How to start: Join a reputable house swapping site with homes available in the cities you want to visit. While it costs nothing to browse properties, you will need to pay an annual subscription fee (around US$75) to communicate with potential home swappers and to have your own home profiled on the website. The swapping itself is free so no other money should change hands.
Secure insurance: Having the right insurance is your responsibility. As soon as you discuss travel arrangements, call your home and car insurance company. Also ensure the home you are staying in is properly covered and check who carries the cost of any extra premium fee if the swap takes place.
Do your homework: Arrange a call with your swappers to “meet” them. Ask for and provide references. Ensure you have the name of a local trusted friend or family member of theirs you can contact in case of emergency. Provide the same, plus a local doctor, hospital, pharmacy, vet, mechanic and your travel details.
Consider pets: Taking care of the house owner’s pet can often be part of the deal. Leave clear instructions and enough supplies for the whole period of the swap.
Be thoughtful: Leave basic supplies like milk and bread. Write a welcome note and share local faves. Lock away valuables and make it clear what is OK to use (bed linen, pantry staples) and what is not OK to use (evening wear, wine collection). Reports of theft or damage are rare in the house swapping community, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.