Home exchange is a hot topic these days. That’s not surprising. Home exchange makes travel far more affordable than staying in a hotel.
You won’t have any lodging costs when you swap your home for someone else’s. With a kitchen, you won’t have to eat out all the time. You’ll have more space to spread out, which is especially important if you have kids. Living in a home instead of a hotel takes you beyond the typical tourist experience of a new place.
If the idea of home exchange sounds good to you but you’ve never done one, you probably have lots of questions. These home exchange FAQs will give you some answers.
1. Is home exchange safe?
You’ve probably read horror stories about short-term rentals: guests trashing a home, stealing their hosts’ property, or refusing to leave. But people like us who have been swapping homes for a long time generally agree that home exchange is safe. No money changes hands, so home exchange doesn’t attract the scammers who prey on short-term rental hosts. Home exchange partners have an incentive to take care of one another’s property, knowing that the other people will be staying in their home as well.
The key to a safe home exchange is taking the time to do it right. Successful home exchanges are grounded in the trust that comes from excellent communication, honesty, and careful screening. That takes a lot of time and attention.
For more: “Screening Home Exchange Partners”
2. Does it cost anything to do a home exchange?
Most home exchange sites or clubs charge a fee. But your lodging will be free, which is one of the best things about doing a home exchange.
3. How do I know whether home exchange is right for me?
Handing your home over to strangers isn’t for everyone. Think carefully about how you feel about strangers sleeping in your bed, using your shower, and lounging on your sofa. If the very idea makes you queasy, find another way to travel.
Even if you’re comfortable with welcoming strangers into your home, consider whether you want to stay in someone else’s. Is your idea of a great trip taking a cruise, enjoying the luxury of a 5-star resort, or taking a safari in Africa? Think about stretching your travel budget by hosting a short-term rental instead.
4. What about my HOA or Coop Board? My landlord?
Some Co-op and HOA rules prohibit having people stay in your home while you’re not there, so check your documents carefully. If you’re a renter, read your lease or talk to your landlord. The benefits of home exchange are not worth getting evicted.
5. What kinds of people do exchanges?
The short answer is, “all kinds.” People of all ages and from nearly all countries seek home exchanges for many reasons: to visit a new place, to attend a special event such as a wedding, to visit family or friends, for business purposes. In fact, one thing we love about home exchanges is the chance to interact with all kinds of people from all over the world.
6. Why would anyone want to come to our home?
It’s a good bet that there are lots of potential exchangers for your home, no matter where you live or what type of home you have. You’ll get far more home exchange proposals if you live in a popular city such as New York or near a tourist attraction such as Disneyworld. But you’ll undoubtedly hear from people who want or need to come to your area for a specific reason, as well as from people who are looking for an interesting new place to explore.
7. How do I find a home exchange partner?
You’ll need to sign up on a home exchange site or join a home exchange “club.” Once you’ve listed your home, you can search for potential exchanges in the places you want to visit, and people who are interested in arranging an exchange in your area can contact you.
8. How does it work? Do my home exchange partners stay in my home while I stay in theirs?
There are different types of home exchanges, including:
- Simultaneous exchange: You and your exchange partner stay in one another’s homes at the same time
- Non-simultaneous exchange: Your exchange partner stays in your home while you’re away, but you have a choice of times in which to use your exchange partner’s home.
- Hospitality exchange: You and your exchange partners take turns hosting one another in your respective homes.
- “3-way” exchange: Someone stays in your home while a third party from a place you want to visit stays in their home
- Points exchanges: This relatively new innovation offers home exchangers more flexibility. You earn points when someone stays in your home, and you can redeem those points for a future stay in someone else’s home.
For more, see Share Traveler’s “Updated list of Points-Based Home Swap Networks.”.
9. What if someone proposes an exchange that doesn’t interest me?
You might get lots of home exchange proposals before getting one that appeals to you. It’s fine to decline with a friendly, polite message: “Thanks, but we can’t do an exchange at that time.”
For more: “How to Screen Home Exchange Partners”
10. Do we need a formal agreement?
Home exchange partners often rely on a virtual handshake (in an email message or a phone call) to firm up the terms of the exchange such as dates, what each party has agreed to do and provide, key house rules, and cancellation options. But even a simple written agreement describing those terms and signed by both parties can help prevent misunderstandings and problems down the line.
For more: “What to Include in a Home Exchange Agreement”
11. Who pays the home expenses?
Most homeowners continue to pay their own bills for utilities and other expenses during an exchange, although home exchange partners can make any agreement they wish about bill-paying responsibilities.
12. Will my homeowners’ insurance remain in effect?
Chances are it will, but you’ll need to check with your insurance agent to avoid nasty surprises if there’s a fire or your exchange partner slips on the stairs.
13. What do I do with my car during the exchange?
Many home exchangers agree to let their partner use their car – another way that exchanges can save you money. But check with your insurance company first. Ours advised against it.
14. What about my pets?
Your exchange partner might be willing to care for your well-behaved pet (if your pet agrees to be cared for). If so, leave very clear instructions about feeding and care.
15. What about my neighbors?
We always let our neighbors know when short-term or exchange guests will be staying in our home. We also give close neighbors our itinerary and contact information in case they have any concerns.
16. How will guests know how things work?
Leave guests a “user guide” with instructions for accessing the Internet, turning on the heat, using the appliances and electronics, and taking out the garbage. Include information about other things they need to know, such as a toilet that backs up easily or where to find the circuit breakers.
For more: “What to Include in a Short-Term Guest User Guide”
17. What if something breaks down or guests have problems while we’re away?
Things happen. For your guests’ comfort and your peace of mind, provide contact information for someone who can handle problems if the washer goes on the blitz or they lose their keys.
18. What do I have to do to get my house ready for my exchange partners?
Exchange partners expect your home to be in relatively good condition, furnished with what they need for everyday living, and, most importantly, clean! At a minimum, set aside time to fix anything that could be dangerous (like a broken stair tread). Clear away enough clutter so your exchange partners have room to put things down. Make room for guests’ things in your closet, on shelves, and on bathroom counters.
For more: “6 Tasks to Get Your Home Ready for Guests”
19. How do we exchange keys?
The key exchange is often the trickiest part of the home exchange process. Options include:
- Mailing keys (in an envelope that does not include the address of your home)
- Installing an electronic lockbox and giving your home exchange partner the code
- Leaving the key with a trusted relative, friend, or neighbor
20. What if one of us needs to cancel at the last minute?
An essential part of your home exchange agreement is to spell out what happens in case one partner has to cancel. Is the person who cancels responsible for finding the other partner a place to stay? Will you each be responsible for your own backup plans? Deciding what will happen ahead of time helps to keep home exchange partners from getting stranded if there’s an emergency cancellation.
Have more questions about home exchange? Tips for a successful exchange? Please share them with our readers in the comments or on our Facebook page.