10 pro tips from experienced house swappers

A quick guide for those new to home swapping and home exchanges. Here we outline 10 tips from pros who use home swapping to save thousands every year on their travel and make lasting bonds & friendships along the way.

Wisdom from seasoned house swappers:

1. Choose Wisely The first step is selecting the right house swap platform. It’s like picking a travel companion; you want reliability and a good match for your needs1. I remember my first swap was actually with a friend from an old job, and I chose her because she lived in Barcelona, had a great place, had a work desk with a nice monitor so I could stay productive - most importantly, I could trust her. We just arranged it privately, no platform! In fact, most people don't know this but we actually built Swapdesk around this experience I had - to make friends out of stranger and have a large selection of work-ready homes for remote workers to use to live like locals and work from a new location. If you're a family looking for a vacation home, you might want to check homeexchange.com. If you're a remote worker, Swapdesk is a decent bet!

My view in Vevey, Switzerland

2. Honesty is the Best Policy Be as transparent as possible about your expectations and your own home so that there are no surprises for either party when you arrive. For example, don't bring a dog without telling someone and making sure, they're ok with it.

3. Flexibility Opens Doors Being flexible with dates and locations can lead to unexpected joys. In 2024, I went to Switzerland using Trusted House Sitters and I stayed in a town called Vevey for free for 10 days looking after a dog. I would have never booked Vevey otherwise ('d never heard of it), but because I was open with my location - I got to know a lovely dog and spend time in the foothills of the Swiss Alps! it was perfect and I saved a ton of money.

Swapdesk - Availability Calendar

4. Agree on the Details Nail down the specifics beforehand. It’s like setting the rules for a game; everyone plays better when they know what’s expected. At Swapdesk, we've learned that 90% of of our members appreciate a Zoom call before a swap and usually they compare calendars and flight details more easily on a call in real time. We have implemented an easy way to book someone for video call within our chat interface. Additionally, meeting someone over a call will build trust, relationships and help you confidently tell anyone that asks that a friend is staying over. Because after a call, they're kind-of a friend right? Who's to say they're not? This will help squash any assertions that you are using your home as a short term rental which in most cases will get around any bans or restrictions your city or building might have towards things like airbnb. Also no money is exchanged, you can point to that too!

Suggest a trip on Swapdesk directly in chat!

5. Insurance Check Ensure your insurance policies cover house swapping. Knowing that will help you feel comfortable swapping throughout the year. Aside from that, make sure the platform you use has good host protection. At Swapdesk, we have $5M of home and belonging protection - so if a wine glass breaks or your home get seriously damaged - there is an easy way to get compensated via our claims portal.

6. Leave a Welcome Guide A welcome guide is like leaving a part of yourself behind to host your guests. Include everything from quirks of the coffee machine to your favorite hidden gem restaurant. It’s the personal touch that turns a stay into an experience. Swapdesk enables you to easily create this guide which gets unlocked when you confirm a stay through the platform.

7. Clean and Clear Cleanliness is next to godliness, they say, and it’s true for house swaps too. I always ensure my place is spotless and I’ve always been reciprocated with the same courtesy. Swapdesk has a network of cleaners in most cities. You can opt in to use your own, or for Swapdesk to organise someone to come and clean your home before and after a stay.

Look how clean a member from Sweden left her home for us

8. Home Quirks Every home has its idiosyncrasies. Share them openly to avoid any ‘how does this work?’ moments that will disturb your trip. Small things you take for granted may be a surprise to someone else like being careful with a particular cupboard door that's a bit loose. This will help avoid issues and surprises - it takes most people 5 min to just walk around their flat and think through those small things they take for granted- include it in your guide!

9. Community Spirit Remember, it’s not just about the house; it’s about the community. Engage with your neighbours and local events wherever you go. We believe, home swapping is about living like a local. Living like a local means saying hi to people and doing things locals do like going to the food market on a Sunday, and cooking local ingredients at home rather than eating out all the time. Another example Is in Europe: most cities have local bakeries that open early and serve pastries and breads popular in that country. In Copenhagen, I love eating Kanelsnegle - it's this delicious cinnamon swirl - no one does it better than the Danes. Not the Germans...not the Swedes. I had a friend stay with us in Copenhagen and we toured the city using this guide to find and rate the best Kanelsnegles. You can do this with Croissants in Paris or with Pastels in Lisbon!

Copenhagen Christmas Market

10. Welcome/Parting Gift A small parting/welcome gift can leave a lasting impression. It’s like a great opening or closing chapter of a book; it stays with you. We encourage all of our member to do this at Swapdesk- and I think in the early days of Airbnb people probably did this too. It again, creates a sense of community and a ton of trust between you and your guest. When I had a guest stay in my Copenhagen apartment, I left her and her mom a big note on why whiteboard, Danish soda (Faxe Kondi - which the Danes are obsessed with), Pastries and a heart felt letter of gratitude. When My cofounder swapped with a Spotify employee, he left him balloons, champagne and a beautiful note - without knowing he was gonna do that, Mike (the the member who works at Spotify) left us a nice note too and two delicious beers. Like anything in life, when you set this type of intention, you'll be rewarded for it with your experience.

Welcome gift from one of our members

BONUS!! Throughout the whole process, be responsive. There is nothing more worrying than someone who doesn't respond. It shows they don't care, and that you can't rely on them. Generally its also not great for any community if you take and don't give. On the opposite side of the table, with someone who is responsive, you usually you feel you can trust them and that they're reliable. I can't emphasise this enough - swapping is all about trust! Build it from day one, and you'll have better experiences. It's the age old philosophy we learn from our grandparents "treat others the way you'd want to be treated".

House swapping isn’t just a means to an end; it’s a journey in itself. It’s about stepping into someone else’s life, if only for a while, and finding a piece of yourself in their home. It’s about the stories you’ll tell and the people you’ll meet. It’s about the traveler’s mindset, the openness to the new and unexpected, and the connections that last a lifetime. So pack your bags, swap your homes, and open the door to a world of adventure.