Have questions about home exchange? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve compiled answers to 14 common questions about home exchange from the best experts in the field – experienced home swappers. You can never know too much, so we’ve included a few links to more detailed information.
#1. Should I ask my home exchange partner for a damage deposit?
Home exchange partners usually take good care of one another’s homes and willingly reimburse one another if they spill wine on the carpet or break the teapot. Still, there’s always the chance of damage, so it’s a good idea to remove anything that is particularly valuable or not replaceable. If you and your partner feel more comfortable with a deposit, ask a neutral party to hold the funds in case they’re needed.
#2. Who is responsible for cleaning?
A hard-and-fast rule of home exchange is to leave your home clean for your home exchange partner’s arrival. Some home swappers provide their partners with weekly or bi-monthly cleaning; others make a cleaner available but ask their partners to pay the cost. Others handle cleaning on their own.
The move-out cleanings are another matter. You and your partner might agree that each partner will leave the other person’s home clean, whether they do the cleaning themselves or pay to have it done. But keep in mind that people have differing ideas about what “clean” means. I’d rather pay my cleaner to come in after our home exchange partners leave, and most of my exchange partners done the same.
#3. Can I bring my pet?
If you prefer to travel with your beloved pet, look for a “pet-friendly” exchange – it shouldn’t be hard to find a good one. But…and this is a big BUT…never bring your pet without your exchange partner’s agreement. There are lots of people who do not want pets in their homes and others (like me) who allergic to certain animals (in my case, cats). Many people also live in buildings and communities where pets are not allowed.
#4. Can I leave my pets?
It can be expensive to have your pets cared for away from your home while you’re away. If you really want to leave them, make it very clear in your home exchange listing that you want to swap with someone who is willing to feed your bird or walk your dog. Explain what’s involved in caring for your pet and answer any questions. Leave detailed instructions, along with food, leashes, and whatever else your home exchange partners might need, such as the phone number of your vet. One more thing: think carefully about how your pet is likely to react to strangers.
#5. Should I let my exchange partner use my car?
You and your exchange partner can save the cost of car rental by swapping cars, and many people do. But before agreeing to a car exchange, check with your insurance agent. Confirm that your policy will cover you for both damage and liability when someone else is driving.
Also consider the wear and tear on your car. The one time we included a car swap in a home exchange, we came home to find our car filthy, inside and out. That experience made me re-think the “savings” of car exchange. When we need a car, we now rent one or use a service like Zipcar, Uber or Lyft, and we suggest that our exchange partners do the same.
#6. Can we swap gym and club memberships?
It’s always nice to include a gym or club membership with an exchange. But before making a promise to your home exchange partner, find out whether you’re allowed to let other people use your membership cards. Let your partners know if there will be a fee.
#7. Will I need more liability and property insurance?
Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your liability limits and the exclusions listed in your policy. Don’t take chances, though. Talk to your insurance agent.
#8. How will we get into one another’s homes?
Key exchanges are always tricky. Ideally, your guests will arrive before you leave so you can hand over the keys in person, but that’s rarely possible.
There are various techniques to make sure your guests can get in: for example, you can leave the keys under doormats, mail keys ahead of time, set up a lockbox, or leave keys with a friend.
I’m not a fan of leaving a key under the mat unless I know my exchange partners will get there very soon after I leave (even then, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea). Mail works (usually) as long as you send the keys far enough ahead of time and have a backup plan in case they don’t arrive. Lockboxes can be tricky – I’ve steered clear of them ever since we nearly had to take a sledgehammer to one before we could get into an exchange an apartment in Chicago.
The best and safest option is to install a smart lock with a code you can change after your guests leave. Smartlocks aren’t cheap, but they’re an easy, safe solution, especially if you swap (or rent out) your home often.
#9. What if something breaks down while I’m away?
Isn’t there a rule that if something can go wrong, it will? Experienced home exchanges arrange for someone they trust to step in if the toilet overflows or the heater stops working. That way, your exchange partners won’t be tempted to try fixing things themselves or turn to Yelp for a repair person.
#10. Who pays the utilities and other home expenses?
Most home exchange partners continue to pay the basic expenses of running their own home while their guests are there. Some agree to reimburse one another for the costs of overseas phone calls, pay-per-view TV, and unusually high energy bills. You and your partner can decide what’s best.
#11. Do we need to sign a formal agreement?
Many home exchange partners rely on email exchanges and phone conversations to work out the details. But there are so many chances for misunderstandings, it’s a good idea to putting the important details in writing and have both partners sign a copy. The written document might not be enforceable in court, but people tend to pay more attention when they need to sign something.
#12. What do I need to provide for my home exchange partner?
Think about what basic furnishings and supplies you would need to live comfortably in a temporary home. At the least, make sure your guests have enough sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, dishes, utensils, and so on for the number of people who will be staying there. Thoughtful exchange partners leave basic cleaning supplies, soap and detergent, along with basic foodstuffs such as coffee, tea, salt, pepper, herbs and spices, cooking oil, salad oil, and vinegar. Many also leave some food so their partners don’t have to run right out to the store when they arrive tired after a long trip: eggs, milk, cereal, bread, butter, jam, cheese, fruit, wine and beer, and more.
#13. How long does it take to arrange a home exchange?
We once did a last-minute home exchange with a couple in San Miguel de Allende – I think we put the whole thing together in a couple of weeks. But that was unusual. Most home exchanges take a while to arrange. You have to find people who want to come to your home and have a home you want to stay in. Then you have to work out the timing and the logistics. It’s like doing a puzzle with lots of pieces that have to fit together. Many home swappers start the process several months or even a year ahead of time.
#14. Is exchanging homes worth the time and trouble?
My answer is a resounding YES! Not only do you get free lodging, you’ll be more comfortable in a home than a hotel, especially if you have kids. Best of all, you get to “live like a local” and meet interesting new people, some of whom might become lifelong friends.
Do you have other questions about doing a home exchange? Ask them below or on our Facebook page and we’ll do our best to answer.