The cost of a nice hotel and the expense of eating out three times a day is cost prohibitive for some people. Vacation time for them usually involves relaxing at home without setting an alarm clock and maybe taking a day trip or two around the local area.
If you are not locked into to a certain destination and you are open-minded about where you go, getting away for a while might not be as expensive as you think.
A growing trend is house swapping. It’s a matter of finding people in the same boat as you. They want to travel but their bank account has different ideas. If you like where they live, and likewise they like your area, trade houses. Forget about an expensive hotel, and because they’ll be a full kitchen, the exorbitant cost of eating out three times a day can be eliminated. You’ll spend no more on food than you would at home.
There are website where potential house swappers list where they wish to travel and which dates their home will be available. All you need to do is find a match, contact the homeowners, and swap keys. While they’re traveling your direction, you’ll be traveling their way. It’s that simple.
Of course, there are things to be considered prior to making this type of an arrangement. It’s important to know the ins and outs of such a program before committing to letting others invade the privacy of your home. If your comfort level is okay with considering doing this, travel experts agree this method is generally a pretty safe bet. Remember, whoever stays in your house will also be trusting you to leave theirs in the same shape you found it, so it works both ways. There must be mutual trust.
Here are some suggestions to assure things go smoothly.
Carefully Consider Which Housing Swap Website to Use
It would be best to shy away from free websites. Reputable sites charge a nominal annual fee to use their services. This a better guarantee that those who have registered are more legitimate and serious in their quest. Some paid sites will even show the history of those who have swapped houses previously so you can feel more comfortable knowing they have done this before with no issues. A bit of research will find the site that works best for you.
Homelink USA, a popular home swap site, said this, “We have home-exchange evaluation forms that we encourage our members to complete after every exchange, and we provide that information to members who request references. Members also often have their own stockpile of references from previous exchange partners.”
Options to Consider
There are other options in addition to taking over someone’s primary residence. Second homes such a vacation cottage on a lake or a cabin in the mountains are also listed as being available, and it is not unusual for people to swap these out with one another. It’s very similar to swapping a timeshare room but because these vacation homes are 100% the property of the owner, they have more than one week a year and can swap as many times as they like.
Another option is to actually stay in someone else’s house as a guest while they are still there. Similarly to Airbnb offerings, some members of these house swapping sites offer spare rooms for travelers, especially for those traveling solo. If you don’t mind making some new friends while staying under their roof, there are usually plenty of possibilities for doing so, and likewise, if you don’t mind putting a stranger up for a few days you just might find their company enjoyable.
Iron Out the Details
When making contact with someone, or if they reach out to you, make certain the details of the swap are ironed out ahead of time. Will you leave food in the refrigerator for them? Will you have your home professionally cleaned before they arrive, and vice-versa? How will the exchange of keys be made? What day will they arrive and when will they leave. Nobody wants to arrive home and find their guests still sacked out on their sofa watching football, or arriving before the designated day when they’re still packing for their trip. Be clear and concise.
Allow plenty of time
Don’t wait until the last minute to make arrangements. Unlike a hotel where you can make reservations at any time, house swapping takes a little more planning. If you’re planning on going to a major event such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, advanced planning is paramount. For situations like this, it is recommended to begin your search at least 90 days in advance.
It is also recommended to allow 90 days to six-months if international travel is involved. This does not usually present a problem as most travelers leaving the U.S. for Europe and other far-off destinations know well in advance when they will be going. Seldom does anyone jet off to parts unknown on the spur of the moment.
Is it Safe? Really?
Once again quoting Homelink USA, “HomeLink is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. In all of the years we’ve been in business, there’s never been a case of reported theft or vandalism. In the end, they’re staying in your home and you’re staying in theirs, so mutual trust is fundamental.”
If you have valuables that are irreplaceable and you just cannot muster up the confidence level to leave them sitting out, it’s advisable to either lock them up or leave them with a friend or relative while you are gone.
Many house swappers have an extra car they will throw into the package and it has become a fairly common practice. This saves travelers money since there is no need to pay for a rental car. Be sure to check with your insurance company about coverage for you and your house-trading partners.
If you’re looking to save money this vacation, and who isn’t, consider this popular method of trading houses. It’s worked for thousands and it can work for you.