Swapping Vacation Homes 101

How to Trade Second Homes and Save a Bundle

Swapping Vacation Homes 101
June 23, 2014

You own a vacation home and use it frequently to decompress and relax. Lucky you! It works out wonderfully – until you decide you would like a little more variety and vacation somewhere else on occasion. Instead, you return once again to the vacation house because you feel obligated to use it after having spent the money to buy it.

If that is the case, then swapping vacation homes may be the perfect solution for you. Home swapping allows you to save money at a different vacation destination while your vacation house is in use and cared for by other visitors. You save on lodging costs, and have an opportunity to save on meals by buying your own groceries and eating at "home". It is even possible to swap cars at the same time, thus saving on transportation costs.

Companies such as Love Home Swap, HomeExchange.com, International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE) and Home Link enable these exchanges. For a membership fee that ranges from around $15 to $30 per month, you can join one of these sites, list your vacation home as a potential site for others to visit, and then look for your dream destinations.

Vacation home swaps come in three general formats:

  • Simultaneous – A straight swap of homes, and possibly cars, for a determined period of time.

  • Non-Simultaneous – Arrangements are made to stay at each other's vacation home, but the times do not match.

  • Hospitality – Similar to non-simultaneous, except that both families share the vacation homes at one time.

Think about what you would like in a temporary vacation home and then follow the following steps:

  • Pick a Swapping Site – There are many more websites than the four listed above, covering a wide range of membership fees and pricing options, styles and locations of homes available, methods to arrange swaps, vetting procedures, travel assistance and other options. For example, some offer "credits" for non-simultaneous swapping.

    Do plenty of research about the sites including their reviews from those who have used the service before. This will help you find a site that fits your needs and expectations.

  • Create your Profile – You will want to promote your home as a desirable place to visit. To do so, create a profile with flattering pictures of your home and highlights of the neighborhood and nearby attractions.

    Provide helpful advice on these attractions, as well as on restaurants and entertainment in your area (and those to stay away from), and your swapping partner will reciprocate with advice for you.

  • Plan in Advance – The logistics of a home swap can be difficult. It is best to start planning at least six months in advance, and for sure you want to be engaged with the swapper at least two to three months prior to the travel date.

  • Set up Details – Not only do you need to set up the details of key swapping and the physical aspects, but also it is important to lay out mutual expectations. Is the car included? Will you leave any groceries? What are the cleaning expectations? How do you handle security systems? Does either family have unusual restrictions on use of their home or needs at their destination home? Most sites will assist you with this process.

Not everyone will be up for home swapping. If you can't bear the thought of anyone else staying in your house, look for a simple one-way condominium rental instead or some other method that doesn't require a reciprocal visit to your home -- perhaps a hotel?

However, if you have an open mind and adventurous spirit, why not try it? You may stumble on outstanding vacation destinations you had never considered, and at a cost you can't possibly beat.

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