How to Arrange a Successful Vacation Home Exchange

Ah, summer is almost here! Can you say: VACATION? How would you like to travel across the country, even across the world, and stay somewhere for free? Many people are house swapping. That’s where you find a homeowner, let’s say in California, Aruba, or another desirable place; you stay at their home and they stay at yours. The cost: free. It’s a swap.

Sound scary? Are you shuddering just thinking about it? This author did as well. I have a friend who had a terrible experience doing a house swap once. She arrived in France and the home’s kitchen cabinets were hanging on by a thread. Shortly after moving her stuff in, they fell off the wall in a resounding CRASH!  

So when HomeExchange.Com approached me about considering an article on house swapping, I told them about my friend’s experience. They talked me off the ledge and into some really reasonable sounding tips, and said there’s many people who have trouble-free, amazing vacations. Now I’m even considering it!

How can you avoid getting a ramshackle pad like my friend did? Ed Kushins from has a great idea. “Ask the person to show you around their home through video chat. Ask as many questions as you like and have as much correspondence as you like beforehand. In fact, because of all the back and forth that should go on, many Home Exchangers have become very good friends with the people they exchange with.”

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So get video of the prospective home's bedrooms, bathrooms, the kitchen, and check on those cabinets ahead of time. If you feel like you’d like to see more of a certain area, ask for more shots! You may even want to get the exact address and plug it into Google maps to see if you can get a satellite or street view of the house. 

What are other keys to a successful home exchange? Kushins suggests you try these 8 tips:

1. Do get to know the person or family you are swapping with. Talk on the phone, swap recent photos and video chat over Skype. By the time you exchange, you will have seen your exchange home and will be looking forward to welcoming your new friends to yours. 

2. Ask for referrals about prior exchanges. This will tell you a lot about the person or family you are swapping with.

3. Agree on the ground rules for your exchange. Check out these sample agreements as guidelines.

4. Don’t leave your valuables exposed.

5. Market your property honestly. It’s the little details that matter the most. Post images of the kitchen, bathrooms, etc.

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6. If you don’t live in the most desirable / less touristy of neighborhoods, let people know and let people know why your neighborhood is so great. Do you live around the corner from the best coffee house in town? Right down the road from a great park for picnics? A train ride away from a landmark? There is a reason you love living in your area - tell your future exchange partners why! 

7. Don’t leave your home a mess or the person you’re swapping with a mess. The general rule is to leave the house exactly as you found it, and to take care of the home as you expect your partner to take care of yours

8. Let someone know if they need to get the mail, water the plants, feed the fish, etc. 

Kushins says when you’re searching for an exchange partner, think of it like Internet dating! “Get to know the person or people well. You can do this through video chat, emails and phone calls. Also, call a few referrals. Do your research. You should be at ease and comfortable by the time you travel.”

If you Google "home sharing" and "house swapping" there's plenty of sites out there ready and willing to help you find the right swapping partner! You could even try posting on social media, like your Facebook or Twitter account, you're interesting in doing a home share in "San Francisco" for example, and see if perhaps a friend of a friend knows someone. Then you can at least blame them if it's a disaster! 

Have you ever house swapped? How did it work out for you? Let us know!

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