Have you ever thought of house swapping? It can be a pretty daunting concept. Letting complete strangers into your house, while you take a giant leap of faith and move into someone else’s place!! I mean… will they be going through your undie drawer? What if ‘they’ belong to a strange sect and their friends keep turning up to convert you???
Yet holiday accommodation is so expensive and it can chew up most of the holiday budget. Services like AirBnB were once a cheap option, but now can be as expensive as commercial accommodation options. But the thought of being stuck at home and not getting away can be enough to send anyone rocking into a corner.
With all of this in mind – 6 months ago I ventured into the daunting world of ‘House Swapping’. With a limited budget and a family of 5 (7 if you count the cat and dog), we wanted to escape the Melbourne cold and head to the Sunshine Coast. (Actually – I would have considered anywhere where I could wear a tee-shirt). My girlfriend who had just moved from Noosa said she had a friend- ‘Jane’ who was keen to visit Melbourne. After a few texts and phone calls, a deal was done. Jane had: 3 kids… tick, 1 dog and cat that needed minding… tick, dates worked …tick, we both agree on no cupboard cleaning out, food to be left, restaurants recommended… TICK, TICK, TICK! Flights were booked and away we went. Her house was exactly as described and they were also thrilled with their ‘holiday digs’.
I never met Jane or her family, but we were in contact daily with news of pets or delivered parcels … or ‘where can I find…’? I joked that she was my ‘new BFF’.
The swap was a total success. It provided a cheap, convenient and great alternative to a cramped hotel room. We didn’t have to eat out for every meal as we had a fully functioning kitchen (and no need to buy additional condiments etc…) We knew exactly where to find the nearest supermarket and even the best places to park at the beach (vital info for Noosa). No pet was sent to an expensive boarding kennel and we returned without having to donate a kidney (or one of the children) to pay. Whooo Hoooo!
In saying this …I had tried expensive House-Swap agencies before, without one single successful swap. Knowing that the person I was swapping with was not a complete stranger and getting to know Jane before we swapped was undoubtedly the key to the success of our holiday arrangement.
So how can you make your first experience a success?
1. Be honest and transparent from the beginning.
Be upfront about the description and quality of the type of property you are offering. You need to make your rules and expectations very clear from the start. No-go Zones? Who pays what bills? Do you have pets? Gardens to be watered? Other chores that need to be done? Extra Insurance that needs to be bought and who coves breakages etc. (2dregreesaccommodation.com.au have proforma’s that can help these matters).
2. Be Flexible and open-minded about your destination.
Whilst you may be ‘holding out’ for a Villa in Thailand to come up, the house being offered in Perth may also provide an amazing holiday experience. (I’m usually up for any place warm)!!!
3. Treat their home as you would your own – if not better.
Make sure your house is spotless before you leave, and leave their hose in the same state. Some swappers like to organise cleaners after they leave as a part of the exchange.
4. Prepare Information for your Guests.
A list of: Favourite restaurants, places to visit, nearest transport, supermarkets, trusted babysitters and of course contacts should anything go wrong.
Meet via skype or phone prior to the swap to get to know one another and to ask any questions.
5. Choose a House-Swapping/Sitting site that offers a system you are comfortable with.
With the practice of Home-Swapping and Sitting skyrocketing in popularity in recent years – some estimate about 20 percent a year- there are many agencies to subscribe to. These usually have an annual subscription fee of $100+.
However, a new free service, 2 Degree’s of Accommodation, is a first in ‘Accommodation Networking’. It is a platform that enables the users to ‘house sit or swap’ with friends, and ‘friends of friends’ …for free. While traditional swap and rental agencies provide a platform to swap and rent houses between strangers, 2 Degrees of Accommodation gives participants the security of knowing that the person coming into their home is not a ‘complete’ stranger. Sign up today – What have you got to lose?