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Thursday 18th April 2024

Will house swapping save me money and is it safe? 

Mouthy Money Your Questions Answered panelist Jasmine Birtles answers a reader’s question on the benefits of house swapping and what to watch out for. 

Question: I’ve heard house swapping is a good way to go on holiday and not pay for accommodation but is it safe and do I need to let people into my home too? 

Answer: I’ve been house-swapping for a few years and it is a fantastic way to travel the world for a fraction of the cost of doing it in hotels.  

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Essentially house swapping is as it sounds: you swap homes with another property owner, either abroad or in the UK, at the same time or at different times if you’re able to arrange it.   

When I first started, I put myself and my London flat onto Homeexchange.com. Very quickly I had offers of swaps with people all over the world from the Gold Coast in Australia to Vietnam, Rome, Vancouver and much more.  

I have a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts that I go to every year and after a few years of paying ever escalating hotel bills I decided I should do a house swap instead. I looked at properties in central Boston and contacted one of them. The lady, Carolyn, said she would like to swap but couldn’t at that date so offered me her spare room if I wouldn’t mind her staying in my flat later in the year. That sounded good so I accepted this ’non-simultaneous swap’.  

That was the start of a long swapping arrangement and friendship. Carolyn also introduced me to the lovely couple she swapped with and we became ’swapping buddies’ too, swapping flats for a week or weekend at a time and meeting at St Pancras station in London to hand over the keys! 

Swapping homes means that both sets of people only pay for travel and food while they’re on holiday so they can travel for less money. 

The best way to do it is with friends and family of course as you know and trust each other. People often do that naturally if they have friends or family in interesting places but the next best way is to join a house-swapping site that is popular.  

Apart from Homeexchange.com, there is also Lovehomeswap.co.uk and Houseexchange.org.uk among others.  

It’s worth looking at online reviews before signing up to one or more home swapping sites. Once you choose one you will need to upload information about, and a photo of, yourself and then lots of photos of your home and a description of it. They might also want an idea of where you would like to travel to and which times of the year. Then it’s a question of being in contact with other house swappers on the site to see if you can arrange a mutual swap.  

However, house swapping isn’t for people who don’t like strangers in their own home or who are worried (as a relative of mine is) about ‘people rummaging through their sock drawer’. You have to be the sort of person who is happy to open their home to strangers,  

It makes sense to lock away anything valuable or delicate before the swap, but otherwise you just need to be someone who’s generally laid back about your home.  

On the whole, house swappers treat the other person’s home like they would their own and make sure it is pristine before leaving, knowing that the other person is in their home and, they hope, doing the same thing. 

It is important to let your home insurer know you will be having strangers staying in your home. They will be able to either increase the premium slightly for that period or raise your excess over that time. But if the insurer doesn’t know about this temporary arrangement, it could invalidate your policy. 

Generally, house swapping is only for homeowners, but if you rent, and your landlord is happy for you to swap, then go for it. Just make sure you keep them informed and put them in touch with the people you are swapping with too. 

Jasmine Birtles is a TV personality, columnist, ‘money guru’, presenter, speaker, freelance journalist, author of 38 books and founder of Money Magpie.

Photo Credits: Pexels

Rebecca Goodman

Award-winning freelance journalist with a decade of experience working for online and print publications in the consumer sector.

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