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The Rise of House Swapping as a Vacation Option

How to prepare your home if you choose to exchange with guests

Person exchanging keys with another.

LordRunar/Getty Images

En español | Want to spend your next vacation at a sprawling country estate, a chic town house or even a historic castle — for practically nothing? You could if you swapped your home. About 50 home-exchange networks will connect you with other swappers for an annual fee that can range from $60 to $150. The best part: That's your only expense. You hang out at someone else's house while another person stays in yours, with no rental fees.

Home-swapping services became more popular during the pandemic because of hotel safety concerns, and advocates hope the trend sticks. One network, Love Home Swap, which lists 18,000 houses in 106 countries, saw a 282 percent increase in membership last year compared to 2019. “Staying in a private environment that you can control has been a big driver,” says managing director Celia Pronto. Plus, “people wanting to move to a new neighborhood [are using] home swapping to try it out.”

Such arrangements have always been especially popular among retirees, who typically have more free time. “Many do 100 nights a year,” says Emmanuel Arnaud, CEO of a service called Home Exchange. Best of all, “you can discover a new place through the eyes of the people who live there,” he adds.

But remember, to get this lodging deal, you're required to offer your home to someone else. Here's how to prep your place before turning over the keys.

  • Deep clean. Supply fresh linens and towels, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels.
  • Secure valuables in a locked closet or room. Clear some space in closets and drawers so guests don't have to live out of their suitcases.
  • Leave a welcome note with instructions about appliances, trash pickup, spare keys, laundry, the security system, thermostats, the Wi-Fi password, your policy on smoking and emergency contacts.
  • Create a guide with recommendations for nearby shopping, dining and other activities.
  • Clear out the fridge except for condiments and staples. Pronto recommends stocking such basics as milk, coffee and tea, so guests have these upon arriving. “Some people leave a meal ready for guests or a welcome bottle of wine,” Arnaud says.
  • Make sure your home insurance covers a swap.
  • Be thoughtful. “If the weather is rainy, I leave umbrellas out,” Arnaud adds. “Any small gesture counts.”
  • Communicate thoroughly in advance, to set expectations. “Let your guests know what's included and what you would like them to do,” such as watering the plants or caring for pets, Pronto says.

“Staying in a private environment that you can control has been a big driver,” says managing director Celia Pronto. Plus, “people wanting to move to a new neighborhood [are using] home swapping to try it out.”


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