Have you seen the movie “The Holiday”? It’s a really funny story about two couples who give home swapping a go. It was the very first time I considered trying a home swap. That was in 2006. It actually took me nearly 10 years to get comfortable enough with the idea to actually give it a try. A DECADE!
Even though I was interested in what was going on with the fast-growing Sharing Economy concept, something was holding me back. Was it my mindset? Lack of experience? Fear of the unknown? It was probably all of those things, combined.
Finally, in 2016, I decided to give it a try. And let me tell you: It was great! I regret the years I rented expensive holiday villas. We love it so much we basically home swap every holiday, now. You can even find my profile on the exchange websites if you like. I’m using Love Home Swap and Home Exchange.
If you’re considering a home exchange for your next holiday, but still are afraid to pull the trigger, here is a list of things to think about. I hope this will help you take the first step. Really, don’t wait 10 years like we did!
Talk to people who have experience with Sharing Economy
Although the Sharing Economy stayed in my head for years, I became confident about it after I spoke with friends and neighbors who were using home exchange and Airbnb. As a matter of fact, one day my boss came back from a home swap in Copenhagen and told me all about his experience; from the permissions, insurance, everything about the process. From that moment I was convinced that I should do it too.
Check the Permission and insurance
“What if something happens with my house, or my house burns down?” This question puts many people off even trying to exchange homes. Well, let’s be honest: It’s a worst-case scenario. A worst-case scenario that can happen at any time; even when you’re at home with your family. I would strongly advise you to contact your insurance and check if home exchange is covered. If not, upgrade your coverage so it will be insured or find another insurance provider who explicitly covers the damage in case of an accident during the exchange. If you currently rent your house, you will probably need a permission from your landlord.
Are you afraid of possible damage? This all depends on with whom you are exchanging. Our house is a family house, so we prefer to swap with families and serious couples. Our house is not suitable for young groups, or students. So we don’t exchange with them. Every profile on the home exchange sites has reviews. These can give you peace of mind. In our experience, it is important to trust your gut feeling. A very important rule for us: If there are no reviews or we don’t trust it, we don’t swap. Even if it looks very attractive.
What about permission from your community?
The best way to deal with the social surroundings is to tell your neighbors (and in some cases the landlord) about the fact that you will be hosting guests. This way the neighbors will not be surprised when they see strangers in and around your home. It is important for the guests to feel welcome at your home, but also for you to maintain the relationship with your neighbors.
In some cities, like Amsterdam, when you are renting through Airb&b the council requests to mail to the town office every time someone stays. Follow the instructions as nobody likes being surprised. Your guests need to feel that they are very welcome.
Key handling and backups
The moment your guests enter your house is very important. If you are not there to receive your guests, make sure there is someone to hand over the keys and show your guests around. Also, make sure whoever it is can answer basic questions about the property and the local area. Since you often swap houses at the same time, you probably won’t be there to do it. You can, of course, ask a friend or relative to do this, or even a neighbor. We prefer to pay someone who does it for us. Asking your neighbor, friend, or relative for a favor might work once or twice but not on a regular basis. In Amsterdam, we ask Betty & Bob, a personal assistant who, in case of urgency in the house, would take care of it when we are (13 weeks!) away.
Home manual, local info, and guides with things to do
I always like to receive a home manual hand out. This document doesn’t have to be long, but just one or two pages where you put some simple instructions about things like the internet (wifi-code), tv, washing machine, oven/ stove, where to dump the garbage (etc.) and what to do or who to contact in case of additional questions or needs. We also put down the rules for use of the communal garden, and explicitly communicate that smoking and partying in the house is not allowed.
Cleaning the house and storing your precious belongings
For me personally, this is the most difficult part. I realize that our standard is high and the house needs to be in immaculate conditions when we leave it to the guests. We have a cleaning lady who helps us with that. But we also need to leave enough empty space in the wardrobes for the guests to store their clothes. We also lock up our very personal and precious things with emotional value. This means a lot of preparation. So for our family, we’ve decided that we do not swap for a term shorter than five days (only in very exceptional situations).
Giving a special welcome to our guests
I always prepare a basket with some basic local groceries and place it on the dining table. It does cost us maybe 20 euro but it’s so worth it. In my reviews, many guests refer to it: “We were met on our arrival at the property, given a tour, an opportunity to ask questions, and provided with lots of relevant information and a lovely breakfast basket full of yummy food” or another one “We received such a warm and welcoming to their home. We stayed at their apartment twice and both times they made us feel like we were part of their family”.
Trusting people and allowing “strangers” to stay in your house is not always easy—especially the first time. If you are still not fully convinced, try to do it first with your friends, or friends of your friends or someone else you know. Or start renting houses on Airbnb with the similar concepts. But if you want to try it, don’t wait 10 years. I think you’ll really enjoy it!