Estimated Read: 5 minutes
Not all people like the anonymity of hotels. Luckily, there is a new, exciting way to travel. Welcome to the world of house swapping.
What is a house swap?
The concept of a house swap holiday is simple. You swap houses with another interested party, go on holiday and avoid the hassle of using hotels. Not only does this add a unique twist to your usual holidaying experience, house swapping may make you see travel in a different way.
In addition to being unique, there are some advantages to be had over your usual hotel experience, including:
No hotel fees. You could potentially save £1,000s in accommodation costs.
If the house you are staying in is in a local setting, you may get a more local, authentic experience rather than living in an anonymous hotel that is in a popular tourist area.
There is a growing global community of house swappers. Get involved, make new friends and have fun!
You may also want to consider the potential downsides of doing a house swap:
❌ At the time of writing, the websites that facilitate house swaps do not verify the houses themselves. You will have to rely on your own judgement to make sure the experience goes well.
❌ You may need to do more research than is typically involved in booking a hotel. You will need to establish if the property is suitable, establish a relationship with the other house swapper and set up ground rules.
❌ Unlike some package holidays, there is no industry regulator to protect you if something goes wrong during your holiday.
How does a house swap work?
1. Find a website
To begin with, you will need to find somewhere to facilitate your house swap. There are plenty of established websites that allow you to do this if you search online. One of the benefits of using specific house swap websites is that they are already established communities. You can use their knowledge to make sure your experience goes smoothly and search for reviews of properties that you are looking to stay in. You could also consider using online advertisements or social media to reach out to people that could be interested. Doing so comes with its own risks as you will not have access to the infrastructure that house swap websites can provide.
2. List your property online.
Once you have decided how to do your house swap, you will need to create your online listing. Make sure your house is tidy and take photos with good lighting so that your property stands out. You will also need to create a description for your listing. It helps to be detailed in your description and make sure you mention any unique features. Potential house swappers may also be interested in any local information specific to your area.
3 . Find someone to swap with.
If you have settled on a particular house, you will need to reach out to the person that owns it. The other person could potentially be staying in your home so make sure that you establish a good relationship. If either of you have any specific requirements (e.g. looking after pets, putting the bins out for collection or paying for bills), make sure you both establish these early. Setting ground rules are essential to avoiding mishaps or falling out later on.
4 . Check your insurance.
If you have read our house swap guide to insurance, you may be aware that most home insurers do not provide adequate cover for house swaps. Check with your home insurer before you agree to swap. You may need to get additional cover elsewhere (more on this below).
5 . Agree your swap.
Once everything is established, agree a date and time and confirm everything in writing. Communication is essential and it is important that you keep talking up to the point of exchange. House swap websites recommend that you keep conversations online so that there is a record in case something goes wrong.
6 . Enjoy your holiday!
You have done the hard part so now it is time to enjoy your holiday. If you have established a good relationship with your fellow house swapper, you will hopefully have gleaned some useful local knowledge to maximise your experience. You may also pick up some new friends along the way!
Key house swap tips
Consider potential website costs. Whilst you will avoid the cost of hiring a hotel, you may want to factor in the costs of using different house swap websites to know if you are getting a good deal.
Is the house and location suitable for your needs? If you are used to staying in hotels whilst on holiday, you may be getting a completely different experience. Consider what is important to you. Does the house and location meets the needs of you and your family?
Consider asking for references. Not all house swappers have reviews. Independent verification may help and do not be afraid to ask for a character reference if your fellow house swapper does not have any reviews.
Pick your person wisely. No matter how careful you are, things do not always work out. Ultimately, it is down to your judgement. If you have not established enough rapport with the other person to build trust, do not be afraid to pull out before the exchange.
Keep valuables out of sight. If you leave your valuables in your home whilst another house swapper stays there, you could potentially increase the chances of them being stolen or damaged. Consider taking your valuables with you or putting them in storage. If this is not possible, you might want to lock them away securely if you are able to do this.
Consider specialist insurance for your home. Even if your home insurer does not cancel your home insurance policy, they may not provide all of the cover you require. A specialist insurance broker like Pikl can give you a high level cover of property insurance for house swapping if you think you need this.
You may want travel insurance. If you are going abroad, a flight cancellation or medical emergency could give you lots of hassle and stress. A good travel insurance policy should be able to cover you for these things.
Check with your landlord. You may need permission to do a house swap if you are renting as this type of activity could be excluded in your tenancy agreement.
Use the community. Find out the pros and cons of house swapping from people that have done it before.You can also get a feel for whether house swapping is right for you.