You’ve booked a home swap to your dream destination. And you depart in a week, with your guests arriving that same day. Obviously you need to pack for your trip. But what else do you need to do to prepare your home for a home exchange?
It turns out, there is some debate about the answer to this question. But there are some things most people agree on: the six essential steps. Follow these steps, and consider a few bonus options, to make sure your home is ready for your next house swap.
1. Clean house
Welcome your guests into a clean home. This means really clean. I think a good rule of thumb is the level of cleanliness you would expect from a house cleaning service.
Cleaning should include decluttering. In the bathroom you don’t need to leave your cosmetics and toiletries on the counter. Put stuff away so your guests can enjoy the use of your home as if it was their own.
2. Clean sheets and towels
Put clean sheets on the bed and put out clean towels, and let your guests know you’ve done this. Also leave a note about where to find extra towels.
3. Guide Book
Put together information about your home into a guidebook. This should include all the essentials, like how to lock the doors, the wifi access, and anything special you need them to do before departing.
Don’t assume everyone knows how to work your appliances, heat, AC and other household systems. Have you ever heard of a drying cabinet? I encountered one for the first time on a home exchange in Stockholm. And I could not read the Swedish instructions to figure out how it works. Appliances and household systems are not standard, especially if you are swapping with folks who live in a different country.
It’s a nice bonus if you include some suggestions for stores, restaurants, public transit, and entertainment nearby.
4. Make space in the closet
You do not need to empty your closet to make room for your guests. But it’s nice if you leave them an empty drawer or at least a few hangers to use. Since you’re packing up clothes to take it shouldn’t be too hard to rearrange things a bit to leave some empty space.
5. Lock away valuables
I trust my home exchange partners, but there’s no reason to leave valuables out. This can make guests uncomfortable too. A lockable drawer or closet works well. Or if you don’t have one, give your valuables to your neighbor for safekeeping. At the very least, don’t leave things like jewelry and credit cards out on a desk or bureau.
6. Entry plan
Set up a secure way for your guests to get into your house. You could leave a key with neighbors, or in a lockbox, or give them access to a smart lock. Be sure to also arrange for your guests to secure your home when they depart.
Obviously there are lots of other things you could do to prepare your home for a home exchange. The key is to strike the right balance. You want to make sure your swap partners have a safe and enjoyable stay in your home. Going above and beyond the basics helps to foster community and friendship.
This is absolutely not required. But it’s always nice to find a welcome gift. If you need inspiration, consider something local that’s special to your part of the world. Alternately consider some food or drink. Perhaps a bottle of local wine, or some seasonal fruit, or just some home baked cookies. The food could be a first meal for when they arrive, tired and hungry. Just be sure to check on dietary restrictions before leaving a delicious cheese soufflé in the fridge for your lactose intolerant guests.
Some people see home exchanges as the opportunity to tackle all those home projects they’ve been putting off. Repairs and upgrades finally get done, and the whole house gets a very deep clean. I think this is great. But it’s not required. Your garden doesn’t have to be perfect to welcome a guest into your home. Nor do you need a new huge TV, or an upgraded stove. As long as you are honest about what your home offers, and the essentials are functional and safe, upgrades are not required for a home exchange.