Friday, 8 July 2016

love to exchange homes

Last year Home Exchange gave us free annual membership of their home swapping website. The idea is that you go stay in someone else's house, for free, while they stay in your house, for free.

Free holidays!

It can get more complicated than that... some people have second homes which you can stay in, but the basic idea is that you go and live like a local, while you're giving someone else the same chance.

Last year we started our membership around March, and to be honest with you that's a bit late in the year. We noticed this year that most of our enquiries about exchanges came in December/January, when people are starting to get their ducks in a row about where they're going. I guess if you lived somewhere really special, you could risk coming late to the party, but the only exchange we managed to arrange last year was a long weekend in Dunblane (which was awesome, and I wrote about it here).

This year we really wanted to go to Barcelona, and we learnt how difficult it can be to arrange for a specific destination (although - spoiler - we cracked it in the end).

We are also doing a swap with a family in Derbyshire. I'm sure there's plenty of fun stuff to do in Derbyshire, but we weren't planning on going there until we were asked to swap. Now we've got lots of fun in store.

So, how does it work?

You start off with the Home Exchange website - you put your own house on (a bit like getting ready to sell your house really), and have a look at what's available elsewhere. You then get in touch to see who would like to swap. I warn you, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs, but there is the occasional prince!

Once you've got a happy combination, you arrange your swap and then you stick to it. People book holiday and the like, so you've got to view it as you would any other reservation.

Then, when it comes to the swap, you have a good clean up (I recommend getting cleaners in if you can), change all the beds and towels and make some room for your guests' stuff. Generally it's reasonable to expect to eat some food, but replace things you use up. You do however leave it as a home. If they wanted to stay in a hotel they would.

It's useful to provide an information sheet, telling people where things are, what your wifi password is, doctors, dentists, and places to go. Everyone I've exchanged with has done these slightly differently. There will always be useless information, and there will always be something they need to know and don't, so it's good to keep in touch, either through messaging on the Home Exchange site, or through email or text.

The Home Exchange site offers a good quick idea of how to leave your house and what information to leave which you'll find here.

It's good to get to know the people you're exchanging with. Ideally, this would involve meeting up with them, but sometimes that's not possible. We've had long chats via email, and have Skyped people too.

Other things can go along with your home. Our cat is going to be hanging out with our exchangees (I hope he doesn't get too grumpy with them), and for the Barcelona swap we're swapping our cars as well. It's flexible and easily negotiated.

Several people have said to me that they'd be worried about strangers being in their home. To be honest, that's never crossed my mind, because I'm in their home too! However, it is starting to bother my son. He's 10, and having his own space is becoming important to him, so I think we might find other ways to holiday next year. 

One last thing that I must mention. I love that with a home exchange our house isn't just sitting empty - I do worry about people breaking in, and this way we have house sitters, watering the plants and feeding the cats, and (hopefully) having a good holiday.

Would you fancy home exchanging?

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