House swap, sit or stay
Want to put a plug on the financial drain of accommodation costs, and enjoy living like a local? Consider a house swap, sit or stay.
Travelling is exciting, but it can be hard work. Nothing is familiar, eating in restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner soon loses its novelty, and hotels can feel like they’ve had cultural Botox to take out local expression and charm. But imagine arriving in Tuscany or San Francisco to all the comforts of an established home, with a welcome note, some food in the fridge and possibly even a car to use?
All over the world, thousands of families, friends, couples and singles are house swapping, sitting or staying. You can choose what best suits you: to swap houses directly with another, to babysit someone’s house for them while they’re away, or to stay with the home-owners or have them to stay with you. Many people make this holiday choice to save on accommodation costs only to find the greatest benefit is meeting neighbours, getting insider tips on restaurants and places to visit, and making great friends.
Most house swaps are organised so the two parties directly exchange – they come to your house, you go to theirs. You can swap for as long or as short a time as you both decide. There are also ‘non-synchronised’ swaps; for example, you go to their house, but they won’t necessarily go to yours – they’ll stay elsewhere or in a second house.
The best place to access the house-swapping community is on the internet. Membership-based house-swap organisations offer search facilities, a guide to exchanging and helpful customer support, such as providing you with a simple contract. Once your membership is paid, you can start to contact other members directly. Many people start planning six months or a year in advance, in order to get to know you and your house before choosing to commit.
Types of house swaps
You can swap your house, yacht or cruiser for similar accommodation or choose to look for a special interest house swap, such as near or on a golf course. There’s no obligation to swap like properties; in fact, people often want to try something different. You could potentially swap your country house for their studio apartment in Manhattan, or your mountain shack for their yacht on the Aegean.
House sitting offers free accommodation in exchange for minding a home while the owners or renters are away. The deal usually includes some domestic duties, such as looking after pets. There are internet organisations where sitters pay a fee but home-owners register their properties for free. Sitters may be required to pay a refundable bond and to pay appropriate utility costs. Potential sitters must provide references and there’s usually an interview process where both parties can find out if the specific arrangements suit them.
Click NEXT to find out more about hospitality stays and the pros and cons of house sitting
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