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.

Paris (karigee)

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. is one of the biggest and lists more than 41,000 homes around the world with an easily searchable database.

Paris (karigee)

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 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.

Paris (zylenia & karigee)

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!

Paris (bluehurricane)

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Written by Paige Bradley Frost for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Paige Bradley Frost

Paige Bradley Frost spent nearly a decade in Paris after which she relocated to California serving as Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Women’s Empowerment International. She has written extensively covering culture, parenting, education, travel, food and politics. Her work as been published by The New York Times Motherlode blog, Huffington Post, Forbes Travel Guides and extensively at HIP Paris.


  1. Hello ! We frequently home swap and noticed what beautiful taste you have and what a beautiful flat in Paris you must have and were wondering if you would ever consider a home swap with our home in Santa Barbara Ca ? Maybe over summer 2014? Our homes website is ! Please take a look and consider ! I’d also love to see more photos of your apartment ! Thank you ! Happy Day !

  2. Excellent blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Appreciate it!

  3. what a beautiful article…. well done and well thought out (before and thanks for sharing after!).
    i always consider a swap; we own (still just about, we’re seeking to sell for a new job) a beautiful and very romantic house and a large garden on Ile de France – the drawback is that i could never decide to realistically ask the swappers to really look after the garden and the plants in the winter garden (veranda, serre)…. so, i guess i’m not courageous enough to swap.
    but who knows; when i shall move once again, i just MIGHT pick up the courage to do as you did! Swapping cars as well as watering cans.. 🙂

  4. Hi there and thanks for your comments. So glad you’ve had positive swap experiences, too. As for San Francisco being warm in August…No, not at all! We stayed across the GG bridge in Marin County where it was 80 degrees and sunny everyday, even as fog and cool temps hovered over the city. Remember the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain? “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco…”

  5. I am currently living between Paris, Vancouver and Buenos Aires – and the home swap is a fabulous idea for my travels! Thanks so much for the tips



  6. Our family of 4 is currently doing a 3 month home exchange in Los Angeles and are loving it! We were lucky enough to meet the owners and see the house before the exchange which makes the transition less stressful. Great idea for a written “contract”. It would help with lots of gray areas.

  7. You found San Francisco to be warm? I was there in August and San Francisco is always freezing in the summer time. It’s the worst place to be on the West Coast in the summer because of cool temperatures.

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