Home Exchange – Inexpensive Vacation or Nightmare?
Have you wanted to travel for a few weeks but were concerned about the cost of the hotels? If you could stay in another home, you’d save on your budget by cooking a majority of your meals. One way is to look into a short term rental. Another is to find the type of hotel that caters to longer term residents. But to really save money, you could try a home exchange. That means that someone will be staying in your home while you’re staying in someone else’s. You may also be able to do your own laundry, have internet connectivity, and free car parking.
What do I need to do?
There are a number of websites set up to enable people to list their homes as well as list where you want to go. Some are free to list and have a minimum fee after you’ve had a successful exchange. Others are by subscription.
How to have a successful exchange
And Home Exchange University has a list of Resources that are well maintained.
Here’s our suggestions:
- Set house rules. For example, if you want the gates kept closed, or the drapes drawn in the evening, leave a note explaining this. If you don’t want food taken out of the kitchen and dining room because you just got new carpeting, let them know.
- Put away anything precious or breakable that you couldn’t bear to lose.
- When you arrive at your destination, put away anything that might be breakable.
- If you’re providing baby or child equipment, leave it out in a very obvious place. The person staying in your home is probably going to be exhausted.
- Put together a welcome binder with information on how to run the heater or air conditioning, your favorite grocery stores and restaurants, parks, etc. Also let them know when the garbage is picked up, or when the gardeners arrive. Let them know if they may use your phone for local, long distance or international calls. Plus put in information on how to use your television, remote, and how to access the internet.
- Let your neighbors know what’s going on. See if one of them will be available in case of an emergency. Make sure that neighbor has a spare key.
- If you don’t have a housecleaner, consider getting one while you have guests. If not, let the person staying in your home that there aren’t cleaners, and if you have any expectations about them doing cleaning.
- Write as detailed a description as possible. Market your assets but keep it honest. And always mention pets and if there is an expectation to care for them, or if you have made other arrangements. Even if your pet is staying with someone else, the dander could really affect someone with allergies.
Your homeowners insurance may cover the visitors as guests, but you should still call to make certain. If you’re a renter, you need to talk to your landlord first to make sure they are ok with someone else staying in their property.
What about my car?
That’s a personal choice. You may want to make your car available. If you do, work with your insurance company if you need an additional rider.
If you feel comfortable with the idea, have a good heart to heart about who will be allowed to drive your car, and verify that they have a valid driver’s license for the US. Agree who will pay the insurance deductible in case of an accident, and set some restrictions. For example, if you live in Carmel, and they are thinking of driving down to Disneyland for the day (don’t laugh. it’s happened.), or spend the morning in Yosemite before having dinner in San Francisco (again, it happened), let them know that you would prefer the car to remain within a certain distance.
Also consider making available boats, RVs, motorcycles, and ATVs. If you’re in snow country, you may also want to make snowmobiles and sporting equipment available.
So what have we learned?
So, to have a successful home exchange, you need to be flexible, and ask yourself if you’re going to be ok with someone staying in your home while you’re staying in someone else’s. If you’re not sure, try a short home swap such as a long weekend.
Talk with other people who have participated in home exchanges. Some people love going on lots of vacations and provide guest books that get full of fun comments.
Always be polite and respond to everyone who contacts you. You never know when it might be the perfect exchange and you don’t want to burn bridges.
Respect your obligation and don’t cancel out if you get cold feet or if you get what appears to be a better offer.
The bottom line is if you want to go for a long weekend or a month, you could save money and have a more relaxing experience if you exchange your home. Would you ever try this? Or if you have, how did ti work out?