If 2020 was the year of lockdown and 2021 the year of the staycation, then surely 2022 is the ‘Get Me Outta Here’ year.
ut with foreign holidays, and even holidays at home so expensive, especially for accommodation, many people are turning again to home swaps. It would have been unthinkable during Covid, but is seeing a resurgence in popularity.
For some, the idea of a stranger living in your home while you stay in theirs, is horrific. For others, it’s a fantastic way to holiday abroad cheaply. There are a number of agencies which promote home exchange (see below) and their users are certainly fans. Here’s what you need to know:
Why do it?
Essentially, there are two reasons: cost savings and larger families. Swapping a four-bedroom home in Dublin could save €2,160 on a week in an Italian villa, according to www.lovehomeswap.com, one of the global agencies. Having small children or even teenagers hanging around in hotel rooms or trying to source larger self-catering accommodation in a resort can be difficult. A home-from-home takes away the hassle – you’re specifically searching for families like yours to swap with.
The house will have toys, books and a stocked kitchen, just like yours. There’s a garden too, if you want one.
You may believe nobody who owns a home in Florida, Tuscany or Marbella would be remotely interested in holidaying in Balbriggan or Ballinasloe, but you’d be wrong. Irish destinations are very popular, and there are hundreds of homes listed.
Given the virtual ban on Airbnb and other short-term lets, swapping a home doesn’t fall foul of the law, even in urban areas, because no money changes hands. You’re simply engaging in a barter, so there’s no tax implication either.
How it works
It is often a good place to start with an agency to keep everything above board. You set up an account, with photo ID and are vetted. You pay a fee to join and browse (typically €9-€15 per month; the higher fees are for more prominent advertising and a holiday manager) and most let you travel as often as you wish.
You decide where you want to go, and wait for a match. It’s like Tinder for houses.
The most common model is a straight, or ‘reciprocal’ swap. Your home for theirs for set dates. You must holiday when they want to holiday, so it is restrictive.
There are ‘Guest Point’ (GP) exchanges with certain agencies. Notably homeexchange.com where you want to stay in another member’s home, but they don’t want to stay at yours. You can offer them exchangeable points they can use to stay elsewhere.
“So, for example”, says the company, “you and your family go on a six-night vacation to France and stay at another member’s home for 100 GPs per night. You would give your host 600 GPs for this vacation. Your host can use these 600 GPs to organise their vacation.
At the luxury end of the scale, www.thirdhome.com has top-end properties in stunning locations, but bear in mind, they vet yours too, and homes are typically “in a value ranging from $1m-$50m”.
The cleaning! The home invasion! It can all be too much to contemplate for some families. Yes, of course you have to present (and leave) a home which is clean and tidy, but nobody on a home exchange expects a professional, sterile Airbnb-style product. It’s a working family home, so a clean kitchen, fresh bedlinen and clear space is all that’s needed. You build a relationship with your guests before you swap, so you can find out as much as you need to know. Lock away valuables, and remember, you’re in their home too. It’s a two-way deal.
Trust is at the centre of the arrangement. The best advice is to talk to someone who has done this, via an agency.
Build a relationship with the home owner – you’ll be emailing to discuss details like kids’ rooms, local amenities and distances from local attractions. Share your plans and you’ll find most people are like most other people.
Take sensible precautions about your belongings. Use Google Maps street view to look at where you’re going. Do what you would do if it was a private Airbnb.
You can arrange with your exchange partner to look after your pets during the exchange, if they are happy to do this. Home4Home.ie allows you filter for pet-friendly accommodation if you want to bring your pets with you to another home in Ireland.
Jonathan Hehir, MD of Insuremyhouse.ie, says informing your insurance company of the house exchange is very important.
“This is not a black and white issue and will ultimately come down to which insurer you have your policy with. Some simply won’t cover this scenario, while others will consider it on a case-by-case basis. If you won’t be covered then you might have to rethink your plans, or consider switching to another provider in advance of the house swap. Those who fail to do this could find themselves in financial hot water in the event of a claim.”
Tips for a successful home exchange
- Correspond via the agency website. No money changes hands, except for the agent’s fee. If you need to provide cash for extras – such as pet food or window cleaning – do so via Paypal.
- Honesty is the best policy in terms of describing your property and being respectful of your home.
- Offer external and internal photographs, and list the distances from the nearest town or city. Suggest local public transport services, or the use of family bicycles.
- Floors and rooms should be cleaned with fresh bedlinen and towels, fridge emptied and bathrooms sparkling.
- Decluttered, rather than sterile is the look to aim for. Clear enough space in wardrobes and cupboards, but you don’t have to get rid of all your own clothing. Lock away valuables, or leave with a family member.
- Compile a folder showing instructions for things like appliances, the alarm, plant care and bin collections. Phone numbers of takeaways, restaurants and emergency services will be appreciated.
- Leave a number for a family member to be contacted in case of emergency.
- Tell your neighbours about the arrangement! You don’t want a well-meaning busy-body calling the gardaí because they think someone is breaking in to your house.
- Agencies include www.lovehomeswap.com, www.homeexchange.com, www.home4home.ie and www.homelink.ie
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