15 Common questions about home exchange holidays

Have questions about home exchanging? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve compiled answers to 15 common questions about home exchanging.

1. What do I need to provide for my home exchange partner?

Think about what basic furnishings and supplies you would need to live comfortably in a temporary home. At the least, make sure your guests have enough sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, dishes, utensils, and so on for the number of people who will be staying there.

Thoughtful exchange partners leave basic cleaning supplies, soap and detergent, along with basic foodstuffs such as coffee, tea, salt, pepper, herbs and spices, cooking oil, salad oil, and vinegar. Many also leave some food so their partners don’t have to run right out to the store when they arrive tired after a long trip: eggs, milk, cereal, bread, butter, jam, cheese, fruit, wine and beer, and more.

2. Is my house suitable for a home swap holiday?

The vast majority of homes listed for home exchange are members' primary (and usually only) residences. Real lived in homes contain furnishings and lots of personal items. You do not need to clear out any of your items prior to a swap. Home swappers aren't expecting to stay in an empty show home but will be expecting to stay in a welcoming real home contain furnishings and belongings. In fact, if you arrange to swap with a family that have a similar aged kid(s), having childrens books and toys can be a really big bonus! Just ensure your home is clean and tidy in preparation for your exchange guests' stay.

3. How will we get into one anothers homes?

Key exchanges are always tricky. Ideally, your guests will arrive before you leave so you can hand over the keys in person, but that’s rarely possible.

There are various techniques to make sure your guests can get in: for example, you can leave the keys under doormats, mail keys ahead of time, set up a lockbox, or leave keys with a friend. We'd never recommend the leaving a key under the door mat option. Sending by mail / courier service is usually a good option so long as you send the keys far enough ahead of time and have a backup plan in case they don’t arrive. Installing a lockbox or a smart lock can be a very good idea, especially if you plan to swap often.

4. How long does it take to arrange a home exchange?

Some members find and agree swaps very quickly, especially home swappers living in popular destinations (you can even check out the last minute home swaps section). However, most home exchanges take a while to arrange. You have to find people who want to come to your home and have a home you want to stay in. Then you have to work out the timing and the logistics. It’s like doing a puzzle with lots of pieces that have to fit together. Most home swappers start the process of looking for a swap several months ahead of when they are looking to travel.

5. Do we need to sign a formal agreement?

Make sure to discuss all details of the proposed swap before agreeing to go ahead (do so via messaging on the website, emails, phone calls and even video calls). Once you have discussed and agreed all the details, it’s a good idea to put the important details in writing and have both partners sign a copy. You can also use the home swap agreement tool via the Home Base Holidays website to note down all the important details you have discussed and agreed.  

6. Who is responsible for cleaning?

A hard-and-fast rule of home exchange is to leave your home clean for your home exchange partner’s arrival. Some home swappers provide their partners with weekly or bi-monthly cleaning; others make a cleaner available but ask their partners to pay the cost. Others handle cleaning on their own.

The move-out cleaning is another matter. You and your partner might agree that you will each leave the other person’s home clean, whether you do the cleaning themselves or pay to have it done. But keep in mind that people have differing ideas about what “clean” means. 

7. What if something breaks down while Im away?

Isn’t there a rule that if something can go wrong, it will? Experienced home exchangers arrange for someone they trust to step in if the toilet overflows or the heater stops working. 

Before going on an exchange, it's always good to put together a welcome folder for your guests. As well as tips about things to do and see in the area, also include useful information about your home (e.g. how to turn on the heating, how to turn off the alarm, etc) and emergency numbers (e.g. phone numbers for trusted plumbers, electricians, a local friend / neighbour, etc). 

8. Should I ask my home exchange partner for a damage deposit?

Home exchange partners usually take good care of one another’s homes and willingly reimburse one another if they spill wine on the carpet or break the teapot. Still, there’s always the chance of damage, so it’s a good idea to remove anything that is particularly valuable or not replaceable. If you and your partner feel more comfortable with a deposit, ask a neutral party to hold the funds in case they’re needed.

9. What should we do about home insurance?

It’s extremely rare that there are any issues during a swap. However, it’s important prior to agreeing a swap to contact your home insurers to make sure that your policy will cover the period that your guests will be staying. 
Most insurers are happy to agree cover at no extra cost but there are also several specialist house sharing insurance providers that provide very reasonably priced top up cover that sit alongside your main insurance policy (you just pay for the days you are swapping). These include GuardHog and Pikl.

10. Who pays the utilities and other home expenses?

Most home exchange partners continue to pay the basic expenses of running their own home while their guests are there. Some home swappers, especially if swapping for longer durations, agree to reimburse one another for the costs of overseas phone calls and energy bills. You and your partner can decide what’s best.

11. Can we also swap cars during a home exchange?

You and your exchange partner can save the cost of car rental by choosing to swap cars, and many home swappers do just that! But before agreeing to a car exchange, check with your insurance provider to confirm that your policy will cover you for both damage and liability when someone else is driving.

Also consider the wear and tear on your car. The one time we included a car swap in a home exchange, we came home to find our car filthy, inside and out. That experience made me re-think the “savings” of car exchange. When we need a car, we now rent one or use a service like Zipcar, Uber or Lyft, and we suggest that our exchange partners do the same.

12. Can I bring my pet?

If you prefer to travel with your beloved pet, you'll be pleased to hear that many home swappers are happy for you to bring you pet during the swap. But…and this is a big BUT…never bring your pet without your exchange partner’s agreement. Remember there are lots of people that are allergic to certain animals + many people also live in buildings and communities where pets are not allowed. On the Home Base Holidays website, look for members that have selected "Pets welcome" on their home swap listing.  

13. Will I find home swappers happy to look after my pets?

You'll be please to know that many members will be very happy to look after your pets during a home swap ...in fact, lots of members would consider it a perk! Having your pets looked after by your guests can be another great cost saving and it is always reassuring to know your pets are being looked after at home rather than in a kennel or cattery.
Note: it is important when at the initial stages of discussing a swap to let the other member know that you will require pet care. For some members, especially those with allergies, looking after a pet (or even staying in a home where a pet has been) would not be suitable. Also, some members may want to spend a night or two away from your home and so looking after a pet may limit their plans (it is possible that this can be overcome by arranging back-up pet care, perhaps with a neighbour or friend of your host).
14. Can we swap gym and club memberships?

It’s always nice to include a gym or club membership with an exchange. But before making a promise to your home exchange partner, find out whether you’re allowed to let other people use your membership cards. Let your partners know if there will be a fee.

15. Is exchanging homes worth the time and trouble?

My answer is a resounding YES! Not only do you get free lodging, you’ll be more comfortable in a home than a hotel, especially if you have kids. Best of all, you get to “live like a local” and meet interesting new people, some of whom might become lifelong friends.

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