For many travelers, a home exchange is the perfect way to get away.
If the idea of spending a week living like a native in another city or country appeals to you, a home exchange might be just the ticket.
Home exchanges, sometimes called house swaps, involve trading homes with someone for an agreed-on period of time. You stay in their home and they stay in yours, which can make a vacation much more affordable compared to staying in a hotel or rental.
There are many websites that can get you started, including homeexchange.com, homelink.org and digsville.com. As with any provider, do your homework to make sure a home exchange site or organization is reputable and right for you.
In the meantime, here are some home exchange Dos and Don’ts to consider:
- Communicate often with a potential exchange partner before making arrangements. Get to know them and ask for references.
- Be clear about what you’re looking for—and what your home has to offer in terms of facilities and amenities. Photos are essential.
- State in your listing how many people you can accommodate and whether you’re willing to accept pets, children, smokers, etc.
- Check with your insurance company to make sure your homeowners policy will cover any damage or loss during an exchange. The same goes for car insurance if you’re swapping cars.
- Clean up your place and leave space in closets and drawers for your guests. A supply of new toiletries and clean towels and linens is also a good idea.
- Give your exchange partners a list of local markets, restaurants and sites to see, and ask them to do the same for you.
- Make agreements with a handshake. Have a written confirmation of dates, house rules and cancellation policies before finalizing anything.
- Leave out valuables or confidential documents, no matter how trustworthy your exchange partners seem.
- Hesitate to make certain rooms or areas off-limits. Lock them if you can.
- Forget to let your neighbors know someone else will be staying in your house. Your neighbors can also serve as a resource for your exchange partners.
- Expect your guests to fend for themselves. Leave them instructions on how your appliances work and a list of repair people you’ve already made arrangements with should something break down.
- Be a bad guest. Just as you would if you were staying with a friend, leave a small gift with a thank-you note at the end of your stay. And be sure to clean up after yourself.