House swap: could you?

So, you would love a holiday but even a campsite seems too expensive? How about a house swap?

Camping is the cheapest holiday accommodation. But perhaps the great outdoors isn’t your thing and, if  you have to purchase the gear, it is only a cheap option if you plan to use it every year. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping and had some brilliant holidays in the UK and France when the kids were younger.  However, sometimes a few home comforts are nice!

house swap

A house swap is not so terrifying

The other thing I have done for a cheap holiday is house swap. I know it sounds terrifying and many people would be nervous about letting complete strangers take over their house for a fortnight, but in my experience it can work brilliantly.

We had two lovely holidays in Brittany and one in Normandy. Another in Segovia in Spain didn’t work so well but that was more the weather than the accommodation. Nice apartment but no air con and the hottest summer Europe had seen in years (2003). We couldn’t come home because of our house guests! Fortunately we were able to  visit friends in Barcelona who had a pool to cool things down. It was still hot but you could actually move during the day!

All those we did a house swap with were respectful of our home and left things clean and tidy, although one of the properties in Brittany was a bit on the grubby side when we arrived.

house swap

The upsides of house swapping

The accomodation is free.
It is a real home from home – better equipped than any holiday apartment would be.
You have someone looking after your home so that it isn’t left empty.
You can even exchange pets! Our cats were fed and we became foster carers to some chickens!
You can save on car hire and exchange cars too, although we never did this.
If you exchange with a family your kids get to play with all their kids’ toys (you need to put away anything precious).
Your hosts will usually leave you lots of local tourist and bus information
You can exchange in the UK or abroad

The downsides

It is a risk – although it is your interests and theirs that they look after your stuff you can’t guarantee that they won’t help themselves to your best silver.
They can pull out even if you have already booked your travel.
You need to give your house the biggest clean of its life so lots of work before you go.
Your house needs to be in good decorative order.

Use an agency

I would advise you to use an agency – there are lots on the internet. Be realistic about who you try to swap with; the proud owner of a villa with a pool in the South of France probably won’t want your three bed semi in Ordinaryville. Be honest about your property – you want your swappers to be truthful with you. Have a neighbour keep an eye and someone they can contact if there is an issue. We had problems with the plumbing at one place but our contact sorted it out.

When my house is in better shape I will definitely be doing a house swap again!