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Swapping. Why Not Give It a Try?

A few years ago, when my brood became a party of five, we were heading back to my native land of Canada for a week long visit. There was only one little problem—no one in my immediate family could accommodate my gang in a comfortable manner, so instead of two adjoining rooms at a downtown hotel, we decided to be adventurous and give a home exchange a try. We had heard great things about HomeExchange from our friends in NYC who have literally swapped homes all over the world and raved about it, so we paid the membership fee and gave it a try. Since we were swapping in my hometown of Toronto, it was easy for me to suss out if the owners were exaggerating about the desired location. They weren’t.

We agreed to swap homes with a family that also had three children roughly the same age as mine. It was a gorgeous house with a huge backyard for the kids to run wild, located on a beautiful tree-lined street that was super quiet—very different from the loud honking of the bustling streets of downtown New York City. My kids loved the toys and all the televisions that this house provided. Since our Toronto swap was such a success, we decided a few months later to try it abroad to Paris, France. Again we chose a family that had three children within the same age bracket. After a ton of e-mails with questions and more questions, phone calls and many apartment pictures later, we felt comfortable, and a contract was in full motion.

image by IrenaS

Since summer vacation will be here before you know it, I encourage you to pick a country and give swapping a try.

image by Frizztext

These are a few pointers I would recommend if you do go down this path:

Communicate. Ask lots of questions about the home and neighborhood—make sure you see photos. We were flirting with a Madrid exchange in August and found out that the apartment we were interested in had one air conditioner in the living room and fans in the bedrooms. The temperature in Spain during the summer can easily reach over a 100 degrees. You can never ask enough questions.

Ask for referrals about prior exchanges; many listed apartments do so on their profiles.

Agree on the ground rules for your exchange.

Lock up valuables and personal items that are important to you and your family. My boys had us store very “valuable” Star Wars Legos.

Create a guidebook with house rules to follow, restaurants in the area, parks and emergency contact numbers. I really enjoyed putting this together and loved receiving it on the other end.

Trust. It may be odd to have a stranger in your home, but by communicating via email, phone and Skype, you really do get a sense of the family—social media at its best! Remember it’s a two-way street, you’ll be in their home, so respecting one another’s space is a big part to a successful swap.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Would you do it?


Thursday 24th of May 2012

I agree, is the best site out there for house swaps. You don't even have to offer real estate in exchange, you can reciprocate with whatever you negotiate. It has always worked for me so far.


Thursday 3rd of May 2012

Great idea, but I would never do it.


Thursday 3rd of May 2012

When I was single, I was a couchsurfer. I never thought that there was such a thing as houseswapping, and it seems to me like a very expanded version of couchsurfing! Would definitely try this out!


Tuesday 1st of May 2012

I never really liked the idea of having strangers in my house using my personal stuff. Then I signed up at and was able to barter for accommodation without having to offer my own place in exchange - I just reciprocated with my laptop. The site is perfect if you want to swap things that are not exactly the same category, because they let you trade goods, services and even real estate.


Monday 30th of April 2012

Cool Idea - Not sure if I could do it's worth exploring...

What are your top 5-10 Questions to vet potential crazies?