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House swapping: a way to travel cheap
“During my holidays in Thailand, I’ll stay in your house in Phuket while you make yourself at home in my apartment in London”. This is basically how house-swapping works. This low cost travel option, which appeared in the 1950s, is becoming increasingly popular. How do you find a home in another part of the world? Who should you let into your house while you are away? Prepare your home exchange and set off on a cheap holiday!
Let me into your house and I’ll let you into mine
Whether you own your house or simply rent it, you may organize a home exchange. Unlike couchsurfing, the rule of reciprocity is a must when it comes to switching houses: each person agrees to loan his house for free.
There’s no place like someone else’s home.
Do you want to avoid the usual flight & hotel package and make this year’s holidays different? House swapping allows you to feel at home, elsewhere. Are you dreaming of travelling to Thailand but cannot afford to face the travel and hotel expenses? By exchanging homes, you will considerably reduce your holiday budget as there will be no accommodation costs. Just as if you were in your own home, you will be able to cook your own meals: eating out will become an option. Travel and activities is all you are likely to be spending money on.
While you spend three week in a villa in Florida, someone will be looking after your country house in southern Italy. As no home remains empty, theft and vandalism risks are near zero. House swapping is actually quite safe; no need to take specific precautions other than taking out travel insurance for your stay abroad. Your home insurance will cover damage incidents that might potentially occur in your home while you are away. Only cancellation of the exchange once your flights have been booked is a risk you might find tricky to protect yourself from. This is why you need to prepare the exchange carefully and get trip cancellation insurance.
Find a home anywhere.
Exploring another continent or discovering a new place without going too far: it’s up to you! There are many house swapping websites and a large amount of potential destinations. For instance, on HomeExchange.com, there are swap listings in 154 different countries. Nevertheless, some destinations are much more popular than others: United States, Canada, Australia, the United-Kingdom and France are the five top house swap countries.
Organization and trust are the keys to a successful house exchange.
Preparing a home swap, step-by-step
A seaview house near Melbourne, a two-room apartment right in Buenos Aires, a cottage in Scotland… The most efficient way to find the perfect exchange is to become a member of a home exchange website.
1. Select a house swap website: there is a large number of either free or pay websites. HomeLink, HomeExchange and Switchome are among the most renowned. Annual membership on HomeEchange costs €130 whereas on HomeLink, fees vary depending on the country you are from. Switchome offers free membership.
2. Register and post your listing. If you want members to notice your house swap offer, your description must be as attractive as possible. Give many details about your home (exact location, size and style, places of interest nearby…) and upload pictures. The listing should clearly and honestly describe what you have to offer.
3. Browse listings and respond to inquiries. Make sure the dates of your holidays are the same as those which are detailed in the listings you find appealing.
4. It’s a deal! A family will settle in your apartment in Dublin for two weeks while you will discover their house nestled in the hills of San Francisco. Organize the home swap by tackling all the practical issues. How many people will be staying in your house? Where will you leave the keys for your hosts? What about the pets? How much can they use the phone? Are there plants to water? This preparation especially aims to build a trust relationship.
The ten commandments of home exchange
Welcome your host as you would like to be welcomed into their home.
- Leave your home clean and tidy.
- List all the practical information about your home (domestic appliances’ manuals, plant watering schedule…).
- Gather together informative brochures and leaflets about your city or your surroundings (maps, public transport timetables, favorite restaurants, best places to visit…).
- Make a list of useful phone numbers your guest might need.
- Make space in drawers and closets so your guests can unpack their belongings.
- Leave some useful items out: sheets, towels, cleaning supplies, a bit of food…
- If you are also swapping cars, remember to leave car and parking instructions.
- Store valuables and keep your medicine out of reach of children.
- If possible, arrange for someone to be there to welcome your guests.
- Why don’t you leave a small welcome gift? Your guests are bound to be pleased to find something special on the kitchen table…