House swapping may seem like the perfect solution for the high cost of vacation accommodations. But there have to be some drawbacks, right? Oddly enough, few people report any problems with house swapping partners. The problems that do arise are typically minor in nature and easily resolved -- well, at least according to representatives of two of the largest home swapping networks, Karl Costabel of HomeLink and Lori Home of Intervac. They cite differing expectations on the part of the swapping partners as the most common problem.
Varying definitions of cleanliness in housekeeping is the most common complaint. If you have a pet, it's important to mention it, even if you plan on boarding the pet away from the home. This will keep you from potentially ruining the vacation of someone who has allergies.
If you have homeowners or renters insurance and automobile insurance, any problems or accidents should be covered. Any accidents will be treated the same as if you had allowed a friend to stay in your home or drive your car.
Some people choose to write and sign a letter of agreement with their trading partners. This is not a legal contract, but it spells out the expectations of both parties. These letters get you thinking about situations you may not have otherwise considered and help you to determine how you'll deal with them if they arise. Some things to consider when drawing up a letter of agreement:
- How telephone and Internet charges will be handled
- Whether subletting is permitted, and the exact number of people allowed in the home
- Acknowledgement that both parties are fully covered by homeowner or rental insurance, as well as automobile insurance
- Whether either party will be responsible for picking up mail, caring for pets or other responsibilities
- What the trading partners should do if something is damaged or breaks down
If you have valuables that you're concerned about being stolen or broken, send them to a friend's home while you're out of town. Many people simply place any sentimental items in one room and lock the door before their trip. This wouldn't stop a determined thief, but at least the items won't be broken.