What Are Home Exchanges and House Swaps?
Home exchanges (called "home swaps" or "house swaps" by Brits) are an increasingly popular, Web-sourced mode of luxury travel.
Home exchanges are an alternative to luxury hotels. Participants simply live in each other's home during their vacations.
Homes offered for exchange are situated all over the world, in classic vacation destinations like Paris and New York City, as well as in resort areas like Maui and Provence. The homes themselves are often quite spectacular: beach houses, country estates, city townhouses, lakeside chalets, architect-designed showplaces.
The Advantages of Home Exchanges Over Hotel Stays
Home swappers say they like this mode of travel because:
- First and foremost, home exchanges are frugal, saving swappers the cost of staying in hotels
- Home exchanges permit travelers to live like locals, in actual homes
- Homes are often situated in residential areas, not tourist ghettos
- Homes are typically more spacious and comfortable than hotel suites. They usually offer homey features like kitchens, laundry, ample closet space, cable or satellite TV, wi-fi, etc.
- Luxury homes on luxury home exchange sites often feature deluxe appointments like a workout area, media room, game room, library, pool, hot tub, cabana, garden or yard, terrace, patio, deck, etc.
Where Are the Exchange Homes Located?
Home exchanges can be found all over the world. But home exchanges are most popular in several countries that happen to be major travel destinations:
- The U.S.
- The U.K.
- New Zealand
How Home Exchanges and Home Swaps Work
Different home exchange and home swap sites may have different procedures, and they may be national, regional, or global. But most home exchange work this way:
- First, answer truthfully: Is my home nice enough to offer as vacation accommodations?
- If you live in a condo or development, make sure that home exchanges are OK
- Then you register your home -- with several photos -- on home-exchange sites such as HomeChicHome.com
- Registration is sometimes free, and sometimes the website charges a fee for listing. And home exchange arrangements are often free, but sometimes the site charges a fee
- The home exchange website may ask you for more house details and photos, and will either accept or nix your home
- Once your home photos and brief description are live on the home exchange site, other members of the site can contact you for a home exchange, and you can contact members
- When you're contacted, you look at the other home's listing; if you like what you see, you connect and collaboratively arrange your home exchange
- The home-exchange website does not act as a matchmaker; it is up to the site's members to find, pursue, and arrange their home exchange
- Home exchanges are usually simultaneous (meaning you switch homes at the same time). But some home swaps involve stays in each other's guest quarters while the host partner is there
- Usually, the two parties get to know each other well through emails, phone calls, and so on; this establishes warmth and trust
- The exchange parties discuss and set details like number of guests, pet stays, car/garage use, maid service, food and liquor use, etc.
- Before the home exchange occurs, each party prepares their home: they repair, clean, and organize, free up closet and drawer space, buy new bedsheets, make extra keys, and compose a "house book" of instructions, contacts, menus, etc.
How Do You Secure Your Home's Valuables in a House Exchange?
On the face of it, there would seem to be an inherent risk in home exchanges: how can you trust the people who stay in your home while you stay in theirs? "The solution is trust based on the relationship you've built," says Tony DiCaprio, who runs the luxury home exchange sites HomeChicHome.com and its more moderate counterpart, 1stHomeExchange.com.
"You and your home exchange partners get to know each other very well in the planning process. You come to feel like friends," says DiCaprio. "In my sites' thousands of home exchanges, we've never had a single issue with theft or serious damage."
"In fact," says DiCaprio, "it is very common for home exchange partners to fall in love with each other's homes, and the swap becomes an annual getaway."
Nevertheless, adds DiCaprio, "As in all travel we undertake, common sense applies. Home exchanges should be hassle-free and worry-free. So if there's something in your home that you'll worry about constantly while you're away, put it somewhere else during the swap."
Are Home Exchanges and Home Swaps Right For You?
The answer is probably yes if:
- You can afford hotel bills, but all the same you wouldn't mind not paying them
- You like making your own travel arrangements
- You like living like a local wherever you go, staying in and getting to know a residential neighborhood
- You'd wouldn't mind cooking for yourself occasionally on vacation
- You don't mind the idea of living in someone else's home -- sleeping in their bed and using their bathroom and kitchen
The answer is probably no if:
- You simply adore hotels: the adventure, the status, the conviviality, the pampering, the service
- You prefer to stay dead-center in your destination's tourism center, and not in a residential district
- You're uncomfortable with the idea of living in someone else's home and confronting their stuff
- You wouldn't want to do any work at all "staging" your home for your swapper, and spending time putting together a "house book" for your guests
- You don't want to fend for yourself where you stay, from lugging your own bags to stocking your fridge when you travel
Where to Find Out More About Home Exchanges and House Swaps
- Check out Tony DiCaprio's well-run luxury home exchange site, offering magnificent luxury houses all over the world, HomeChicHome.com
- Subscribe to HomeChicHome.com's free newsletter about home exchanges
- Read the whys, hows, and wheres of home exchanges in an informational website dedicated to the subject, Camago.com
- Take Camago.com's quiz, Are You Ready to House Swap?
Read about a leading luxury home exchange site that is completely free to use, HomeChicHome.com >>