5 Tips to make sure you have happy home swap guests


JaniceGuest blog post: Janis Fisher Chan is a writer, editor and passionate traveller who loves home exchanging. If you love travel and love getting a real feel for your destination, Janis encourages you to try home swapping!

“Conveniently located”  -  “loved it”  -  “comfortable”  -  “just what we expected”  -  “highly recommend”  -  “friendly and helpful”  -  “would love to come back”

Just the words we want to hear from our satisfied guests! It’s so wonderful when our home swap partners say “We loved your home!”. Experienced home swappers know that helping guests enjoy their stay in your home isn’t difficult, but it does take some extra attention. Here are 5 tips for making sure that you have satisfied guests.

Tip 1. Make sure your home description is accurate

We were excited to find a 2-bedroom home swap near the Coliseum for our 6-week trip to Rome. It was a wonderful apartment, spacious and filled with light, with a brand-new kitchen and bath. The only problem was the bed. The description boasted of a “brand new queen-sized bed” – exactly what we wanted. It was new, all right, but instead of a mattress, it was unforgiving futon stuffed with cotton batting set right on the tile floor. After a couple of sleepless nights, we finally reached our host. “Never thought to mention,” he said over a crackly phone connection from Cuba. Pause. “Sorry.” 

Misleading guests about the sleeping arrangements is one quick way to make them unhappy. Another is to be vague or misleading about the home’s location. Daly City is not the center of San Francisco. A suburban home 5 blocks from the beach is not a beachside cottage. Have a 5 floor walk up apartment? Make sure guests know that there is no elevator.

If you want satisfied guests, be accurate and complete in your home listing about sleeping arrangements, location, the condition of the kitchen and bathroom, the size and layout of the home, whether it’s light or dark, the number of stairs… everything they might want or need to know. Be sure to emphasize anything unusual – such as a futon on the tile floor.

Tip 2. Provide the basics (toilet paper, basic food, bedding, towels)

Once in a while we’ve arrived at a home exchange home to find a single roll of toilet paper, one worn towel for each of us, a meagre sliver of soap, and nearly bare kitchen cabinets. We don’t expect our home exchange and short-term hosts to provide everything we need for a long stay, but it’s annoying when we have to put shopping for basics first on our agenda and spend our valuable travel money to supplement household goods. We have a special fondness for hosts who are thoughtful enough to provide what we need to be comfortable: paper goods, cleaning supplies, towels and sheets, pots, pans, kitchenware, and so on.

It’s not difficult or expensive to provide the basics for your guests. Think about what you would need if you were staying in a home like yours for a few days or a few weeks. Then stock up.

Tip 3. Let your guests know how things work

One European apartment we stayed in had a newly renovated kitchen, with shiny new stainless-steel appliances, including a state-of-the-art induction stove. It looked great in the photos and great when we arrived. But when we tried to cook, the induction stove was a puzzle. We spent hours poring through the manual with a translation dictionary and talking with our host over Skype, and we never really learned how to use it.

Every home has its quirks. Increase your chances of having satisfied guests by anticipating what they need to know about your home. Give them clear, detailed instructions: how to turn on the heat or air conditioner, where to put the garbage, or how to keep the toilet from overflowing. Not only will that help your guests enjoy their stay, you’ll be less likely to be bothered by frantic emails and phone calls when they can’t figure something out.

Check out our 3 easy steps for creating a home swap welcome guide

Tip 4. Have someone on the ground in case of emergencies

Two weeks into our home swap in Paris last year, I checked email before we headed out for a walk in the Marais. There was a message from our short-term tenant: “Sorry to bother you, but there’s water leaking from the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom.” Oh, no, we thought, envisioning the ceiling giving way and the upstairs shower crashing down. What to do? That’s not the kind of thing you want to happen at any time, but certainly not when you’re a continent and ocean away. Fortunately, we were prepared. We asked her to contact Jim, our wonderful fix-it guy who knows our home and has seen us through many emergencies over the years. By the next morning, Jim had checked out the problem, reassured us that the ceiling was not about to come down, and started the process for getting the leak fixed.

It’s a fact of traveling life that all kinds of things can happen while you’re away. So plan for them. Arrange for one or more people you trust who can step in when a pipe bursts or the furnace goes out. You and your tenants will be glad you did.

Tip 5. Be a virtual tour guide

One of the things we like most about living in someone else’s home is exploring the area, finding places to buy groceries and have coffee, trying new restaurants, poking into shops, learning about this new place. But some hosts make it easier for us than others by leaving information and tips that help us get started.

Think about what your guests might need or like to know about your neighborhood and your town or city, things they might not find in their tourist guides. Then put together a “welcome” packet. Depending on where you live and how long guests will be staying, you might include maps and restaurant menus; directions to grocery stores and markets; where to buy bus and train tickets; locations of parks, gyms, beauty salons, and pharmacies; suggestions for good places to walk; and brochures for interesting places and sights known only to locals. 

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