Thousands of travelers the world over use home swaps as a way to afford a terrific vacation that might otherwise be out of reach.
But how do you know you’re not walking into a scam, 3,500 miles from home?
Choose the right site. To pick a reliable home exchange site, go to KnowYourTrade.com, a global directory, advises Nancy Wartik, an home swapping veteran and journalist.
Not only do you get an overview of the countless home-swapping networks out there, you can find those that attract homeowners from, say, Norway versus France.
Try HomeExchange for its international networks, Geenee for swap options in the world’s coolest cities, Homeforexchange for its ease of use, and Homelink because it’s one of the largest.
Pay the fee. Many networks charge a modest membership fee to use their services, and it’s worth it. By using a paid service, you’re likely to get more qualified, serious swappers.
That said, the swaps themselves should be free. If you stumble onto a site that seems to offer amazing homes, but charges a fee for each swap, that’s a red flag that it could be a scam. (Airbnb is an excellent site where people list their homes for rent, but they aren’t swaps.)
Trust, but verify. “Swapping can be a leap of faith,” says Wartik, but there are plenty of ways to vet potential swap buddies: If the site offers user reviews, read those; and have several email, phone and/or Skype calls.
You can ask for references, but be prepared to provide your own reference in return.
In the end, home-swapping success comes down to mutual respect—and being practical, adds Kayt Sukel of TravelSavvyMom. If you’re worried about certain precious or private belongings, store them in the basement, in a locked closet, or at a friend’s house.
Mi casa es su casa. Tell us about your home-swapping experiences—the good, the bad, the funny.
photo source: kauiartist's shop on etsy