Would you allow a stranger to stay in your home – when you aren’t there? That’s home swapping and when I first heard about the idea I cringed. Maybe you do too.
But the truth is that in the golden age of frugality, home swapping for vacations can be a smart idea. This is especially true if you are going on an extended trip to one location where housing expense really adds up. Here’s how to leverage this idea while protecting your property at the same time.
What is home swapping?
Basically it is allowing another person or family to occupy your home while you occupy theirs. When you make this exchange you not only save a fortune on hotels or rent. You also get to live in a local neighborhood rather than a tourist trap. That experience can really add a lot of value to your trip.
Is it safe?
If you take the proper precautions, it is. First, when you find a candidate (I’ll tell you how to find people to swap with in a minute), start a dialogue. Exchange a few emails and phone calls. Don’t be afraid to ask for personal and professional references as well. And if the other party has already done exchanges in the past, ask to speak to the hosting party.
At the same time, check with your own homeowners insurance carrier to make sure the visitors will be covered while they are in your home.
Finally, it is a good idea to lock up your valuables and important documents. I would not recommend allowing others to use your computers either. In the day and age of laptops, this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.
Who is this a good fit for?
The typically exchanges are for short periods of time – maybe a few weeks at most. If you are going to the new location for a longer period, don’t be afraid to give this a try but don’t be frustrated either. There are more people who travel for short periods of time than those who take extended trips. It may be hard to find a match for your extended trip.
How do you find good home exchange partners?
This is of course the $64,000 question. There are three possibilities.
1. Sign up with a service.
There are a number of companies who will charge you a monthly fee in order to register. This may not be a bad idea but before you plunk down any money, make sure they offer value. Most will allow you to see basic information about the homes they have available in your destination city. If they have no listings, they probably aren’t going to be of any help to you.
When in doubt I always turn to Craigslist. They have a section for housing swaps and this just may do the trick for you. Of course you will need proper rental agreements. You can still go to those pay sites. Some display those documents on the home page even if you haven’t signed up and paid for their service.
3. Craigslist Part II
As you can imagine, the pool of people who may need your home at exactly the same time that you need their home is limited. This may not be a problem if you live in Manhattan or Paris. But if you live in Bakersfield or Barstow, the housing market may be a bit tough.
Remember that your goal is to have a quality person staying in your home and providing the means for you to stay in a home in another location for no or little cost. That being the case, you can always rent your home out for a limited time and use the proceeds to pay for your vacation housing.
Again, I’d look to Craigslist for some assistance. They also have a section for short-term rentals and sublets. It costs you nothing to place an ad and it will take you all of 5 minutes to do.
While I would never have considered this process in the past, it’s something I’ll definitely do next time I travel with my family.
Have you ever exchanged your home with another person or family? How did it work out? Where you surprised by anything? What was it? Would you do it again?