Shelling out for a hotel while on holiday can cost thousands of pounds, but with house swapping there are no accommodation costs.
Where can you go?
There are house swaps available around the world, in properties of all shapes and sizes. Right now on Home Exchange there’s a one-bed flat in Paris, a farmhouse in Tuscany with a pool and a town house in Chelsea up for grabs.
How does it work?
The easiest and safest way to house swap is through an agency such as Home Exchange or Home Link. When you sign up you’ll be asked to create an online profile which will include details about where you’d like to go and your preferred dates, along with general information about yourself and your property, as well as photos.
The more detail you give, the greater your chances of getting a successful house swap organised and references from past swaps and employers are standard. Once you get matched to a swapper, video introductions take place and the agency will provide a contract (not legally binding) for both parties to sign.
How much does it cost?
The only money you should pay out is membership to a house swapping agency, which is on average around £30 a year. Obviously you'll also have to pay out for travel and living expenses. To save on these read our article on how to avoid blowing your holiday budget.
You get free accommodation pretty much anywhere around the world and you also have your own house or flat to stay in during your holiday. This can save you money on lots of different things, most obviously food costs as it’s a lot cheaper to eat rather than pay for restaurant dinners each night.
As you build a relationship with the person you’re house swapping with, you also get an insider’s view of the area and people usually leave a visitors book full of local recommendations and places to visit.
What are the risks?
The main concern of house swapping is the thought that a stranger will be in your house. However, there are precautions you can take to protect your stuff. And ultimately, you’ll also be staying in their property, so the contract is formed through mutual trust and respect.
Agencies say it’s very rare for homes or belongings to be stolen or damaged and the main way to prevent this is through communication before the swap. Both parties need to know exactly what’s expected during the stay, and will swap contact details along with references beforehand.
As with house sitting, you need to first let your home insurance provider know about the swap. It might be the case that they cover house swapping but if not there are contracts on most websites which need to be signed before the swap which outline exactly what’s included.
Going through an agency also adds an extra layer of protection as you have a main body to go to if something goes wrong.
You can also ask for a holding deposit during a house swap. This is another way to make you feel more at ease about the whole process. Some agencies, such as Geenee, will arrange this for you and hold the money during the swap.
Can I swap my car too?
Again this depends on your situation. If you want to swap cars then before the swap takes place you’ll need to contact your insurer and give it details of the swapper as they will need to be added to your policy and vice versa.
What about my pets?
When you create your profile on a holiday swap website, you need to list details about your house such as if you have any pets and if they’ll need to be looked after. It then depends on the house swapper - you might find someone happy to feed and walk your dog or alternatively you could take your pet with you if your swap is dog-friendly.
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