Home exchange, also known as house swapping, is an alternative means of travel accommodation, through which two parties agree to swap their homes for a set period of time, with no monetary exchangetaking place.
Could you let people stay in your house, sleep in your bed, bathe in your bath tub, prop their feet up on your couch, more than likely be intimate somewhere in your house???
I could and the reason is simple.
It is a trusted network.
More than likely, you will have the owners of the house you are staying in staying at your house, so it is a mutually trusting relationship.
It reminds me of the non-verbalized law of the beach: when you want to take a swim or walk, your things are safe when you leave them unattended.
Because all beach goers want to do the same things, there has to be a mutual trust among everyone. Otherwise, people would have to be glued to their beach chairs or take turns walking or swimming. No, that does not make sense, and that is why the beach has become a "safe" zone.
House swapping networks are like a beach but with actual contracts of terms and agreements. And more than likely, people who list their homes or look for housing swaps are of like minds that understand the travel world and also the wants and needs of the others. Travelers in general know what a privilege it is to be able to stay for free somewhere and certainly do not want to damage their reputation.
It is a huge network of like minded folks just looking for a better way to vacation.
Best house swapping websites and their fees:
*Membership is only conducive if you are going to use them
To better educate you, here are the "must knows" of house swapping...
1. There is more than one way to do a "home swap"
The primary way of swapping homes is to simultaneously stay in each others homes, but there are two other ways it could work. Number two is by staying in a person's second home or vacation home which is called a non-simultaneous exchange. The third, is a hospitality exchange. This is where you would stay in the swappers house while they too are there.
So before you agree to swap, make sure you understand what you are committing to.
2. Its not a resort so YOU have to hash out all the details!
Unlike a B&B or resort where all the food and cleaning services are provided, you, as a host, will need to figure out if you will provide any food and/or cleaning. Also, as an exchange, if you expect these services it needs to be stated during the "getting to know" phase.
3. This is not a great last minute, go to option
Home exchanges take time and planning so if you have a last minute trip pop up do not try to line up an exchange. Experts advise the planning process begin at the earliest three months in advance but work out the best if started at six months. In all honesty that seems fairly reasonable when you have to find an exchange, get to know them, work out details, find flights, arrange services, etc.
4. Car exchange happens too!
It is extremely common that your personal car be available to your guest along with the house. But it completely optional so never feel that it comes standard! How does this work? Well, you create car exchange agreement that you sign and that works as your insurance. Here is a great template from Homeexchange.com.
5. Get to know the people
Many of the websites have created easy ways to check references and find them on social media. Along with doing your homework, chat with them. Get to know them on a personal level, I mean they are going to stay in your house so why not "know" them.
6. Is it safe???
Straight from an experts mouth:
["HomeLink is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In all of the years we've been in business, there's never been a case of reported theft or vandalism. In the end, they're staying in your home and you're staying in theirs, so mutual trust is fundamental."]
A common practice among house swappers is to leave one room off limits to store all your valuables and irreplaceables or to take them to a friend or family member's house.
But over all, house swapping is safe as long as you do your footwork, go through a reputable site, and follow your gut!