Home Swapping: 10 tips from a committed convert
In a recent episode of her podcast At Home with Breffnie, Breffnie O’Kelly, buyer’s agent, spoke with Aisling Grimley about her experience of home swapping. Aisling and five family members travelled to Australia for Christmas. In this podcast she details their experience of swapping their home for one in Australia.
Half the price of their trip, double their enjoyment
With a daughter in Australia for Christmas, Aisling Grimley was determined to get the family together. Travelling with 3 teenagers and her husband she was already looking at about €7,000 for flights alone. After being advised by a friend in Australia that house swapping would half the price of their trip and double their enjoyment, she decided to investigate.
She looked at a few services but ultimately went for LoveHomeSwap.com at the platinum level (which has a great offer on at time of writing FYI)
Top house swapping tips and points to consider
Here are her top tips and points to consider. Listen to the full podcast to hear the whole conversation. It sent me off investigating the possibilities for our summer holidays so well worth a listen!
Check the costs of renting in the area you are planning to visit. Look at the prices on AirBnB and similar. This was a good incentive for Aisling to consider house swapping, especially with her large family.
Find local home swapping sites e.g. those used in the country you are planning to visit. No point using a service that Australians, for example, have never heard of because there will be a dearth of Australian homes offered on the site.
Take a number of good photos: Remember this is a very visual sales pitch. Consider what is attracting your counterpart to Ireland. Aisling set a picture of a cosy fire in the hearth as her front cover, thinking that anyone planning Christmas in Dublin from Australia would be thinking about cosy, crispy, hospitable evenings. Include a minimum of five pictures; Aisling added ten, both interior and exterior shots.
Fees vary according to the sites and their individual services. LoveHomeSwap operates a points system where you can gain points for making your home available even when you are not swapping. For example, you may be staying with relatives orin a second home and you can build up credit by making your home available. This can then be used against a stay elsewhere. Aisling describes a trip to Nice that was facilitated entirely by points collected by making her home available during stays elsewhere.
Therefore a direct swap does not have to happen on some sites. In other words even if Aisling hadn’t found someone to swap their home with them in Australia, she can use points to manage it if there is a home available at the time.
It’s worth remembering that it’s a home swap not a house swap so you usually share a little about yourself and you get some background on the owners. It helps manage expectations. For example, a childless couple living in a large house filled with antiques might not be the best match for a young family.
You don’t necessarily know the area so you have to do your homework. If, like Aisling, you are going to visit friends or family, you can get their input. Google Earth is a great way to check out an area.
Breffnie worried that she would have to redecorate or undertake a declutter worthy of Marie Kondo. But Aisling underlined the idea that it’s a HOME swap. There are reviews that allow you to gauge other homes but also allow people to review your place. It is a good incentive to get a few bits done around the house and to declutter. You can lock valuables away or, in one home where they stayed, the family just placed certain things on a shelf and asked the visitors to not use them. You and your counterpart can choose whether to engage a cleaner for departure and who should pay.
Aisling also points out that people who are undertaking a home swap are often like-minded. They are looking for an experience that is not a package, not a hotel experience. One swapper left notes about things to do. Essentially you are swapping a lifestyle. It allows you to feel like a local, live like a local. You can even swap your cars with enough planning. One swapper said she had been doing it for seven years and will never stay in a hotel again. They can be planning their trip to your area for all sorts of reasons. The site Aisling used included all kinds of prompts to help her accentuate the best parts of her home and the area it was in. She also created a local area guide for visitors and similarly was given one which included a hot tip about where to watch the fireworks while they were in Sydney!
Once she was set-up on the site it was recommended that she send 10-20 requests initially. When she started there was a few where she got no responses. However she learned pretty quickly that there are ways of seeing who is engaged on the site she used. Obviously people are more engaged at certain times of the year.
Keep in touch
Ultimately all of this is facilitated by technology. This also means that you can keep in touch with your counterpart or a swapper while you are in their home and vice versa. Aisling laughingly tells Breffnie that there was a lot of back and forth about the bins because of holiday service!
Aisling enjoyed a very positive experience. It has opened up a whole world of possibilities and a community of home swappers. Any destination with cheap flights from Ireland can be considered now even for a short weekend away!