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Home Exchange tips

A home exchange or a house sit can be a fantastic experience. Here are some tips to help you make a success of it.

How to start

Decide where you want to spend some time, when and for how long.
Go through the listings for that area, and look for a home that is the size you want and in the location you want.

Email the other member.
They will want to know something about you. Give them an outline of you and the family members who are travelling with you. Include photos or a description of your area so they can decide whether they want to have a holiday where you live.
Propose possible dates for your exchange.

Get to know each other

If you are both interested, start the trust needed for an exchange.
The member profiles give you lots of information, but you will need to swap more. Tell each other about your area: public transport, shops, neighbours, nearest town, tourist attractions, possible activities and day trips, etc.

If you have Skype (ideally with a webcam), get in touch. You will be able to establish a personal contact and exchange lots of information quickly.

If those first contacts are not convincing, be honest: cancel the exchange early, and look for another pairing in the listings.

Agree on extras

If you are happy with what you see, get down to some details.
- Will you exchange cars or not? Are they covered by insurance? Do you need to top up your cover for the period of the exchange? Give each other details of your driving licence or record.
- Will you take care of pets? Can they be put in boarding somewhere else if you don't wish to be responsible for them? Can you bring your own pet?
- Is garden maintenance required?
- Is the computer available? Are there any charges for internet access?
- Can you use each others' phone? Who pays for the calls?

Go for it!

Still all happy? At this point you can swap addresses, phone details and surnames, so be sure you are happy with these people in your home.

Confirm the dates.
Decide if you are going to meet and confirm the time (remember time zones and summer/winter time). Will you meet at your place or theirs? Will one party come to the house first, and the second party depart from there? Will you meet at an airport halfway, or will you not meet at all?
Will you collect the house key from a neighbour or friend?
Send each other maps or directions for getting to your home.

Think like a tourist!

Help your guests make the most of their stay.
Visit your local tourist office and collect maps and brochures, add names of your favourite restaurants, directions to go to your favourite beaches, hiking trails, train and bus stations, tips only a local would know to get to attractions the easy way, parking, etc.
Put it all in a folder, to leave in a prominent place for your guests.

Some practical topics

Don't forget to exchange phone numbers

Leave a few lists:
- explain the kitchen appliances, the heating system or aircon, the washing machine, etc., and make sure  the manuals are available.
- explain the security system. Is there a trusted person who will show you how it works? Is there a phone number in case of technical problems?
- any little peculiar things that your house has which might confuse or alarm your guests (a door that sticks, a fridge that makes odd noises, etc.)
- names and phone numbers for emergencies or information
- the names of people that may turn up (neighbours, family members, workmen, etc.)

Leave enough pet food if pet care is agreed to and the name and phone number of the vet.

Leave the essentials in the fridge so your guests don't have to go shopping for food right away.

Tell them when your rubbish collection day is. Tell the neighbours about your home exchange and give them the names of your guests. Lock any precious valuables away or leave them with a trusted person.

At the end of your home exchange

Agree on the "hand over" after the exchange. Will you meet before you leave each other's home? If so, at your place or theirs?
If you won't be able to see each other, decide on how the keys will be returned. Is there a neighbour or a friend who can come over on your last day, check things and act as a go-between?

And finally, when you leave your exchangers' home, leave it in immaculate condition, all laundry clean, essentials in fridge, and perhaps a small gift in a prominent place.
In short: leave it as you would like to find yours when you get home.

Have fun!

Italy - Lavender and olive trees in Le Marche