This summer we’re going on a home exchange to… Florence! We are very excited about it. I have been to Florence a few times but only on fleeting visits, which is a real shame considering how beautiful it is. So we though that a home exchange could be the perfect way to have a taste of it as real ‘locals’.
We went on our first exchange last year and it was so successful that it is now our favourite way to travel. I love the philosophy behind the home exchange idea and I love the feeling of belonging/not belonging that you have when you live in a house abroad. But going on an exchange does require a little more than renting a flat, so I thought I would share my
top tips for a successful home exchange
that I think can be useful to make the absolute most of the experience. If you have anything you want to add, please let me know in the comments: lists are better if collaborative!
1. Choose a reliable home exchange provider. There are many providers on he web, with different price ranges, services and number of users and it’s definitely worth to do your homework before joining up. A home exchange is based on mutual trust, but the system can protect you: the ability to see reviews of previous exchanges, report problems and sign a standard agreement are a huge element to minimise the chances of things going wrong. We used www.homeexchange.com and can’t praise them enough.
2. Communicate with your host and guest as much as possible. Home exchange websites have a built-in emailing system and my advice is: use it! You don’t have to become best friends with the people you are exchanging with, but the more you know about them, their house and their expectations over yours, the higher the chances of a satisfying exchange. If you do become friends with them, even better!
3. Pay attention to the photos. When you look at the photos of the house you’re considering, make sure you do not make assumptions about its size, layout etc. and ask if you have any doubts. The most accurate photo will not fully portray a house so anything that is important to you, just flag it. To give you an example: we are going to a house with amazing balconies, but we have kids and worried about their safety. Only speaking with the owners about our concern helped us get over the worry and we got good tips on how to keep the kids safe.
4. Research the area and if you have any concerns: voice them
5. Make an extra effort to leave your house clean, tidy and overall in good condition. You know that small repair or painting job you keep meaning to take care of? Before a home exchange could be the perfect time to do it. You don’t have to renovate your house or spend loads of money, but do look at your house with the eyes of a guest and see if there is any easy improvement you can make.
6. Make space in the wardrobe, so your guests don’t have to live out of their suitcase.
7. Leave a small manual about your house with emergency phone numbers, appliances manuals etc. Also, prepare a small map of the area marking the closest supermarket, pharmacy, off licence, gp etc. If you can, get some free tourist maps/leaflet from the local tourist office
8. Leave some supplies for the first day of your guests. You don’t have to do this, but I feel making sure your guests have at least some bread, milk, a list of take outs/home deliveries and toilet paper makes their arrival day so much better.
9. Store all very personal stuff: if there is anything you’d rather not share with your guests, put it away. From bank statement, to work contracts or personal photos, make it easy for everyone and store them so that they will not accidentally fall out/get ruined. Even just a locked drawer can be enough: a respectful home exchanger will not snoop around for personal stuff!
10. Tell your neighbours about the exchange and make sure you leave spare keys with a friend: chances are your guests won’t need either but I think it’s reassuring to know there is someone local to rely on.
11. Last and not least: relax! Opening your home to someone you don’t know can feel strange, but the rewards are worth it.
Have you been on a home exchange or would you consider it? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!
Intrigued and want to know more? Click on the photo and to the lovely folks at homeeschange.com: they even havea live chat!!