Q: Will I find members willing to look after my cat during an exchange?
A: Many member are happy to look after pets while on an exchange (some will even consider it a plus!). However it is important when adding your home swap offer to clearly indicate that you have a cat that will need looking after and also mention this when discussing a swap with members. This will ensure that everyone knows what is being agreed and also avoid anyone with a cat allergy taking up the offer. It's a good idea to leave detailed instructions for your exchange partners e.g. Is the cat allowed outside? If you have a cat flap and your cat is outside when your guests arrive, leave them a photo - to make doubly sure they feed the right cat!
‘When I tell friends that we do home swapping (we’ve been members of Home Base Holidays for several years) I’m often asked if I don’t worry about leaving our home to strangers. I suppose the most obvious answer is that if I were that worried I wouldn’t be swapping at all, and it’s a two-way thing after all. But there are a few things I’ve learnt since we started this which I think are worth sharing if you’re new to this business.
It may seem amazing to those of us who are well beyond youth, but you do get a feel for people even though the contact is all online. If you just can’t seem to establish a rapport it may be best to try another contact. Another important point is that you don’t have to accept just anybody. It’s your home and you can say what – or who – is acceptable. The other party will do the same, of course.
It’s impossible to establish rapport – and therefore trust – without talking to each other. Our best experiences have been with people who communicate even when it’s not strictly necessary, and who share some of their life story with us. If both sides do this you establish a feeling of openness and trust. Obviously nothing is without risks, but it’s certainly clear that no communication makes it impossible to establish any sort of relationship.
The only time I had a really worried feeling was when our exchange partners agreed that we’d meet up – then suddenly couldn’t make it after all when it was too late to change plans. Luckily it turned out that my fears were groundless, but I did have a bit of a scare wondering if they had something to hide. (I have a very active imagination!)
That previous point leads to my next – be very clear on what you can and can’t do, and what you would like to do. For example, if you’re planning a holiday but can’t be sure you’ll get the time off work, say so right away so everyone knows the plans may not work out. If you want to bring a friend, a child or an animal – say so right up front. We’ve had people announcing a dog at the last moment, which luckily is no problem for us although we live in a flat – we happen to love dogs. Other people may not be so happy.
Remember to be specific in your offer – if you don’t want small children or animals or smokers, make sure that’s in your brief. And please do what Home Base Holidays says and reply to every request. It really only takes a moment to say sorry, we can’t. You’re a member because you hope to be contacted, surely, so it’s only fair to respond if someone knocks.
It’s worth remembering that swaps don’t have to be simultaneous. We’re going to Finland in July to visit friends of friends. A couple from Australia will be in our flat during that time. We’ll visit Australia when it’s summer down there. Anything is possible as long as everyone agrees!
If anything were to go seriously wrong the Home Base team will respond. They block any scams or other nasties as soon as they know about them. Although members’ contact details are hidden, we’re all in this forum to arrange home swaps with others and any miscreants (I’m sure they’re an almost invisible number if there are any at all) are taken out of the listings.
We’ve met some truly lovely people home swapping, and a few with whom we’ve had no further contact although the swaps went just fine. Everybody left our home as spic and span as we left theirs. Experiencing how other people live – even if it turns out to be somewhat less comfortable than how you normally live – is always interesting. We’ve mostly been lucky and been equally comfortable, met wonderful neighbours, discovered lovely new places and had a fabulous time. We plan to stay in the game as long as we’re able to travel!’ – Bea Fitze
Editor’s Note: Bea is shown in the photo with husband, Kas. Click here to see their lovely home swap offer in Niederuzwil, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Browse Listings: choose Europe from the continent list, then England from the country list (you can do separate searches for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Scroll down and click 'Additional Options'; tick the box beside 'Pets Welcome'. You will see the results on the right of your screen (there will be several pages of listings for members in England who have indicated that pets are welcome in their homes). Once you start contacting members to suggest a swap, you can ask them if it is ok to bring your dog with you and provide any information (and the breed) that would be useful; some may have restrictions on where a dog is allowed in their homes.
As well as members happy to have pets brought to their homes, there are also many who are happy to look after pets while on an exchange; search by ‘Pet care offered’.
Home Base Holidays We're here to answers any questions on swapping homes, specific topics related to home exchange vacations plus share Home Base Holidays members' home swap stories and exchange offers.