How To Swap Your Home While On Vacation

You live in “The 805”, but could have a flat in London, penthouse in New York and a chateau in Switzerland – if you’re a home swapper. Just as you’re yearning for an urban get-away, someone else wants a suburban excursion (especially here since we are close to Los Angeles, the beach and central coast wine tasting), so do it at half the cost by trading places for free.

Since the 1950s, house swapping’s popularity has grown, especially in this recession up 25% since 2008. In fact, the average traveler saves $1,500 a week in a house swap as opposed to renting accommodations while on holiday. Pro: House swappers immerse themselves in the culture and often visit areas not discovered by tourists staying at a hotel. Con: A maid won’t come to freshen up the place; room service can’t bring that forgotten toothbrush; and the concierge doesn’t inform you of the one-night only event in town.

Here’s how it works: 1) you list your home online, for about $150, with a house-exchange service 2) find your dream swap – could be a condo, villa, or a single family home – where you want to vacation 3) make the trade. Of course it’s not quite that simple; there’s much to know before putting out the welcome mat.

Know your Swap Options

  • Traditional – each swap partner trades and vacations at the same time
  • Non-simultaneous – one or both homeowners have more than one residence , so each trades at their own convenience
  • Hospitality – each swap partner takes turns and vacations while the homeowner is there. Nice if you prefer to not leave your home unattended, but not so much if it means acting at their tour guide.

Know your Swap Value

Trading up from a modest apartment to a four-bedroom penthouse isn’t likely. The easiest swaps will be with residents similar to your own – like a single family for a beach house or town house for a villa; and it’s a common practice to trade down for popular destinations like Hawaii, Paris and New York City. But just like timeshares or vacation rentals, if you plan ahead and put your request in early, you could land a swapping good deal – especially if you vacation off-season.

Know your “Swapee”

For a swap match made in heaven, minimize the conflict. Document swap expectations and investigate their swap reputation.

  • Are amenities like golf, community pool and tennis courts included? Are pets allowed? Do both parties have sufficient homeowner’s insurance? Are other visitors allowed in the home? What housekeeping is expected? Reputable home exchange companies will provide agreement letter templates for your reference.
  • Statistics show that it’s the white-collar professionals who are making house swapping the wave of the future, but nonetheless, screen them thoroughly and check with their previous home-swapping partners. Again, credible home-swap companies can help you with this.

Home swapping isn’t for everyone, but those that do continue to enjoy less expensive vacations in dream destinations!