If you’ve seen the movie “The Holiday” where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet decide to get away from their dysfunctional lives by trading homes for a holiday, you’ve got the basic principles of a home swap or home exchange holiday.  The concept is simple, while you’re off exploring somewhere new from the comfort of someone else’s home, they’re doing the same from yours – and lets face it, with the current global financial situation there are going to be plenty of people looking for cheap holidays – and with a home swap one thing you’re not going to have to pay for is accommodation.

Unfortunately you’re unlikely to have a tipsy Jude Law knocking at the door either (this reference will be lost on you if you haven’t seen “The Holiday,” sorry!)  It’s not just holidaymakers who are looking for home swaps.  Expats are finding that home exchanges are good ways to revisit their country of origin.  Let’s face it, if you are working in Australia and want to go back to Bognor Regis for a month you’re probably not going to be short of a few people who want to live in your home while you’re refreshing your memory as to how dull and grey the UK is.

Short term home exchange abroad is a fantastic way to save on hotel bills, and your place is going to be occupied while you’re away, which will keep the insurers happy.  On the other side of the coin, if you’re planning to move overseas what better way to check out your new destination than to arrange a home swap with someone who lives there already…

With around 100,000 home swaps happening each year the market is not in its infancy, one of the biggest companies, established in 1953, currently has 13,000 homes to exchange in 75 different countries, so the opportunities to find a home swap in the location you want to visit are pretty good.

Popular destinations for Brits are France, Spain, Italy and Australia – but you can also find people wanting to share their homes in Japan, Oman and Vietnam.  So how do you go about organising a home swap abroad?

An internet search for “home swaps” or “home exchanges” will bring up any number of websites offering listings of houses to exchange.  Fees vary site to site and most will let you have access to listings before you join so you are able to choose a site that has property in the areas you are interested in.  Once you’ve joined, it’s a case of making contact with home owners in the areas you want to travel to.  Send a brief email telling them you’re interested in trading homes, the dates you’re looking for and something about your house and the location.

Home swapping has been described as being a bit like internet dating, we don’t mean that you’re going to enter into a relationship that’ll end with you losing your house, but that as with dating, you’re going to need to build a rapport with your home exchangers before you decide to swap.  Trust is an issue, but there are other things to bear in mind as well.  If you’ve got a palatial mansion with white carpets and silk wall hangings you might not want to home swap with a family with 4 young children with a jam addiction.

You’ll be starting a process of finding out as much about your exchange family as you can, and them of you too.

Finally it will be time for the off!  It’s important that you leave a list of do’s and don’ts such as don’t use the crystal to feed the babies and do feed the dog.  Leave contact numbers for emergencies such as hospital and doctors’ numbers as well as plumbers and electricians.  It’s also a good idea to clear drawer space for your guests and also ensure they have food in the fridge for when they arrive.

If you’re exchanging cars during your home swap make sure you have told your insurers.  Also leave a list of any attractions there may be in your local area.  It’s also a good idea to inform your neighbours so your guests aren’t arrested as burglars on their first night.

The golden rule for short term home exchange abroad is to always treat your exchange home as you would your own and leave it the way you found it, so if you do have any teenagers, don’t let them advertise parties on Facebook!