If 2020 was the year of lockdown and 2021 was the year of stay, then surely 2022 is the ‘Get Me Outta Here’ year.
With overseas vacations, and even vacations at home so expensive, especially for accommodations, many people are turning to the home swap again. This would have been unimaginable during Covid, but is seeing a resurgence in popularity.
For some, the thought of a stranger living in your house when you live in theirs is terrifying. For others, it’s a great way to vacation abroad cheaply. There are many agencies that 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. According to www.lovehomeswap.com, one of the global agencies, swapping a four-bedroom house in Dublin to an Italian villa can save €2,160 a week. Young children or even teenagers can find it difficult to move around in hotel rooms or try to source large self-catering accommodations at a resort. The hassle of house-to-house takes away – you’re especially looking for families like yours to swap.
The house will have toys, books and a stocked kitchen just like you. There is also a garden if you wish.
You might believe that anyone who owns a home in Florida, Tuscany or Marbella would not be remotely interested in vacationing in Balbrigan or Ballinaslo, but you would be wrong. Irish destinations are very popular, and there are hundreds of homes listed.
Given the virtual ban on Airbnb and other short-term perks, even in urban areas, it’s not a violation of the law to do a home swap, as no money changes hands. You are simply engaging in a barter, so there is no tax implication either.
how it works
This is often a good place to start with an agency to keep everything above board. You have set up an account with Photo ID and it is verified. You pay a fee to join and browse (usually €9-€15 per month; higher fees are for more prominent advertising and a vacation manager) and most let you visit as often as you want.
You decide where you want to go, and wait for a match. It’s like Tinder for homes.
The most common model is a direct, or ‘mutual’ swap. Your home for them for the scheduled dates. You must leave when they want to go on holiday, so it’s restrictive.
There are ‘Guest Point’ (GP) exchanges with some agencies. Especially homeexchange.com where you want to live in another member’s house, but they don’t want to live in yours. You can offer them exchange points that they can use to live elsewhere.
“So, for example”, the company says, “you and your family go on a six-night vacation to France and stay at another member’s house for 100 gp per night. You pay your host 600 for this vacation. Will give GPs. Your host can use these 600 GPs to organize their vacation.
At the luxury end of the scale, www.thirdhome.com has top-end properties in a surprising number of locations, but keep in mind, they test you out, too, and homes typically “range in price from $1m-$50m”.
Cleaning! Home invasion! For some families it may be too much to think about. Yes, of course you have to offer (and leave) a home that’s clean, but no one on Home Exchange expects a professional, sterile Airbnb-style product. This is a working family home, so a clean kitchen, fresh bedding and clean space are needed. You build relationships with your guests before you swap, so you can find out as much as you want to know. Lock up valuables, and remember, you’re in their house, too. This is a two way deal.
Trust is at the heart of the system. The best advice is to talk to someone who has done this through an agency.
Build a relationship with the homeowner – you’ll 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 other people.
Take sensible precautions about your belongings. Use Google Maps Street View to see where you’re going. What would you do if it were a private Airbnb?
You can arrange with your exchange partner to care for your pet during the exchange, if they are happy to do so. Home4Home.ie allows you to filter for pet-friendly accommodations if you want to bring your pet with you to another home in Ireland.
It’s very important to inform your insurance company of House Exchange, says Jonathan Hehir, MD, of Insuremyhouse.ie.
“This is not a black-and-white issue and will ultimately come down to which insurer has your policy. Some simply will not cover this scenario, while others will consider it on a case-by-case basis. If you win may not be covered, you may need to reconsider your plans, or consider switching to another provider before moving to a home. For those who fail to do so, may find themselves in financial hot water in the event of a claim.”
Tips for a Successful Home Exchange
- Correspondence through agency’s website. No money changes hands except agent fees. If you need to provide cash for extras — such as pet food or window cleaning — do so through PayPal.
- Honesty is the best policy when it comes to describing your property and respecting your home.
- Offer exterior and interior photos, and list distances to the nearest town or city. Suggest the use of local public transportation services, or the family bicycle.
- Floors and rooms should be cleaned with fresh bedding and towels, fridges should be emptied and bathrooms should be sparkling clean.
- Rejected, rather than sterile, the goal is to look for it. Free up enough space in wardrobes and cupboards, but you don’t have to get rid of all your clothes. Lock up valuables, or leave them with a family member.
- Compile a folder showing instructions for things like appliances, alarms, plant care, and bin collection. Phone numbers for takeaways, restaurants and emergency services would be appreciated.
- Leave a number to contact a family member in case of emergency.
- Tell your neighbors about the arrangement! You don’t want a well-engaged body calling out to Gardai because they think someone is breaking into your house.
- Agencies include www.lovehomeswap.com, www.homeexchange.com, www.home4home.ie and www.homelink.ie.