With websites like Homeexchange.com organising a successful house swap has never been easier. I’ve compiled this list of 12 tips from my own experience doing home exchanges, we’ve been to Denmark, Spain, Poland, Germany and New Zealand and paid nothing for accommodation, a huge saving.
A successful home exchange does require a little more time and planning than a hotel stay but the rewards are great. Not only are you getting free accommodation, sometimes in the world’s most expensive destinations but it is a good way to meet locals and have experiences tourists will usually miss out on. Everyone is looking for that off the beaten path, hidden gem and home exchange is the way to find it.
Still not sure if home exchange is for you? Read this post first to find out if it is the right fit.
Tryhomeexchange.com risk-free for a year, if you don’t managed to find a suitable exchange you get the second year for free, what’s stopping you?
TIPS TO MAKE YOUR HOME EXCHANGE A SUCCESS
You’ll need to make some space for your guests own belongings so take the time now to declutter. Grab a copy of Marie Kondos “the magic of tidying up”. In this book the quirky Japanese decluttering guru takes you through each section of your belongings, encouraging you to only keep the things that ‘spark joy’. The thing I like about Marie’s system is that there is no limit on how much you should keep and get rid of, if like me you have a craft room full of fabric, ribbon and paper and you love each item then keep them but if you have tennis rackets and exercise equipment that just reminds you that about your failing joints then get rid of them, if someone invites you to play tennis in 10 years time you can borrow a racket. There are a lot of other decluttering systems. 40 bags in 40 days, or you can follow a programme like the decluttering club.
Getting rid of clutter will make it easier for you and your guests to find things in the house, you’ll be able to get the house sorted and pack for your own trip must more efficiently and there will be room for guests to put their own things.
2. BE FLEXIBLE
Sometimes finding the perfect home exchange requires some flexibility. You are not booking a hotel where you can pick your exact location, amenities and dates in the click of a button on your web browser.
If you have a specific destination in mind you might need to contact properties outside of the city centre or with a smaller space than you are used to. In some ways this is the advantage of home exchange, it gives you opportunities to explore areas and have experiences you might not usually have as a tourist.
On a recent trip, I found cheap flights to Faro in Portugal, it was peak season so I knew I might have some trouble finding a suitable exchange partner. I contacted properties 1hour each side of Faro and eventually found a suitable property in Huelva, Spain. I would never have known about Huelva but it has long wide sandy beaches, nature reserves, is a gastronomic capital and we had an opportunity to hang out with our exchange family (we did a balloon exchange, they stayed with their in-laws) we saw what real life was like in Spain, long lunches and listening to music at beachside Chirrungitas.
3. BE ORGANISED
Doing a home exchange does require a bit more planning than a regular holiday. You not only need to organise your selves for your holiday but you need to leave the house in a state ready for your guests as well. Plan ahead and have a strategy, arrange someone to help you with the cleaning, pack your own bags a few days ahead of time. Write yourself a good list to tick off as you head out the door.
How to have a successful home exchange Click To Tweet
4. SET YOUR PLANS IN STONE
Set your plans in stone and make sure your exchange partner does as well. Communication is so important for a successful house swap. Be very clear with your exchange partner about dates and have everything confirmed prior to booking your flights. Then once your exchange is confirmed get on and book your flights immediately, you don’t want to check the schedule in a weeks time and realise your flight is now fully booked. It is not in the spirit of the home exchange to cancel. If you do need to cancel you need to be prepared to offer alternative accommodation, this may mean you go and stay with relatives to free up your house.
5. MAKE A PLAN TO EXCHANGE KEYS
If your guest is going to be arriving before you leave then exchanging keys is simple. But if you have an early flight and they arrive later then you need to organise the handing off of the keys another way.
Have a friend or neighbour that can help? Ask them to meet with your guests and let them into the house.
Leave a key in a lock box like this…give your home exchange guests the code and ask them to leave the key in the same box when they leave.
Have a keypad installed on one of your doors. This can also be great if you have teenagers that are prone to losing or forgetting keys. Create a new code for your guest and then reset it after they have left. Leave the key with a local business, some post offices and banks also offer this service for a fee.
Post the key ahead of time. I have had to do this twice. It is not the best option but in a pinch is sometimes the best you have. Make sure the parcel is insured and leave plenty of time for the package to arrive at your guests home. Also have a plan should your guest lose their key or be locked out. I have a label on the key with an address that it can be returned to (without indicating the home address) as well as a spare key in a hidden lock box.
Check with your insurance that any damage done by the guests will be covered. The same goes for checking your tenancy agreement if you are renting. Some tenancies don’t allow subletting but since money isn’t changing hands this shouldn’t be a problem. For us, in our rented apartment, we needed to notify any change in the occupants if it persists for longer than 6 weeks.
7. TAKE GREAT PHOTOS
According to homeexchange.com those properties that have great photos are much more likely to have more exchange opportunities. You don’t need professional photos but go through room by room, tidy each room, remove any distracting items and clutter, get as much light into the room as possible (avoid using the flash if you can) and take photos from different angles, stand on a step ladder if you need to to get a better angle. People want to see where they will be staying so don’t be afraid to put a lot of photos up.
8. HAVE A HOUSE FOLDER
Make a folder which contains instructions for using appliances, taking out rubbish and where to find things in the house like water mains and fuse boxes. Leave maps, brochures and manuals for appliances in the folder.
Keep a copy on your computer so you can update the instructions as required.
I also have made a Google Map which I share with each guest, this has tourist attractions, favourite restaurants, supermarkets and bus stops marked on it.
Your guest will appreciate it and they won’t need to bother you with questions while you are away.
9. STOCK UP ON CONSUMABLES
Remember your guest is on holiday, they don’t want to be running to the supermarket to buy toilet paper a day after they arrive. While it is not necessarily your responsibility to provide any consumables for your guest it is the kind thing to do. Make sure there is extra toilet paper, plenty of cleaning products and washing powder.
10. CONSIDER THE PANTRY
I think it is nice to leave the staples well stocked. Tea and coffee, sugar, salt and pepper, spices and some flour. I also provide some snacks, cheese and crackers, a loaf of bread, butter and some milk. Previously I have had an open pantry and just said help yourself to whatever you need, this will work fine 90% of the time but unfortunately, I had one family that took this quite literally and ate all the chocolates and red wine! Remember there are sometimes cultural difference so now I ask that if they finish something they replace it. You could also section off a part of the fridge and pantry as help yourself areas. This leads to the next point…
11. BE CLEAR ON EXPECTATIONS
It might be a little awkward telling people what they can or can’t do but the feeling is better than the angst of having something happen in your home that you are not happy with. This might be things like keeping the noise down after 10pm to keep your elderly neighbours from complaining or any limits on how much data can be used on the wifi. Let your guests know what you expect from the clean up at the end. I once did a home exchange and cleaned the house and washed the linen only to later get a text “oh you didn’t need to do any of that, we have a cleaner come in”. I would have loved to know prior.
12. REPLY TO EVERYONE
This is not only courtesy but homeexchange.com also displays your response rate. You are more likely to get inquiries if you have a high response rate, people will often overlook those with low response rates even though you both might be a good match.
It is really all worth it in the end. The first one is the hardest so don’t be put off. Now you need to decide where to go? But before you head off to research your next destination please help me out by sharing this post on social media. I would really appreciate it. I also love comments too!
As a home exchange member I have special offers for a new home exchange membership. Contact me to hear more. To apply for your discount I will share your email address with homeexchange.com and they will send you the discounted offer.
Ok so how about Norway, Germany, New Zealand, my Dresden, England or Portugal?
I prefer the page Intervac
Thanks I will look into that one.
Thanks for the tips. My husband and I are just looking into this as a way to leverage our homes into free housing in Hawaii every year during the winter months. We really want to be in a specific place for about three months at a time and are hoping to find maybe someone who would want our home for three months at a time.
Anyway, thinking maybe a home exchange for snow birds? Any thoughts?
Thank you, Pat in Idaho
Hi Pat, You might find it hard to find a single home exchange for 3 months but if you are willing to move about it sounds like a fabulous idea. I have just become a home exchange ambassador, I haven’t had a chance to update the article to include this yet but now I can offer referral discounts. If you want to give home exchange a trial send me an email HtravelH@gmail.com and I will get a referral code sent to you, I think the discount is 25%. I can also share our NZ home exchange profile with you if you think you might want to summer there one year!
Hello Kaylie, I was just looking at your blog again and realized you replied to my comment. I’m so sorry I didn’t get back to you before now! We are about to host our first exchange in May and I was looking at your tips again to see if I could pick up some last minute advice.
The family that’s coming seems really nice and responsible but it’s still scary opening up our personal home to total strangers.
They live on the East coast and we are out west so if anything happened, we would have no way to hold them to account. They have requested permission to hold a graduation dinner at our home for their son who is graduating from a local college. They want to invite 8 people. I’m not asking for advice, but it’s just a little nerve racking.
We said yes but requested a few things of them to try to make sure the situation is manageable.
Anyway, thanks for your blog and I will be signing up to get your news letter. Also, yes we would love to see your NZ house!
Pat Gibbons, Meridian, Idaho
Hi Pat, I am so glad the post helped you, exciting that you have your first exchange organised. Communication is a huge part of a successful exchange and the fact that they even asked is a great sign. Don’t be afraid to have a set of house rules. Better to feel a little awkward putting the rules forward than have something that will spoil the home exchange experience. Our listing is # 1433658
That’s so cool! I’ve been thinking a long time about doing one, but I first need a home 😀 Once I have one, I think I’d love to this. Thanks for sharing your tips!