Jetting off and arriving at your own ‘home away from home’ is an appealing thought.
But most of us can’t afford a foreign holiday home and, even if we could, it means always going to the same destination.
But the trend for house swapping, where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes – saving the expense of paying for commercial accommodation – is increasingly popular.
The trend for house swapping, where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes, is increasingly popular and there are dozens of internet sites helping people get on track
There are now dozens of house-swap internet sites, such as lovehomeswap.com, homebase-hols.com and home link.org, offering hundreds of homes in Britain – and hundreds more houses, apartments and villas in glamorous locations around the world.
House-swap companies claim they have few, if any, negative experiences. But home swapping won’t suit everyone.
So do your homework before leaving the keys to your own des res.
Here’s our guide on how to sign up – and examples of how it can all work out (if you’re patient and play your cards right).
Swap: Shropshire for California
David Adams and his wife Judith have been swapping their three-bedroom 250-year-old cottage in Shropshire (pictured) for 15 years
This Palm Desert home in California could be the Adams’ next swap
David Adams, 56, a retail manager for the charity sector, and his wife Judith, 66, a retired academic administrator, have been swapping their three-bedroom 250-year-old cottage in Shropshire for 15 years with homebase-hols.com.
‘We get a lot of interest from Americans because our cottage is older than their country,’ David says.
They have been to Los Angeles, Edinburgh in Indiana, Massachusetts, Portland in Maine, New Jersey, Maryland and Richmond in Virginia.
Golden state: Seasoned home swappers, David and Judith
They have also stayed on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, with use of the homeowners’ boat, and in October they’re off to Hawaii.
And they have made good friends along the way. The exchange from Boston became such a good friend he flew to New York in 2006 when Judith and David got married.
‘What’s so fabulous about home swapping is it’s not just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. You get to live as they live, shop where they shop,’ says David.
Palm Desert in California could be their next swap.
Swap: Cornwall for Bali
Jennie Macdonald and Patrick Crouch of Cornwall have swapped their home (pictured) for properties abroad for the past eight years using homebase-hols.com
Jennie and Patrick’s most far-flung swap was a recent exchange for an extravagant villa in Bali (pictured)
Jennie Macdonald, 54, and Patrick Crouch, 65, of Cornwall have swapped their home for properties abroad for the past eight years using homebase-hols.com. Their most far-flung swap was a recent exchange for an extravagant villa in Bali. Their home in Cornwall, Penmellyn House, is an eight-bedroom, Grade II-listed building designed by the architect William White and built in 1855.
‘We got into house swapping after I heard a friend of my husband saying how he and his wife had planned a world trip and had achieved this by house swapping,’ says Jennie.
‘The Bali home is the grandest place we have come across. It’s a stunning home, really exotic and with lovely people for whom nothing was too much trouble. I never worry when it comes to approaching people or when we are approached for a house swap as it’s quid pro quo.
‘We look after your property and you look after ours. There was only one time when I asked if our daughter could stay in a penthouse in Sydney. The lady freaked out as she envisaged backpacking teenagers invading her home! It was all right in the end.’
A guide to how house swapping works
- Join a reputable company – membership ranges from £28 to £240. Some firms offer a free trial. You’ll be able to list your property on their website and make contact with other owners to arrange your exchange.
- House-swap firms don’t visit properties, so study photos carefully, look at feedback and don’t be afraid to ask the owner questions.
- Some companies, such as lovehomeswap.com, have internal points systems that rate each property. Others, such as homebase-hols.com, rely on each owner making their judgment based on pictures posted by other owners and reports on past swaps.
- You may want to swap cars as well as houses, in which case your motor insurer should be informed.
- Some owners may want a garden watered or even have pets to be fed.
- Your home insurance shouldn’t be affected because this is a non-commercial deal, but let your insurer know and double-check that your policy is valid while you’re away. If you’re nervous, remove any valuable items.
- Some house-swap firms have specialist home-swap insurers if any members have home insurance difficulties.
- Make sure your holiday insurance includes cancellation cover in case a problem causes your house swap to cancel at short notice.
Swap: Dorset for Mexico
Lynn Fitt, 64, a retired teacher, and her husband Stewart, 64, a catering manager at a school for the disabled, live in a three-bedroom 17th-century cottage near Wimborne. They have house-swapped 17 times in eight years using homelink.org.
The couple have travelled the UK, been to Mexico and stayed on a remote island off Puerto Rico where the owner left his 4×4 for their use. Their first swap was a converted barn in Launceston, Cornwall, which belonged to a retired chief inspector from Scotland Yard.
‘When we got back to our house it was so immaculate we wondered whether they’d even been,’ says Lynn.
‘I can’t tell you how brilliant it’s been. We’ve met wonderful people and have had no bad experiences. With this you pay your airfare and can live pretty much the way you’d live and cook at home.’
Swap: East Lothian for Australia
Annie Green, 61, an occupational therapist in mental health for the NHS, and her husband Neil Waterman, 68, a retired solicitor, have a three-bedroom detached house in East Lothian. They started swapping four years ago using lovehomeswap.com.
‘I’d heard good reports about home swapping from people doing it. Neil had retired and we wanted to travel as much as we could, but home swapping is the only way we could afford it,’ says Annie.
The couple also own a holiday house they swap in Crete.
‘We’ve been to Vancouver, Greece, France and Italy – and we do a home swap in Australia each year as we have family out there. Our recent home swap to Phillip Island, in Victoria, was one of our best: It was a beautifully designed one-bedroom apartment just a five-minute walk from the beach.’
Swap: Suffolk for Antigua
Andrew and Sarah Bryce and their children, Annabel, seven, and William, five, have been swapping their four-bedroom house in the middle of their arable farm near Hintlesham, Suffolk, for the past four years using lovehomeswap.com.
They’ve travelled a lot in the UK, particularly to the Peak District. But their most recent swap – a four-bed private villa in its own landscaped grounds with a private swimming pool in Antigua – has been one of the most spectacular.
‘It’s a gorgeous property,’ says Andrew.
‘There are kayaks, snorkelling to watch the turtles, a fabulous wraparound verandah and the most lovely views. We love house swapping because you find hidden gems — things that are a bit off-piste.’