More of us are looking for ways to save money. House swapping has been around for several decades, and can be an excellent way to cut holiday costs, and get to places we might not otherwise get to visit. While it is a great way to save money, it also has the attraction of being able to stay in a home possibly away from the touristy places, and living more as the locals live, experiencing some local culture.
Obviously the summertime is the peak season for house swapping, as that`s when most of us want to take our annual holidays, though it happens all year round. If you think that house swapping might be for you, there are certain points you should bear in mind.
Are you really comfortable about someone else living in your home, using your appliances and sleeping in your beds? Although the people you are swapping your house with will be expected to be truthful about the standard and location of their property, it might not always work out as you anticipated. Their 500 yards from the beach could well be 2 miles. Their 3 roomy bedrooms might be 2 large bedrooms with a small boxroom. Having said that, we don`t always get what was promised when we book an hotel, so we can`t always guarantee someone else`s description will be as given, though it should be. And, remember that you should inform your mortgage company of your arrangements, as well as possibly your insurance company.
House swaps can of course be from just a weekend, to something long term. It`s entirely up to you and the other party. This means you aren`t necessarily fixed to set periods of time, which can be an advantage for booking cheaper flights. If you decide that house swapping is for you, you can go it alone, making all your own arrangements, or, go through an agent. The advantages of using an agent are many fold. Some produce directories which are sent out to their members two or three times a year. They`ll provide details about homes all over the world, often in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US, though it isn`t limited just to those more popular places.
In the United Kingdom the most sought after areas are London, Edinburgh, the Lake District, the West Country and the Cotswolds. Whether you plan on exchanging in your own country, or abroad, you find a property you like and a family you feel comfortable exchanging with. You then agree on all the bits and pieces such as exact dates of the swap, responsibilities toward looking after any animals and so on.
Questions to consider and get answers to are:- How many people will stay in your house? Who pays the bills for utilities and phone? Will the other party have access to your car? What happens if there is any damage to your home or possessions? If there will be an insurance claim you may have to charge the cost of any excess. If the value of an object is only small you might be better off by just charging the other people for the replacement cost.
The one problem with house swapping compared to other types of holidays is that there aren’t a lot of legal safeguards. So, if the house you are going to stay in isn’t quite as big as you were led to believe, or you are further away from the town than you were told, there`s not really much you can do about it. Agencies will act as go-betweens, which can be helpful should any difficulties arise. This is where mutual trust comes in. The agency can of course in the worst cases remove people who have clearly not lived up to their part of the bargain from their membership lists. Apparently though, according to the agencies, in the vast majority of cases, as long as you get everything down in writing and be absolutely clear about what you are offering and receiving in return, there are usually very few problems with house swapping.
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