arrangement can be worked out by the exchange participants.