The Frequently asked questions about Home Exchange

Q: I'm concerned that I'm inviting strangers into my home. How do I know they will look after what is perhaps my biggest asset, my home?
Generally you will have arranged a simultaneous exchange so the other folks will also be trusting you to take care of their home. Also they have no doubt invested a lot of money in air fares just to get to your home. Both families will want to  treat the other home like they would their own.
When your arranging the exchange, we encourage you to start well in advance of the time you want to take your holidays. In this way both parties will exchange a lot of e-mails etc and just get to know each other and get comfortable about all the arrangements.

Your first exchange will be the hardest and the the one you will worry a little about.
You can ask what previous exchanges the other family has had, so some references can be provided.
If you don't feel comfortable for any reason, then don't go ahead with the exchange.
Please remember to do this early in the arrangements before airfares have been purchased.

Q: Should I expect to get a legally binding contract for the exchange?
A: Contracts are not only not necessary but expecting to draw one up to cover perhaps two different countries that you could enforce, is highly unlikely. It is however a good idea to write up a list of things that you have both agreed too. This way you will avoid any misunderstandings or embarrassment.

Q: What about all my special valuable things I have around the home?
A: All of this is pretty much common sense and will vary family to family. If your concerned about some of your valuables then either remove them from the home or lock them in a cupboard or a spare room and take the key with you. As part of your list you might draw attention to certain items you would prefer not to be used .e.g. Your antique piano, your kids racing bike or the precious dinner setting the mother in law gave you.

Q: What if something is damaged?
A: It is the responsibility of who ever caused the damage to either pay to have it repaired or reimburse the owner for the cost of the replacement or repair. It quite unlikely that anything will happen but when it does its probably more convenient for the owner to organize the repairs with knowledge of where to get the service. This is an item for your list of agreement.
We are also assuming that all insurances are in place.

Q: I've got my precious pets. Will they be cared for?
A: Part of the huge benefits of home exchange is the chance for your pets to be cared for in their own home environment. We show on each listing if the home has pets in need of care.
Details of how the pets will be cared for should be worked out well in advance. Generally most of us are more worried about our pets that the home itself.

Q: Who pays the household bills?
A: The owner pays the normal home utilities such as power, water, gas etc as  though they were still living there. Any additional expenses the exchange party incurs such as hiring a maid or cleaning service would be paid by them. The telephone calls will be  paid by the exchange party and a clear policy about this  should be decided in advance. In today's age of mobile phones you may care to cut off your phone service before you leave home allowing your guests to use their own cell phone. (Another item for your list) 

Q: What happens if I make all the arrangements, buy my fares and the other party cancels at the last moment?
A: Home exchange is a matter of trust. The other party will also be buying airfares about the same time your do and you will be telling each other this. A cancellation is likely to be caused only in extreme circumstances such as illness etc. Your fall back will have to be the same if you were going on a regular holiday. Travel insurance, rent some accommodation, call up HoliSwap to see if we can help with an emergency exchange or work through the listings in the area to see if they can help. Often the canceling party may find you something with their friends.

Q: What do I need to do in my home to make ready for my guest?
A: The more you can do for the exchange partners the better. Just put yourself in their place.
You have arrived in a strange home, in perhaps a different country after a long journey.
You and the family are tired so the last thing you need is to be frustrated by the domestic appliances etc.
Clear written, simple instructions on how things work make the holiday more enjoyable. A nice printed manual on the "operating of the home" is a good idea or if you're skilled put it on your web site so the exchange party can read it in advance. (Look at this example)
A plastic folder containing all the appliances manuals is useful. Perhaps stickers on those troublesome washing machines advising the best settings. 
Instructions on the local shops, restaurants, the medical services and as much as possible about the tourist attractions is great. Brochures and local road maps are good. How to catch the local transport.
A clean tidy home in serviceable condition goes without saying.
A nice touch is a bottle of local wine or bowl of special fruit left for the incoming guest.

Q: What about the food in the house?
A: The arrangements will vary but its generally easier just to replace the food you use. (Another list item) 

Q: Should we include the car in the exchange?
A: This is very much up to you and how you feel about it. Often its not overly expensive to rent a car which may be better in some situations. If you do exchange your car make sure your insurance adequately covers your guests.