Wednesday, August 5, 2009

House Swapping Checklist

~ This is the fifth in an occasional series of articles about house swapping your home with another family, thereby making the most of your travel experience in another city or country. The first article was House Swaps: The Practical Way To Go; the second article, House Swapping for Seniors, provided practical advice for that age specific group of travellers; the third House Swapping for a Better World discussed how this concept can help break down barriers between different nationalities and cultures; and the fourth article House Swapping for Families discussed how families as a whole can benefit from exchanging homes with other families. These blog entries are sourced from, and used with the permission of the Aussie House Swap website.

Here are some suggestions for making your house swapping experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

1. Give yourself time to organise everything

Don't expect to go online and immediately find the ideal house swap at the perfect location and the exact time to fit in with your plans. Realistically, it may take some discussion to and fro as to possible dates, and people may be willing to fit in with you but have to change some other arrangements to make things work. This all takes time.

However, it must be said, there are many experienced and first-time swappers who have organised their house swap within a few days of the exchange commencement date. This suits some but it is best to allow yourself a few months to make sure you get everything right.

2. Don't just list, then sit back and wait

You'll have a far better chance of finding a suitable swap if you take the initiative and contact some people, than you will if you just sit back and wait for responses. This may be obvious, but it bears remembering. Finding a suitable house swap does take some effort on your part.

3. Flexibility is important

Realise that it won't necessarily be easy to find a swap for the exact time and location you want. Therefore it's best to be a bit flexible, and stay open to what's available at your ideal time, or to alternative times when your ideal swap may become available.

Here's another option for you to think about: non-concurrent swaps. This means that a swap partner stays in your home when you're away, but you're not able to simultaneously swap with them. For example, you may go interstate or cross the Tasman for a wedding or a special birthday. By extending your stay, it may be possible for your swap partner to come at that time. Or you may even arrange to house sit for a third party, leaving your place empty.

Either way, your house is vacant at a time to suit your swap partner, but it's not possible or not convenient for you to go to their place at that time. So your partner visits and stays at your place, and then at a later time when they're away doing something else, you stay in their home.

You can even arrange for a simultaneous, three-way swap. In other words, A goes to B's place, B goes to C's place, and C goes to A's place, all on the same day and for the same period of time. This may take some arranging, but we know of an instance where it happened amongst our swappers.

4. Ask lots of questions

Gather as much information as you can from your swap partner. Put together a list of questions on things which may cause you to think twice, or even abort a swap. For example, would be prepared to swap with a smoker? Do you need an Internet connection? Are you allergic to cats? Do you find it impossible to sleep near a railway line, or an airport? What size beds do they have? Do you hate waterbeds?

Are you interested in swapping cars? Is your (or their) Mercedes off-limits? Ditto each of your desktop computers?

5. Sort out the details

Here's a good practice: put it in writing. Get agreement on each party's expectations of the other, including any specific inclusions or exclusions (e.g. they can use the Ford, but not the Mercedes). Decide how the utility bills will be split. Then write it down — in either a hard copy agreement, or an exchange of emails.

6. Check your insurance

In most cases, house swappers are each other's guests. Check with your insurer to ensure you're covered for the normal risks while they're in residence and you're away. (This is usually the case, but don't leave it to chance!)

If you're going to allow your visitors to drive your car, and you'll be driving theirs, it's basic common sense to know exactly what is covered in both cases. Does a nominated party have to drive in order to maintain cover? Does the driver have to be over a certain age? (For example, you may not be covered if your teenage son is driving your swap partner's car.) What's the excess, in case of an accident? Who has to pay it?

7. Clean up your house, yard and pool

Since the launch of Aussie House Swap in 2003 we have received less than two complaints each year regarding someone's house swap experience. Out of these few complaints they have nearly all been cleanliness issue and could have been resolved easily with good communication.

If you want things to be in a clean and tidy state when you return home, you need to have them looking that way before you leave. Don't leave a mess, or a half-done job, and expect to come home to a manicured lawn, a trimmed garden, a spotless pool and a professionally-cleaned house.

It may happen, because some people are very finicky that way. However, you can't expect it if you don't set the example before you leave. Besides, it's a matter of common courtesy to tidy up before guests arrive.

We have swappers who pay for a cleaner to come in to clean their house before they head off for that swap, and many also organise one for when they vacate their swap partners house. A very small cost if you're not into cleaning and want to spend your time on other, nicer, things!

8. Pets

Remember that your house exchange partner is on holiday and the thought of feeding, walking and/or grooming the dogs may not be their idea of relaxing. If you are pet swapping too (caring for each others pets) while on the swap then it's usually fine but if you have a pet and are thinking of leaving it at home but your swap partner isn't please be considerate. Try and arrange a friend or family member to look after it.

If you have agreed to pet care, ask your neighbours to look in on them and (if necessary) feed them after you've gone, in case your swap partners are late in arriving. They can then introduce themselves, which will mean that your guests will start out knowing at least one person or couple right from the time of their arrival.

9. A warm welcome

Why not leave your guests a bottle of wine and some nice cheese in the fridge, with a note on the door explaining where the water crackers are kept? Or if you know they're teetotallers, swap the wine and cheese for a caddy of Twinnings tea and a good brand of coffee, and perhaps some special biscuits. And don't forget to leave some fresh milk!

10. Detailed instructions

You'll probably have explained various routines and preferences over the phone and by email, well before your guests arrive. However, we highly recommend using our Handy House Swap Form found in the menu on the Aussie House Swap website.

This will help inform your guests where things are kept, list important phone numbers, explain how the TV, air conditioning and so forth work, and remind them of any peculiarities they need to know about.

You can also list recommended restaurants and attractions, and write down any other local knowledge you think they should have. (E.g. "Rusty's allowed to sleep on the lounge, but don't forget to let him out first"; or "Must book! Best steak in town.")

For more information…

Please visit our website. There is a considerable amount of information available. If you can't find what you are looking for then please contact us.

How much does it cost?

Aussie House Swap membership is only $65 per year! However, if you do not manage to house swap in your first year we will give you another 12 months membership absolutely free! This is our guarantee to you! For $65 (less than the cost of one nights motel accommodation) you can make as many house swaps as you like within your 12 months.

Article courtesy of Aussie House Swap website. Like our Partner site, Home Away, Aussie House Swap gives you the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home, while they stay in yours.

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