A How to Guide for Home Swapping
Home exchange sounds almost too good to be true to travel lovers: vacation in comfort, pay nothing for accommodation and know that your plants are being watered back home. Fortunately it’s not a mythical travel tale – thousands of people swap their homes every year for vacation, whether it’s for a weekend, a week or even a month, and enjoy staying in a real home and experiencing a new place just like a local.
Here are some top tips for trying home exchange for your first time:
1. Surf the web for a home exchange website that suits your needs. Some charge an annual membership fee, some are free; some are easy to navigate and others are confusing; some have most of their listings in North America while others are more diverse. See what suits your vacation ideal the best!
2. It’s important to take a bit of time to prepare a good profile of your home so that potential home exchange partners can see why they should swap with you. Write a detailed description of your home and your local area, and take some great photos of your home without clutter. It’s also important to write a few honest lines about yourself/family, because home exchange is an exchange between people, not robots!
3. Be proactive! Look around and contact home exchange listings that catch your eye. Consider some off-the-beaten track locations as you never know what kind of gem you will find. Don’t be scared to request fancy-looking houses – they might be looking for a cosy city apartment or country retreat just like yours! Home exchange really opens your eyes to new parts of the world that you may not have considered visiting.
4. Someone responded to your home exchange request! Now what? Well this is the part where you get to know your potential home exchange partners. Ask questions about their home and the dates they want to travel. Schedule a Skype or Google Hangout date so you can get to know each other more. Through communicating you’ll find out if they are like-minded people and whether their house is suitable. When you’re happy with all the details, confirm your home exchange with your home exchange partner.
5. One thing to consider when discussing a home exchange is cultural differences and language barriers. Not everyone you will contact speaks your language fluently, so it’s a good idea to keep you email and verbal communications simple and clear.
Even English speakers can misunderstand each other sometimes! For example, while in the US, you turn on the faucet to wash your hands, Australians and British turn on the tap. A comforter will keep you warm in bed in the US, while it is called a duvet in Britain or a doona in Australia. It is likely that you’ll discover many objects around the house are known by different names, even in English speaking countries!
To help prepare yourself for the cultural differences you will encounter while on exchange, it’s good to ask your home exchange partners some basic questions: What time do the grocery stores close? Is it common to tip at restaurants or in taxis, and how much? Can we drink the tap water?
6. Before you depart on your home exchange, prepare a house manual for your guests explaining how everything works and leave contact details for friends who can help out with questions. Also provide some tips on your local area so your home exchange partner can feel at home – they’ll do the same for you. Don’t forget to inform your insurance company that you are doing a home exchange – most insurance companies know that the best way to keep your home safe is by people living in it, rather than leaving it empty.
Home exchange is an enriching experience – you enjoy an inexpensive vacation, but you also meet new people from all over the world. One of the most common stories you’ll hear from home exchangers is that their home exchange partners become lifelong friends.