If house swapping seems like something you would like to do, there are some things you need to know before you get started. There are three basic types of house swaps: traditional exchanges, non-simultaneous exchanges and hospitality exchanges. It's important to communicate with your trading partner so that you both know exactly what to expect.
With traditional exchanges, each trading partner schedules trips for the same time. The homeowners may never even meet each other, and no money changes hands. Although one set of accommodations may be higher quality than the other, this has no effect on the swap.
In a non-simultaneous swap, one or both homeowners have more than one residence. It's not necessary for the homeowners to coordinate their vacations. Instead, each trading partner visits the location when it's most convenient.
Hospitality exchanges are vacations where one trading partner visits the other partner and both stay in the home at the same time. Hospitality exchanges work well if both homes are large enough to accommodate the trading partners and schedules are difficult to align. Some people prefer hospitality exchanges because a stranger is not left in the home unattended, while others dislike hospitality exchanges because they feel like they must act as a tour guide for the visitor.
Generally, when people talk about house swaps, they mean the traditional exchange, where the two partners swap at the same time and for the same length of time. A typical house swap may last anywhere from one to four weeks. You will probably be given use of the homeowner's car, and your trading partner will undoubtedly expect the same. Sometimes trading partners work out arrangements for pet and plant care also. Simply ask them -- most trading partners are agreeable to feeding, watering and taking in the mail.