Experienced home-exchanger and bestselling author, Tina Seskis, shares her 10 commandments for a stress-free home swap.
A home exchange, where you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours, can be an exciting, quirky and comfortable way to have a holiday away from home. Not to mention the fact that you can travel to your dream destination without coughing up for a hotel bill.
The concept is simple enough, but like any new experience, there arepotential pitfalls. To help you get the best from your swap, we asked seasoned swapper and bestselling author, Tina Seskis, to share her secrets.
Draft your advert with care. Include details of your home, your neighbourhood and what potential swappers might like to do in the area. Listings with photos always do better, so make sure your home is looking its best, then take plenty of snaps, inside and out.
Find out more about how to list your house and choose your exchange home.
Any potential swappers will no doubt have plenty of questions. Be patient and make all your communications personable and pleasant. You are about to trust each other with possibly your greatest asset.
Embrace the swap as an ideal opportunity to make any necessary home improvements (after all, you enjoy the fruits of your labour too once you come home).
My family has done several home swaps now, and we haven't bothered with formal contracts since the first one. But do make sure you tell your house insurance company, as otherwise you may not be covered if something happens. Car swaps can be tricky with insurance, but we have managed it.
Try to make sure that the swap is equitable so both parties are happy (or don't bother if you have no conscience!)
Make yourself available to communicate with your swappers throughout the process. Being honest about what you have to offer is a great start, and keeping in regular contact with the exchangers - from initial contact until the exchange is over - builds mutual trust.
Chill out! Looking back I got far too stressed about the first swap, but I have a tendency to try too hard and spent ages trying to fix every last thing (there are always snags in every house), as well as going overboard on preparing an information pack about the house and the area.
Every swap we've done has been fantastic in its different way - and the only damage we have ever had is a broken wine glass (and they bought us a set of four to say sorry!).
It's a good idea to pay for a cleaner to help prepare the house before you go - and each party pay for final cleaning at the end, so you're not spoiling the end of your holiday.
And finally, if the above sounds OK, just give it a go! I guarantee you will enjoy the fantastic experiences that home swapping gives you, and maybe even find the world is just that little bit nicer a place...
Tina Seskis started home swapping with her husband and son five years ago, and has exchanged with houses in Sardinia (twice), the Loire Valley and Whitstable, in Kent. Tina is a full-time writer; the author of the number one bestseller One Step Too Far, available in bookshops nationwide, and on Amazon.
Tina started her next novel A Serpentine Affair whilst on her second home exchange to Porto Cervo, Sardinia in 2011, and part of the novel is set there. A Serpentine Affair will be released by Penguin in April 2015.