If 2020 was the year of lockdown and 2021 was the year of stay, then surely 2022 is the year of Get Me Outta Here.
Because holidays abroad and even holidays at home are so expensive, especially for accommodation, many people are turning back to home swapping. It would have been unthinkable during Covid but is enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
For some, the idea of a stranger living in your home while you stay in theirs is terrifying. For others, it’s a fantastic way to cheaply vacation abroad. There are a number of agencies that promote home exchanges (see below) and their users are certainly fans. Here’s what you need to know:
There are two main reasons for this: cost savings and larger families. Swapping a four bedroom home in Dublin could save €2,160 over a week in an Italian villa, according to www.lovehomeswap.com, one of the global agencies. It can be difficult to leave young children or even teenagers hanging around in hotel rooms or trying to find larger self-catering accommodation at a resort. A second home takes the stress out of you — you’re specifically looking for families like yours to swap with.
The house has toys, books and a well equipped kitchen just like yours. There is also a garden if you want one.
You may think that nobody who owns a home in Florida, Tuscany or Marbella would be remotely interested in vacationing in Balbriggan or Ballinasloe, but you would be wrong. Irish destinations are very popular and there are hundreds of homes listed.
Given the de facto ban on Airbnb and other short-term rentals, home swapping is not against the law even in urban areas, as no money is changing hands. You are simply participating in a barter transaction, so there are no tax implications either.
How it works
It’s often a good place to start with an agency to keep everything overboard. You set up an account with photo ID and are verified. You pay a fee to join and browse (typically €9-15 per month; the higher fees apply to more prominent advertising and a holiday manager) and most let you travel as often as you like.
You decide where to go and wait for a match. It’s like Tinder for houses.
The most common model is a direct or “reciprocal” exchange. Your home for them on set dates. They have to go on holiday if they want to go on holiday, so it’s restrictive.
There are ‘Guest Point’ (GP) exchanges with certain agencies. Specifically, homeexchange.com, where you want to stay at another member’s home, but they don’t want to stay at yours. You can offer them exchangeable points to stay elsewhere.
“So, for example,” says the company, “you take your family to France for six nights and stay with another member for 100 GPs a night. You would give your host 600 GPs for this holiday. Your hosts can use these 600 GPs to organize their vacation.
At the luxury end of the scale, www.thirdhome.com has prime properties in stunning locations, but remember they review yours too, and homes are typically “worth between $1 million and $50 million.”
The cleaning! The Home Invasion! For some families, it can all be too much to think about. Yes, of course you need to present (and leave) a clean and tidy home, but nobody expects a professional, sterile, Airbnb-style product when they do a home exchange. It’s a working family home so a clean kitchen, fresh linens and free space is all that is needed. You build a relationship with your guests before you trade so you can find out as much as you need to know. Lock away valuables and remember that you are in her house too. It’s a two way deal.
Trust is at the heart of the arrangement. The best advice is to speak through an agency with someone who has done this.
Build a relationship with the homeowner – They will email to discuss details such as children’s rooms, local amenities and distances from local attractions. Share your plans and you will find that most people are like most other people.
Take sensible precautions about your belongings. Use Google Maps Street View to see where you are going. Do what you would do if it were a private Airbnb.
You can arrange with your exchange partner to take care of your pets during the exchange if they are happy to do so. Home4Home.ie allows you to filter for pet-friendly accommodation if you want to take your pets to another home in Ireland.
Jonathan Hehir, Managing Director of Insuremyhouse.ie says it is very important to inform your insurance company about the home exchange.
“This is not a black and white issue and ultimately depends on which insurer you have your policy with. Some simply don’t cover this scenario, while others consider it on a case-by-case basis. If you don’t have insurance, you may have to reconsider your plans or switch to another provider before exchanging your home – if you don’t do this, you could find yourself in financial difficulties in the event of a claim.”
Tips for a successful home exchange
- Correspond through the agency’s website. Except for the brokerage fee, no money changes hands. If you need to provide cash for extras like pet food or window cleaning, do it through Paypal.
- Honesty is the best guideline when it comes to describing your property and treating your home with respect.
- Offer external and internal photos and list distances from the nearest city. Suggest public transport or the use of family bikes.
- Floors and rooms should be cleaned with fresh linens and towels, fridge emptied and bathrooms sparkling clean.
- The desired look is tidy instead of sterile. Make enough space in closets and closets, but you don’t have to part with all your own clothes. Lock valuables away or leave them with a family member.
- Create a folder with instructions for things like appliances, the alarm, plant care, and garbage collection. Phone numbers for takeaways, restaurants, and emergency services are appreciated.
- Leave a phone number where a family member can be contacted in an emergency.
- Tell your neighbors about the rule! You don’t want a well-meaning busy worker calling the gardaí because they think someone is breaking into your home.
- Agencies include www.lovehomeswap.com, www.homeexchange.com, www.home4home.ie and www.homelink.ie
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