3. House Guide: provide useful information for your guests
Make a user guide to your house. Include instructions on how to operate everything. Don’t assume your visitor can read the Swedish instructions on the washer! At a minimum you should explain where to find and how to use these things: dishwasher, TV, wifi, laundry, garbage (including how to take it out), kitchen appliances, heat/AC, shared outdoors space, extra towels/sheets, empty drawers and hangers for their use, bikes and vehicles if available.
My home guide is room by room, hopefully making it easier for people to flip to the kitchen section if they are inspired to learn how to use my juicer or want to run the dishwasher.
In your home guide you can also include information on anything special you want your guests to do before they leave: Should they put dirty sheets in the hamper? Should they take out the garbage?
Include a section on the neighborhood: where they can find the closest grocery store, local coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and how to get to public transportation.
I suggest also including a city guide. Provide information about anything you think your visitors might enjoy. I have a list of favorite restaurants and bars, some great walks to take for views of the city, and some of the more popular tourist activities, as well as a section on places to visit for a day trip or a few days outside of the city. I also ask my swap partners if there’s anything special they want to do so that I can add to my guide.
Lastly, leave out some maps of the area if you have any. Most people use their phones to navigate, but for those who don’t have a data plan that covers other countries, paper maps can be very useful.
4. Arrival dates and times: agree your swap dates
Discuss and agree on arrival dates and times for each of you. Make sure there’s no unintended overlap. And inform your neighbors about the guests who will be staying in your home while you are away. You don’t want them calling the cops thinking that you have a break in.
5. Gifts: leaving a gift can be a nice personal touch
Many people like to leave gifts for their home exchange guests. I have to admit I sometimes forget, but it is nice to do, and I aspire to leave gifts for every swap. When I’m doing a simultaneous swap I leave something local: wine or chocolate. When I’m traveling around doing multiple swaps, I bring along a small souvenir from my city and a few nice postcards. I can write a thank you note on the postcard with a picture of something iconic from my home town, and leave the gift. Even just a magnet or bar of local chocolate is a nice thought.
There are some who go to great lengths with the welcome gifts: asking what foods their swappers eat and stocking the fridge for them, baking, and buying gifts. I think this is super nice, but it’s definitely not necessary. Truthfully I would probably feel a bit guilty if someone did this for me when I just bought a bottle of wine for them.
6. Communication: the key to successful home swapping
Aside from the gifts, everything else I list above should be discussed in advance to make sure you’re on the same page about what is required before and during your home exchange. I also think it’s best to agree that you will check in when you each arrive, just to let the other person know you got there safely and are in the house.
You may also want to set some ground rules for communication while you are doing the exchange. You might agree to reach out to each other if you need help with anything, and talk about how you will do that (via SMS, email, phone calls, etc.).
I’ve heard a few stories of people who were peppered with constant questions from their swappers about things that were covered in the instruction booklet they left, so much so that it was interfering with their vacation. There’s not much you can do beyond politely asking your swap partners to read the instructions before pestering you, but talking about communication in advance may help you ensure you both have the same expectations.
And lastly, it’s good home exchange etiquette to let your swap partners know when you’ve left their home.
7. Formal exchange agreements: finalise your home swap
If you want to formalize your plans, you can use the exchange agreements that are available through the home swap website.
These provide a good basis for discussing the important elements of the swap and some formality to your agreement around what will happen before and during the swap.