An Inside Look at Home Exchange

Home swapping has been around forever, but enjoys a surge in popularity of late. If you’re wondering if this means of travel is right for you and how it works, here’s an inside look at the basics of trading homes.

Who: Home exchange suits a wide demographic of homeowners. It works for traveling families who enjoy having a kitchen and a little extra space. It’s ideal for owners of second homes, who find benefit in being able to leverage two properties. Long-term travelers use the system to negate the cost of accommodations, allowing for extended trips.

Your home does not have to be a certain size or considered “luxury” to work. Successfully traded homes include everything from one-bedroom apartments to suburban family houses.

What: It’s exactly as it sounds. You identify potential exchange partners through exchange sites, agree on dates, commit to the exchange, then hash out the details of how to access one another’s properties. All bills and utilities remain the homeowners’ responsibilities unless otherwise agreed upon. In many cases, arrangements are made to exchange vehicles as well.

When searching for potential exchange partners, you can narrow your criteria to include vehicles, pet-friendly and child-friendly properties, or home amenities like wireless Internet and swimming pools.

When: Swapping homes can be done simultaneously or non-simultaneously. The non-simultaneous option is popular with owners of second homes, who have more flexibility. For simultaneous exchanges, a lot of back and forth takes place to find a set of dates that work for both parties.

Most home swappers don’t insist on exact timeframes. For instance, if I’m staying at a home in Spain for 10 days, but my home is available for 14 days because I’ll still be traveling after my part of the exchange, I’m happy to let my exchange partners have the full two weeks.

Exchanges can range from a few days to a few months.

Where: Home Exchange boasts over 65,000 homes in 150 countries. Some travelers have specific places of interest, while others remain open to inquiries from around the world.

My family of 4 has completed successful home exchanges in Spain, Brazil, and Australia, not because we targeted these countries, but because we remained open to any inquiry that fit our timeframe.

Why: No doubt swapping homes is a money saver. Beyond that, it allows for a more unique experience, with greater cultural insight, than staying in a hotel room.

Home exchangers, by and large, put forth effort to insure their partners have a positive experience. Exchange partners often get to know each other in the weeks leading up to a trip. Because it’s a two-way street, exchangers take greater care with one another’s homes than they would in a hotel room or rental.

How: The first step is setting up a profile on an exchange site. In addition to Home Exchange, check out Home for Exchange, Love Home Swap, Guest to Guest, and Home Link.

When your profile is set up, understand that it might take some time to find your first match. Like dating, it requires patience. If your first 30 inquiries go nowhere, keep at it. Your 31st could lead to the trip of a lifetime.

But… Many people are skittish about having other people stay in their homes. I’m skittish too, when it comes to renters. When it comes to exchange partners, however, every experience has been wonderful.

Without exception, my exchange partners have been respectful, kind, and understanding. I’ve arrived at others’ homes to find dinner and a bottle of wine waiting for us in the fridge. I’ve returned to my own home to find it just as we left it, save for wrapped presents left on the counter for my daughters.

Is there wear and tear on the home? No more than if my had been there all the while. And remember, things are just things. They pale in comparison to experiences.

What About My Stuff? Preparing your home for an exchange is easier than it sounds. A little de-cluttering goes a long way. And remember, your partners understand that this is your personal home. They’re not expecting the sterile, blank slate of a hotel room. You might make a little space for them in your closet, but that doesn’t mean you clean out your closet entirely. Valuables or sentimental objects can be locked away or relocated if necessary.

Okay, Let’s Go! Remember that preparation for a home exchange takes time. The more flexible you can be with your timeline, the better. When you’re ready, you’ll find that this means of travel will show you a world with open arms.

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