Paris (Haven in Paris)
The idea seemed too good to pass up. I’d exchange my Paris flat for a place in San Francisco for two weeks to visit family. Two whole weeks! Rent-and-hotel bill free! And we’d do it in August when no one really wants to be in Paris, anyway. I’d heard stories about fabulous swaps that didn’t end in identity or home accessories theft. With a little luck and a few well-lit interior pics, I was sure it could work for us, too. And so my search was on.
After several near-commitments that folded at the eleventh hour (“I had no idea airfare would be that expensive…” and “Off to Rome instead. Sorry!”), we swapped for a sweet little house just over the Golden Gate Bridge. It sounded perfect: Three-bedrooms with a view of Mt. Tamalpais complete with a private dock on a small saltwater lagoon.
San Francisco (marcgg)
Oh, plus a chicken coop and thriving veggie garden. Were we game? Mais, oui! And so with visions of fresh eggs and a private sundeck dancing in my head, I crossed my fingers and signed on. Ever considered exchanging your place for a week in Montmartre? Here are some house swap tips to help you along the way.
Start early. The more lead time you have, the better your chances of finding your dream place. A quick web search will turn up plenty of paid sites for home exchangers. Homeexchange.com is one of the biggest and lists more than 41,000 homes around the world with an easily searchable database.
Tapping into expat or friends’ networks in your target city is an even better way. A quick scan of Craigslist Paris will reveal dozens of results. List your home on local sites (for people searching for a swap where you are) as well as those in your desired travel destination. Then, proceed with caution…
Six degrees of separation. Swapping with someone you don’t know outside the relative security of a home exchange service can be dicey. Look for a swap where you have some, even distant, personal connection. Social media is your friend here. I put the word out on Facebook, listed on Homeexchange.com and had friends post for us on several San Francisco listservs. After our future swappers contacted me via a friend of a friend, a Facebook search revealed a connection: a girl I’d gone to elementary school with way back when. I never met our swappers in person but this association put me at ease.
Swap like for like. Is your place best suited to a family with young kids? Singles? Traveling empty nesters? Look for a swapper with a similar profile and expectations. If you’re hoping for a romantic weekend à deux, the last thing you’ll want is a home stuffed with Legos and sippy cups. Likewise, an East Village studio above a jazz club may not be the spot for peace-seeking retirees. Also, be real about your place and what you can expect in exchange for it – peeling paint, tattered towels and all.
Paris (Making Magique)
Get it in writing. After swapping photos and verbal agreements, put your dates and terms in writing. I found a template of a basic agreement online and modified it for our swap. I added an “agreement to vacate” clause – a promise that if one party vacates as agreed, the other must do the same. (Even if it means recuperating from a vacation-spoiling illness at mom’s, rather than making that trip to New York.) Also consider things like a prepaid cleaning service to come during the swap or including a car exchange in the deal. (We paid our swappers an extra $400 for the use of their SUV Hybrid.)
San Fransisco (My Standard Break From Life)
Details, please. To help acquaint our exchangers with the quirks of our Paris building, I created a comprehensive “user’s guide,” including tips on everything from how to run the washing machine to where to empty the trash. You’ll also want to provide a local contact should anything go awry. Lucky for us, it didn’t. And remember to establish how you’ll stay in touch during the swap. Email? Phone? Best to decide in advance.
Paris (Making Magique)
So was our swap everything I’d hoped for? In a word, oui. We returned tanned and happy to find our apartment intact. But living in someone else’s home – however briefly – does have its quirks. Ours included daily roundups of recalcitrant free-ranging foul and fighting to save wilting veggies from the dry California heat. It’s also an intimate look inside another’s weird little world. We all have them. Are you ready to let someone into yours? Bon courage!
- One great site for home exchanging – homeexchange.com
- Live like a local in Paris with Haven in Paris
- The Huffington Post offers advice on Home Swapping