Nowadays, many travel accommodation options such as vacation rentals, farm stays, house sitting, and house swaps allow you to stay in a larger space for less than you need. it would cost to stay in a hotel – or for nothing. In the eight years since Barry and I started paying $ 150 per year to belong to HomeExchange, we’ve enjoyed home exchanges in the US, France, Czech Republic, Ireland, and Colombia.
Here are eight ways we’ve found to make our home exchanges successful.
1. Choose simultaneous or non-simultaneous
Basically, there are two types of home exchanges: simultaneous and non-simultaneous. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one property, you can do either, but if not, you’ll have to trade your home at the same time or make alternate plans. When we stayed in a Czech family’s house in Prague, for example, they left the city for their summer vacation. In our case, Barry and I own a house in Mexico, which we list on a home exchange site, and rent an apartment in Eureka, California, which we don’t.
2. Spend money to save money
You may need to be prepared to spend some extra money on the house you have listed. At Eureka, our awesome lockout furniture works well for us because we’re not exactly Beautiful house types. This is not the case in our house in Mexico, where we maintain a higher standard because other people stay there. In addition, we have to take into account the additional cost of replacing items more often when people use them regularly.
3. Organize and decide
Home swapping takes some preparation. You will need to decide how to handle issues such as:
- Access: How will guests enter your home? If you are not there, you will either need a reliable person to provide the key or a smart lock with a code. In several places we have stayed the owners have asked us to collect the keys from nearby shops. In Mexico, our property manager greets clients, gives them the keys and collects them at the airport if needed.
- Home maintenance: Who will make sure the house is ready for guests? Our Mexican housekeeper puts fresh towels and leaves a welcome bottle of wine on the kitchen table.
- Customer information: We have a detailed guestbook providing information about Wi-Fi, utilities, garbage and recycling, neighbors, cleaning schedule, grocery stores, restaurants and local transportation. It also lists contact and emergency numbers.
- Use of amenities: Will you allow customers to use your car, bikes, etc.?
- Private storage: If you have any personal effects, valuables or food in the house, you will need to store them in a secure storage area.
4. Join an agency
When we first decided to list our home on a home exchange site, we joined a small agency, making few offers. A year later, we moved to a larger organization, which led to invitations to London, the Bronx, Toulouse, Lyon, Melbourne, Quebec, Seattle and more. If you want to make home swapping an integral part of your life, it pays to join a larger agency.
5. Communicate and offer support
Communication is not just about signing the agency agreement. We may not always be able to meet our exchange partners in person, but we always connect via email, send the guestbook shortly after they are confirmed, answer questions, and offer support. When the Czech family arrived in Mexico, for example, they traveled with another family and we helped them find a hotel. Informal communication goes a long way in building trust.
6. Be proactive
You will likely increase your chances if you take the initiative and approach the owners of the areas you want to visit. For example, since Barry’s British family meets in England every two years, we try to find a home exchange in a relatively nearby location to enjoy before or after. The first time around, we reached out to owners in Brittany, France, an easy ferry ride away. We received an offer from a couple in Fougères, a town we had never heard of. What a find! It had a 1000-year-old castle, cobbled streets, a medieval quarter, and tree-lined plazas. We took our folding bikes and enjoyed delicious rides through the rolling countryside most mornings, stopping for an Aperol Spritz at a village bistro on the way back.
Two years later we contacted owners in the South West of Ireland. We ended up spending a week each in two different towns, cycling the Dingle Peninsula and visiting the seventh century Skellig Michael Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site accessible only by boat and made famous in Star wars.
7. Identify your goals
People use home exchanges for a variety of reasons, not just to take a vacation to a desired location. For example, we know of a couple who had a home exchange in a city to attend their daughter’s graduation ceremonies. In our case, for a while, I fantasized about moving to Portland, Oregon. Barry and I checked the city listings and found a house within walking distance of downtown, Washington Park, Powell’s Books, and Trader Joe’s. My mission was accomplished, but not quite as I hoped. Although I enjoyed our stay, two weeks in the city convinced me that Portland was not our future home.
8. Recognize the advantages and disadvantages
I was very excited when a couple from Colombia invited us to stay at their home in Medellín, in the coffee culture district.. We had visited the country before and found the people exceptionally friendly. But when we got there I was disappointed to find the condo far out in the suburbs, nowhere near Medellín’s award winning cable cars or metro.
My doubts quickly vanished. Every day we would hire an Uber or a taxi driver to take us somewhere, and our commutes became a highlight of the day. The drivers were eager to share their stories and tell us how things had improved since the infamous era of the drug cartels in Medellín. The surroundings of Medellín were also beautiful, especially the small villages of Jericó and Jardín, colored islands in lush coffee country.
Without planning, we ended up enjoying Medellín for a bit of medical tourism. A few days after arriving, Barry developed a toothache. Our landlord referred us to his dentist, who diagnosed a root canal. The procedure amounted to $ 200 (compared to the prevailing rate in Eureka of $ 1,200). So not only was Medellin fun, it was good for our finances.
When we travel, we also stay in hotels and vacation rentals, of course. But home exchanges seem more personal – sometimes very staff As of this writing, an American family is staying with us. When the couple wrote to us, they explained to us that “mom” was pregnant and had planned a water birth with the help of a Mexican midwife. Were you okay? After much discussion Barry and I said yes. A week ago, a little boy was born in an inflatable bathtub in the middle of our room. We are delighted that they chose our home for such an honor!
This is the privacy that is possible with a home exchange.