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What is a Housing Swap?

By O. Wallace
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Housing swaps are becoming very popular for people who want to travel, but want the comfort and convenience of staying at a private home. Because a housing swap is usually free, the price is a huge benefit as well. In this type of exchange, a person swaps her house with another person in an area she wishes to travel to. A housing swap is not limited to houses — condos and apartments, and even yachts and recreational vehicles (RVs) are exchanged as well. Anyone can participate in a housing swap, but it is often used by professors on sabbatical or summer break, retired people, professionals, and business owners.

In addition to a housing swap, or exchange, there are also hospitality exchanges in which people host guests in their home, then are hosted later in their guests’ home. This is a much more social arrangement that provides the opportunity to have a built-in tour guide if you’re lucky. Some people include their cars in the housing swap to sweeten the deal. For those interested in arranging a housing swap, there are websites that can facilitate the exchange for a yearly fee. Free sites like craigslist are a cheap alternative to home exchange sites, where you can list your home and hope to find a match on your own.

The benefits of a housing swap are obvious to many. It is free, allows for a better cultural experience, and is more flexible and private. Some to prefer to stay in a private home over a hotel because it is more comfortable and homier, and you can rest at ease knowing that someone is caring for your home while you’re away. A successful housing swap can result in a lifelong friendship with the owners of the swapped house, possibly paving the way for future opportunities.

Because you are putting your house at risk, there are some drawbacks to a housing swap. The exchange is built on mutual trust between strangers, sometimes thousands of miles apart. It is difficult to guarantee that the house you are interested in will be accurately described and that the person will care for your home while you’re away.

In your ad for a housing swap, be very descriptive about your home and neighborhood. Be sure to include the dates you’re interested in doing the exchange. Include information regarding transportation options, an inventory of the home, whether you allow smoking, and whether there is handicapped access, as well as photos of the house. Be sure to outline any responsibilities the guests may have, such as pets, household bills, emergency repairs, and insurance. Always write up and sign a written agreement outlining all of the expectations.

When you leave your house, make sure to leave specific instructions about the home and your expectations. Contact the post office to hold your mail and lock away or store any valuables. Make sure that all the bed linens and towels are clean and the house is tidy. Do any yard or exterior maintenance and pay last minute bills. It’s nice to leave a little welcome gift with information about the area and activities.

When you leave the host’s home, make sure to leave it in the same or better shape than it was in when you arrived. Clean up and launder the linens. It is also nice to leave a note with information about anything that may have transpired during your stay, along with a small thank you gift.

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Discussion Comments

By anon7206 — On Jan 20, 2008

If you are familiar with the New Act and penalty that's begun in NY, justifying Landlords' having to pay fees ranging from $800-$25,000 for running their apartment/s as hotels, due to threatening the Hospitality industry/city's economy- does it apply to those who are renting? Does a Renter who has entered a sublet clause into their lease also have this threat imposed upon them and ultimate disadvantage? Thanks!

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