There are plenty of advantages to a house swap. As well as offering holidaymakers the chance to escape the tourist enclaves and to experience a country as a resident rather than a visitor, there are fairly substantial savings to be made.
Swaps can be for anything from a matter of weeks to six months or even a year, and can be arranged in Britain, Continental Europe or farther afield. There are several well-established companies who offer a service to manage this for you.
To many, the thought of strangers sleeping in your bed, nosing in your underwear drawer, meeting your neighbours – and even driving your car – will seem like the stuff of nightmares.
But this is the reality of house swapping, an increasingly popular trend where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes, saving themselves the expense of paying out for hotels.
‘Holiday swap’ internet sites are listing hundreds of homes in Britain which families are keen to swap with similar properties abroad.
Your exchange partner may live across the country or across the world. Your homes may be similar in size and type or totally different – all that matters is that you are both happy with the exchange arrangements you have agreed in your arrangements before the exchange takes place.
Each exchange is unique; a relationship of trust should develop as you get to know your exchange partners through e-mail and phone calls.
If your exchange involves flights, agree to buy tickets at the same time and share your receipts (members who have paid a substantial amount for flights are very unlikely to change their minds about an agreed exchange).
You normally pay an annual membership ranging from £25 to £115 (depending on the company), which gives access to listings and allows you to add your own property to their website. Then it’s up to you to make contact with other owners and arrange your exchange.
To make the swap successful you’ll need to be prepared to spend plenty of time researching potential exchange partners, tracking down a similar type of person to swap homes with. If you’re foodies and want to spend time sampling local produce and eating out, for example, it makes sense to find a smaller place with a good kitchen close to restaurants; whereas if you’re travelling with children, on the other hand, it is important that the house is child-friendly with a garden.
The house-swap companies don’t visit properties before taking them on, so it’s important to study photos carefully, look at the feedback and communicate fully with the owner well in advance. Agencies advise against making the decision to swap before you’ve established a good rapport and are clear about each other’s expectations. You will also have to agree on how utility bills will be settled. You may feel it’s more straightforward to continue to pay your own, with the exception of phone calls. You may want to swap cars as well as houses, in which case your motor insurer should be informed. Some owners may want their garden watered or may even leave pets behind to be looked after. It’s all open to negotiation.
Because the arrangement is non-commercial, your household insurance shouldn’t be affected, but you should still let your insurer know, double checking that your policy agreement will remain in place while you’re away. Since missing personal possessions are unlikely to be covered unless you have a break-in, it’s best to remove any valuable items.
A final tip is to make sure your holiday insurance includes cancellation cover in case a problem arises with your house swap just before you’re due to depart.
Seniors home exchange
Home swapping is becoming increasingly popular for the 50+ travellers. Seniors home exchanges are a mutual agreement between two people in which they agree, rather than staying in expensive hotels, to use each other’s home for a set period of time so that they both enjoy totally free vacation accommodation.
Seniors home swaps provide a way to make new friends and live like a local in your exchange home – your home from home. It’s a great way to relax and experience different cultures but have all the space and comforts of a real home.
Another great benefit of a senior’s home exchange is that it’s an excellent option for visiting family and friends living around the world. It gives you the opportunity to visit your friends and family but have your own space in your free holiday accommodation.
People arrange home exchanges from anything from a weekend getaway all the way to a 6+ month exchange. So whatever you’re looking for you’re sure to find a senior home swap to suit you.
If any of our readers have had experience of this type of swap please contact us as we are interested in the actual experiences of this increasing trend.