Every house swap website has some sort of FAQ or introductory article about why you should participate in home exchange. But they all have some financial interest in getting you to sign up, so here’s my completely free-from-financial-interest take on it.
Why should you house swap?
1. Money. This is the main reason most people start doing house swapping. It’s an easy calculation: pay for hotels or stay somewhere for free? You are already paying your mortgage/rent, why pay for a second lodging on top of that when you can leverage your home?
2. Comfort. Sometimes I enjoy the luxury of a hotel room, with it’s nicely made up bed and regular cleaning service. But unless you spend a ton of money, hotel rooms aren’t very big. And you usually don’t get a kitchen, certainly not one stocked with all the basic supplies. Staying in an actual home generally gives you a lot more space and the comfort of using a stocked kitchen so you don’t have to eat out for every meal (this also saves money!). Also if you are traveling with kids, house swapping gives you separate bedrooms for the kids without costing you an additional hotel room.
3. Friends. I didn’t really think this was a big thing when I started house swapping, but already I’m seeing just how friendly the home exchange community can be. You’re accidentally getting to know folks who have some significant things in common with you: travel, willingness to house swap, maybe other interests. People will offer to take you out sightseeing when you visit their town, even if they can’t swap with you when you want. Or some will offer to host you, with no reciprocal obligation. You might end up friends with people you swap with, and enjoy future swaps with the same folks.
4. Insider information. You usually get local tips and information from the people whose house you are using. And you end up experiencing your destination more like a local and less like a tourist.
Is it safe?
Well aside from the fact that in my extensive research and reading I haven’t found any instances of people claiming they were robbed or otherwise harmed by home exchanging, my take is that it’s very safe.
First, there’s the barrier to entry imposed by joining a house swap website and paying a membership feel and creating a profile. And second, you know where they live! If you are doing a simultaneous swap with someone, you know exactly where they live. If you get home to find they destroyed your house or robbed you, it’s going to be pretty easy to report the crime and catch them. It would take a lot of work and trickery for someone to take advantage of this system. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile avenue for crime since no one is doing that.
If you are still worried, many websites offer insurance against damages just in case you want an extra bit of protection.
Check out my overview of the best home exchange websites.