Home Exchange

Not all Home Exchanges are Perfect

Rome Coliseum I’ve had a lot of really good home exchange experiences. But they’re not all going to be perfect. My recent trip to Rome underscored this point, while still reminding me why I prefer home swapping to staying in a hotel.

I recently wrote about a point-based swap I set up for my visit to Rome. The host was very nice and quick to respond to my messages and questions. But in addition to some confusion over paying for towels and sheets, she also told me that the internet was down a few days before I was scheduled to arrive. My friend and I both needed to get some work done while in Rome so I wrote back that this would be a problem and asked if it would be possible to get fixed before we arrive. She said she would work on it.

The day before I arrived at her flat I reached out to my host to ask about the status of internet access. She said not to worry it was all set and the door man would give us access to the computer. I hoped this was just a language barrier because having access to a computer would do us no good since we both needed to work on our own laptops. Unfortunately it wasn’t an issue of translation, she really did leave us a laptop with internet access, but no wifi.

Oddly large foyer

Oddly large foyer

On the bright side, we were staying in a two bedroom flat, with a living room, and a small but functional kitchen. The layout was a bit odd: there were a few locked doors off a huge foyer in addition to the main apartment (with one bedroom within) and one additional bedroom off that foyer which was for our use.

The old building had an adorable antique elevator. And it was located in a convenient area next to a huge park and walking distance from most sights. We had to spend the first night in Rome in a hotel due to the timing of availability of our home exchange. The small hotel room featured two twin beds right next to each other and lacked adequate temperature controls. This hotel room cost over €100 per night. So the house swap flat was definitely an improvement.

Cute antique elevator

Cute antique elevator

Our second day in the home exchange I got a text message from someone who identified himself as a friend of our host which read: “I am Guiseppe a friend of [my host]. You are aware that a part of the apartment is used as a lawyers’ cabinet. Therefore could you please leave the door unlocked with no keys in the topple in order to let lawyers in? Thanks in advance do not hesitate to call/message me in case you need it. Have a good stay.”

We had already left the flat for the day, but also this was news to me, and not welcome news. So I responded that we were gone and the apartment was locked, but also we had left computers in the flat and I did not think having the door unlocked all day seemed very secure. I wasn’t really too worried as the apartment is on the fifth floor in a building with someone at the front door all day, but still I didn’t like the idea of leaving my valuables unlocked in a building that anyone could just walk into. Guiseppe never responded to my message, nor did I hear from my host, but when we came back to the flat around 4pm the front door to the flat was unlocked and there was someone working in one of the rooms that was previously locked. The woman, who I presume is a lawyer, greeted us kindly and left shortly after 5pm.

The lack of wifi was a hassle. We managed to set up a slow system off the computer’s internet in the flat but I ended up spending a lot of time in the cafe nearby, which fortunately had fast wifi and good coffee, along with plenty of seating.

There are always potential issues with home exchanges. You can’t expect repairs and service like you would in a big hotel chain. And repairs to someone’s second home are probably going to be a lower priority. After all my host doesn’t suffer for lack of wifi in a flat that she only uses occasionally. There may also be odd surprises like this woman’s lack of advance communication about the fee for sheets and towels, and the lawyer use of rooms in the flat. In spite of all this, my home exchange in Rome was still superior to a hotel room that would not have included two bedrooms, a separate living room and a kitchen.

1 Comment

  • Yes, experienced swappers know this kind of weird stuff can happen. But it’s still way better than usual lodging 🙂
    Hope you liked the city. For next times, maybe you don’t know about this, but if no Wifi, you can try to set up a network through your phone (if you have a data phone with big data amount). See this for example : http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/tethering-use-mobile-internet-pc/ I used this in a second house last summer. Not perfect but could help. And italian’s caffee are so nice, it was not a bad solution 🙂

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