House swapping is definitely not for everyone. The thought of allowing strangers, who you’ve never physically met to come and live in your house, when you’re not there, fills some people with terror. For many, the thought of people being around your things and sleeping in your bed, is just not an option they would consider. However for others, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the world without having to shell out for expensive accommodation.
It really is a matter of individual preference, personality and perspective. So have a good think beforehand about if it is going to be something that you can go into confidently and in a relaxed way.
Research the Top Sites
Spend time looking around the most established and respected home swap sites until you find one or two that you feel the most comfortable with. Most of the top sites come with a fee, so that’s worth bearing in mind when looking around. Generally the sites with the higher fees tend to have a slightly more upmarket client base, which means a higher level of accommodation available and people more likely to respect and look after your home.
Understanding the Different Types of Swaps
There are actually different ways of swapping that are worth thinking about before you start organising your first swap. You have the ‘simultaneous’ swap, which is when both home owners travel to the others at the same time.
A ‘non-simultaneous’ swap could be one of two situations. It could be that you stay at someone's second home or holiday home or you stay in their home whilst they are there. So these different variations are worth considering before you sign up to any specific sites and certainly before you commit to a swap.
Think About Where You Want to Go
House swapping is a truly international affair, so focus your search down to specific areas that you have always wanted to visit and start looking for properties in those areas. Maybe you're looking for a log cabin and a ski holiday or perhaps you are looking for sun, sea and sand somewhere tropical and relaxing. Narrowing down the search will speed up the process and have you talking to people and looking into different options in no time at all.
Get To Know Your ‘Swappers’
Getting to know the people that you will be swapping homes with is the best way to get over any first-time jitters. Chatting over the phone or via email can help make you feel confident that you’re making the right decision and that these people are going to respect your home and take care of it whilst they are there. Forming a relationship with your swappers is also a great way to find out about the area before you arrive and get recommendations of the best restaurants and things to do whilst you’re there.
Preen & Polish Like Never Before
You need to make sure that your house is looking as good as it possibly can. Look at the details of your house and see what needs doing to ensure you don’t get any complaints or a bad rating on any house swap website. This could impede the possibilities of getting people to swap with you in the future
Look for things such as peeling wallpaper or any damp patches on walls, that need to be addressed. Look into services like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to get rid of any mould or troublesome damp areas caused by leaks or water problems.
Also look at your carpets and rugs and check for any stains and marks. Use the opportunity to take action on all the little details in your home that you’ve been wanting to deal with for a long time.
Storing Away Valuables
It’s a good idea to find a wardrobe or a room that you can fill with your valuables and lock away. Jewellery, money or anything that is very valuable to you is best put together in a safe place that any guests can’t have access to. Home swapping is generally very safe and their is a very low rate of theft or vandalism so the vast majority of the time there aren’t any problems. However it’s worth eering on the side of caution, just in case.
Look at the Details
Look at the details around your house and think about what you’d like to leave for your guests and what you’d like to make sure they don’t help themselves to. You’re not a hotel so you don’t need to go over the top, but investing in some guest towels is a good idea and you probably won’t want people using your personal towels and bathrobes.
The same goes for shampoos and creams. If you use a particular brand of shampoo or body cream that is quite pricey, you might want to store those away. It’s easy for guests to feel like they can use whatever toiletries have been left out, so make sure your expensive stuff is tucked away, out of sight.
The same applies to items in your kitchen. If you have particularly special oils and sauces that only you use on special occasion make sure these are put away. Again guests will naturally use any oils and condiments that are left in cupboards as it will be assumed that they are welcome to use them.
It’s not as common for guests to help themselves to your wine or alcohol cabinet but it does happen occasionally. Therefore if you have any expensive wines or liqueurs that you don’t want anyone helping themselves to make sure these go in your safe storage area along with your valuables.
You’re Not Just Swapping Your Home
You are basically swapping your life for the amount of time you are going away. So people also find it helpful to swap their cars too. Sorting out the correct insurance in order to allow people to use your car whilst they are living in your home will be a very attractive option for people who want to explore the area.
Bicycles might also be items you’d be interested in borrowing and lending. Particularly if you’re travelling with children, a couple of bikes would go down a treat so make sure you investigate these sorts of things before you get there.
You Don’t Necessarily Need to be a Homeowner
It is not always necessary to be the owner of your house to get involved in house swapping. If you are renting it is also possible, however you must first check with your landlord to make sure it won’t be a problem. Have a look through your rental agreement and see what it says about subletting. A home swap is generally considered to come under the the category of subletting so look at your options to check that that will be ok.
Unsure What Your Home has to Offer?
Many people look around at the home swaps on offer and immediately feel that their homes don’t measure up. So when people worry that their home doesn’t have enough to offer, isn’t as big, swanky or as luxurious as the others on the site, they can feel a little downbeat about it. However, that’s the wrong way to look at house swapping. People don’t house swap to stay indoors all the time. People use it as a thrifty and interesting way to visit new places and see the World. Your home is just a comforting place to rest weary heads after long days of sightseeing, it doesn’t have to look like a 5 star hotel or be a Tuscan villa.
Be honest when marketing your home. Send realistic photos that give people a really good idea of the feel and ambience of your home. Also think about the benefits of your home. Is it close to any of the main tourist attractions or is it close to the train or bus station? Are there are any special features in your house that you can put on your profile. Jacuzzi baths and modern kitchen gadgets are a great little ways to get more people interested in swapping with you.
Also think about how you can help your guests when they arrive at your property. Little touches like leaving them a map and a guide to your home will ensure your guests feel welcome in your house.
Anything in your own home is of course second nature to you but certain things may not be as straightforward to new guests. If there’s a nack to your shower to prevent the water from being either scorching hot or freezing cold, write it down so your guests don’t get any nasty surprises.
Think of any specifics that will be relevant to your guests and build up your guide. Your guests will definitely thank you for it and happy guests mean great reviews which are essential in the World of house swapping. Generally being helpful and friendly throughout the process will ensure that you and your guests can get the most out of the interesting and exciting house swapping experience.