Home exchange is a booming practice that is enjoyed by thousands of people from all over the world. Here’s how!
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An arrangement of sharing your house with an unknown couple from the other side of the world may initially seem like the quickest route to getting your home burnt down. However, upon further reflection and research, you will soon learn that this method of travel is an incredibly popular, safe and cheap way to experience the world.
House swapping is a great way to see the world
Italy’s University of Bergamo surveyed 7000 home exchangers last year and found that 92% of Australians were satisfied with their home-swap experience. They also found that 19% of users were aged over 65.
What exactly is house swapping?
Bee Cogger from House Swap Holidays first heard about it from a friend who was doing an around-the-world trip on a very tight budget. She adds, “I wondered how on earth she could do it. She said she was house exchanging.”
Bee and her partner signed up soon after and before they knew it, were on their first trip to California. Although she initially had hesitations at letting a stranger into her home, she said after the first experience all her fears were alleviated.
It is estimated that house swapping has grown by 20% every year since it began about 60 years ago
Fancy staying at a luxury foothill home with this stunning view? (Photo: Home Exchange)
“I would wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what the hell am I doing?” she said. “But once you’ve done the first one you understand. It’s all about getting to know the people before hand and by the time you do the exchange you feel like friends.”
Bee and her partner have now clocked up a tally of over 70 exchanges to homes spanning the entire globe. “You name it and I’ve been there. I get more and more ambitious now that I’m retired,” she says. Bee has recently been to Turkey, Switzerland, France and England – all on home exchanges!
How does it work?
To take part in home exchange, all you have to do is sign up to a website such as HouseSwapHolidays.com.au, HomeExchange.com or HomeforExchange.com. You simply pay an annual subscription fee of around $30-$70 to have your profile on the website and then the house swapping itself is free. You can also arrange to swap cars, look after each other’s pets or gardens and borrow bikes and more.
What are the benefits of home exchange?
Siggy and Heather Nowak from HouseSwapHolidays can’t recommend home exchange highly enough. They say the obvious benefit is cost savings, but the advantages go a lot deeper than that.
“We can be saving up to $250 per night on accommodation with additional savings on hire car costs. What also has to be taken into account is the advantage of being able to cook your own meals and not be dependent on having to go to restaurants or cafes,” adds Siggy.
Home exchange or house swapping is booming and is enjoyed by thousands of people from all over the world
Ted Marsden from HomeForExchange.com has completed 17 exchanges so far and he believes everyone should get on board. He loves that house swapping allows you to immerse yourself more in the local culture and community activities.
“House exchange enables you to explore and experience other countries and cultures whilst living in a home environment and being in control of your daily activities and meals. You make friends with like-minded people from all over the world all at a minimal cost.”
Exchanging homes is a great way to become part of the community and meet new people
What’s the catch?
Siggy says of their members, none can recount any bad experience from home exchange. Aside from a few broken glasses or the house being a bit dusty, no one could say a bad word.
“House swappers seem to be very keen to make their house look fantastic – they’re house proud,” Siggy adds. “We put effort into making our place look very presentable. We guess that by doing this then our swap family will try extra hard to leave our place like it was when they came in.”
Home and car insurance almost always covers the guests, provided you let them know the name of the driver using your car. Be sure to check with your personal insurance provider before undertaking the exchange.
House swappers can find themselves living in a wide range of regions and countries (Photo: Home Exchange)
Home exchange highlights
Ultimately, Siggy believes house swapping is all about trust. “You get to live in the shoes of someone else. This means you respect them and their way of life and they are likely also to respect your way of life. Swapping for us has been brilliant. It has saved us costs and we have been able to visit places we could not have been able to go to and experience living as a local.”
Bee’s highlight exchange was to a chateau in France, which featured an indoor pool and lovely grounds. “That’s somewhere you’d never go otherwise if you were going through a package deal company,” she adds.
Ted from HomeForExchange has experienced a white Christmas at Niagara-on-the-lake and was taken lobster trapping by a host in the small village of Cutler. At one home in Hagge, Sweden, he and his partner were even given use of the Range Rover, speedboat, canoe, bikes, golf clubs and received complimentary games of golf. All part of the house swap.
House swapping is becoming a holiday haven (Photo: Home Exchange)
10 tips for a successful home exchange
1. Communication, communication, communication! Talk through any concerns, ask as many questions as you can and provide as much information as possible to prospective house swappers.
2. Be honest in your summation of your house and what you want from your swapper. Paint an accurate picture of your home and be open about what you want from them in return.
3. Look for people with common interests and in similar circumstances to you. For example do you want someone who loves pets and enjoys gardening, or someone who cares as much about having a neat home as you do. It also helps to find people in a similar stage of life as you.
4. Get to know the swapper. You can Skype, email or phone people beforehand to get to know them better. Don’t forget to look up their house on Google maps or check references if you want to be sure they are trustworthy.
5. Ask for and provide plenty of helpful information about how the house works, maintenance, the best ways to get around, the best shops to use, cafes and restaurants to go to or places to visit.
6. Meet the neighbours. To immerse yourself in local culture, befriending the neighbours is a great way to get to know the local area better. You might even make lifelong friends!
7. On your profile, tell prospective swappers what your life is like including hobbies, work, family and lifestyle. And use plenty of photographs to sell your home.
8. Plan in advance. Start planning your trip early to ensure everything is sorted in time and everyone is clear on everything.
9. Be persistent and if you don’t receive a response on your first application, don’t be disheartened! You have to be proactive and perseverant when looking for exchanges.
10. Be open-minded and adventurous. One of the major advantages of home exchange is that you’ll visit places you never would have thought of. It is also easy to travel to smaller towns and villages. Don’t discount offers if you weren’t planning on travelling to that particular location. Take advantage of the incredible opportunity to travel and truly experience the hidden locations of the world!
(Featured image: Home Exchange)
Would you consider house swapping? Let us know in the comments below.