Home exchange members are encouraged to leave very detailed information folders for their exchange guests' use while living in their homes. Folders will include a household section with appliance brochures and instructions, information on rubbish collection days, etc.
In household information, it is very important to leave full details on security steps that must be taken when leaving your home. Ideally, your appointed 'agent' will be available to greet your guests on arrival (if you have already left) and show them how to lock doors and windows securely and, if you have an alarm system, go through the instructions on how to set it.
Do you leave curtains closed or open when likely to be out after dark? Do you leave lights or radios on or on a time switch? Are there any outside doors or gates that need to be secured? If you live in an apartment block, is there a main door entry intercom? Is there a double lock on your front door? Where do you store a fire extinguisher? How do you re-set smoke alarms?
People who take part in home swaps are very conscientious and won't leave your home vulnerable intentionally (they are trusting you to care for their home too) but it's easy to take for granted steps we take when securing our own homes. Take time to write a quick Locking Up reminder list and stick it near the front door. If leaving several keys on a key chain, label them to make it easier for your guests. If you are likely to get flyers left in a porch or rubbish blown into your front garden, ask your guests to check for this and clear it away every day. Also, if your exchange guests haven't left detailed security information for you while in their home, do contact them or their agent right away if you are unsure about anything.
It is also important to inform your household insurance company in advance of the dates non-paying guests will be staying in your home. Insurance companies generally acknowledge that lived-in homes are safer than homes left empty but it is important to ensure your own insurance cover remains valid (note: when you have any non-paying guests - friends, relatives, exchange guests - you will likely find a clause in your policy on thefts not covered if there is no evidence of a break-in).