How to prepare your home for a house swap

The concept of home sharing is a rapidly growing part of the new “sharing economy”. In the same way that Uber is revolutionising the ride hiring landscape, home sharing is now practiced by thousands of people across the world as a great alternative to traditional travel accommodation options, such as hotels.

There are two general approaches to home sharing:

A) House swapping with other like-minded travellers from across the world – this allows you to “live like a local” and greatly reduce accommodation costs. There are a variety of online clubs and organisations that can facilitate the swap process,

Or

B) Letting out your home to travellers using a home sharing organisation such as Airbnb – this allows you to make some extra cash if you have a home that is not being used or has spare room that is suitable to let out.

Both can be rewarding ways to make the most of your asset, but it’s important to go into it with your eyes wide open and follow a few essential rules and practices to make it a happy and successful experience.

Trust is a key ingredient
To open up something as personal and private as your home to strangers may cause concern for some, but the success of the home sharing market has been based on the trust and mutual benefit that both parties enjoy. Home sharing and home swapping organisations generally encourage this sense of trust and respect by allowing both the home owner and the visitor to provide written reviews of their experience.

These reviews are publicly available so that other users can check out the reliability of the people they are looking to share with. While there are no guarantees and it can never be totally risk free, this method of keeping both parties accountable seems to be effective in minimising the risks of damage and misuse of your property.

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Hosts and guests providing reviews on each other maintains trust in the house swapping business

10 tips to prepare your home
To ensure your guests have a pleasant stay and to ensure your reviews are positive it is essential to have your home prepared well and to offer practical information and assistance for guests. Here are some top tips to getting your home in order:

1. Cleanliness: this is essential to making your guests comfortable and confident with their choice and maintaining a good reputation. Bathrooms and kitchens are obvious areas where guests will notice the standard of cleanliness, but all rooms of the home need to be clean and neat.

2. Linen: ensure sheets and towels are clean and accessible (if you are offering to include this as part of the arrangement).

3. Securing valuables: if there are certain items or areas of the home you do not want guest to use/access, then these need to be locked off so that there is no confusion.

4. Supplies: basic everyday items such as toilet paper, garbage bags, cleaning products and soap need to be well stocked. It is optional whether you want to give access to food items, or perhaps limit access to basics such as oils, salt, sugar, flour etc. Whatever you do, however, make it clear when communicating with guests as to what is off limits and lock it away if possible. 

5. Operating instructions: appliances such as TV, sound system, air conditioners, washing machines and alarms should all have instructions provided for guests so that they can utilise them easily. 

6. Safety: be conscious of how safe your home is if your guests have young children and take whatever precautions are necessary to avoid accidents. If you have expensive antique porcelain on display, it might be best to lock it away! Ensure you have adequate fire prevention equipment, such as smoke alarms and extinguishers on hand. It is also a wise idea to leave a basic first aid kit easily accessible to take care of minor accidents.

7. Contact list: provide a list of emergency contacts, such as hospital, doctor, fire, police, tradespeople etc so that guests can cope with unforeseen incidents.

8. Hospitality: make your guests feel at home by leaving some information on local restaurants, shops and attractions. Public transport information is also useful. You may even want to leave a small welcoming gift as a friendly gesture on arrival.

9. Utilities and services: make sure electricity and other utilities are paid up. Arrange with the post office if you want mail held back. Arrange for garden and pool maintenance if you are leaving the home for a longer period.

10. Neighbours: let them know that you are having guests use the home while you are away.

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Providing guests with clean facilities is essential when sharing your home

Promoting your home
Most home sharing sites will allow you to post photos or videos of your home and a description of the property and facilities available. This is your chance to make your home seem as inviting as possible to attract visitors, but be careful that you are honest and upfront about what they can expect. If there are issues like construction noise going on nearby or 50 stairs to get from the garage to the front door, it is best to be upfront about it. Some guests won’t mind but those that do deserve to be informed.

It is also vital that you clearly communicate your ‘house rules’ so that there are no misunderstandings or surprises down the track. This could include issues such as:

  • Smoking 
  • Pets 
  • Rules about whether your guests can have other people come into the property 
  • Parties and noise control  
  • Usage of recreational items such as bikes or surf boards 
  • Off limits areas 
  • Usage of food and other consumable items

Insurance status is critical
The issue of insurance must be considered and dealt with. Failure to do this can result in some nasty surprises if something goes wrong.

If you are doing a home swap then most insurers will be cooperative and will allow your cover to continue without extra cost or loss of cover while your guests are staying there – after all it is better to have your home occupied than left vacant. It is still important to check with your insurer to make sure that this is the case.

If you are using a home sharing service like Airbnb then it can be a different situation. While some hosting services like Airbnb offer some forms of built in cover, this may not offer the same level of protection as your normal insurance, so it is absolutely imperative that you contact your insurer to see where you stand. Some insurers may allow your cover to continue as normal, but others may view the use of your home for commercial purposes as a fundamental change to your cover and may even void your cover. This can be costly if the guests damage property or disastrous if they injure themselves on your property and expose you up to a public liability claim.

Some insurers recognise that the home sharing is a growing phenomenon and will offer inexpensive cover extensions to your existing cover, so that your protection is kept intact. Make sure you talk to your insurer so that nothing is left to chance.

Do you have any home sharing experiences? Share your thoughts below.