Home Exchange

Do Cleaning Fees Ruin Home Exchanges?

cleaning fee home exchange

I paid a cleaning fee for my recent home exchange in Seabrook. That’s not typical. In fact, I oppose cleaning fees for home exchanges as a general rule. And I know a lot of home swappers feel the same. So I want to explain why I do occasionally pay cleaning fees, without complaint.

The case against cleaning fees

Home swaps are meant to be cashless transactions. You stay in my home while I stay in yours. And during these reciprocal swaps it would be very odd for one person to charge for cleaning their home while the other person does not. It just makes sense to agree to either clean your own home or clean each other’s places before the end of the stay. Or to agree to each pay for your own professional cleaning services.

It’s this sense that we’re staying in each others’ homes and caring for them as our own that makes people uncomfortable with cleaning fees. But when you introduce points as a currency for exchanges that are not simultaneous things get a little more complicated. As I explained about my stay in San Diego last year, there are situations where I am willing to pay a cleaning fee.

The case for cleaning fees

I understand why my Seabrook host charges guests the cleaning fee. It’s a flat rate that she has to pay her property management company each time there is a new guest. She usually passes this on to paying (cash) guests. I imagine she is just seeing points-based swaps as a similar situation where guests cover the cost of cleaning.

My host is earning points from my stay. And she will go stay somewhere else using those points, most likely not paying for cleaning there. So it should all even out when no one charges a fee. But that’s not exactly true for short stays (in my case it was only 3 nights). Maybe my host only travels to home exchanges for a week or longer. In that case she might have to pay 2 or 3 cleaning fees on her own property just to earn the points for a week-long stay. I often use points for short stays and I don’t want hosts to feel it’s too much trouble or expense.

I actually find paying for cleaning makes my stay more relaxing. I want to be an excellent guest. So I worry about leaving the place in pristine condition. Knowing it will be professionally cleaned means I’m sure to not disappoint my host. But I would rather if people gave me the option to pay for cleaning rather than making it a mandatory charge. If I’m not rushing out early in the morning and/or the cleaning fee is expensive I’ll probably opt to clean myself.

If you charge fees, be upfront about it

If a host wants to charge for cleaning, this must be clear in the listing. And in the case of this recent Seabrook trip, not only was the fee in the listing but it was also reiterated by my host in our first email exchange. Last minute additions of fees are unacceptable in any context. But I encourage everyone to think about cleaning in the context of reciprocal home exchanges. In that case mandatory fees really don’t make sense.



  • Perfectly said. Changing to points changed everything…and took away the sharing spirit that a select group shared. Friends often asked “how I could allow strangers to stay in my home” and I always talked about the “trust & sharing factor”…I was in their home while they were in mine, so we neither of us would ever damage each other’s home and would keep it clean, and include our regular cleaning lady….Now points are like “cash” and the entire spirit of trading has been lost. I am staying in because I have so many points converted from earlier balloons, but will eventually find another platform where we truly “trade”…I feel like I really lost something very special…

  • On a reciprocal exchange, simultaneous or not, we usually agree to leave cleaning to the owner, so the guest can just walk away to catch that plane without having to try and wash and dry linen etc. Or no fees. If we are using points we expect to pay a cleaning fee so that cleaning is still up to the owner and we can just walk away. Like many second homes, our apartment is automatically cleaned by the housekeeper at our expense, non optional, so passing on that fee is logical, and takes cleaning responsibility away from the guest.