Life Travel The inside guide to house swapping
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The inside guide to house swapping

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House swapping is a growing trend. Home Exchange, for example, has a member base of 50,000 worldwide and 75,000 house swaps a year. LoveHomeSwap has 53,000 plus homes on its books, in more than 160 countries. Better start packing …

How does it work?

For most companies you register and pay an annual fee (usually less than one night’s hotel accommodation). You register your own property, supply good quality photos of it, plus a full description. You can then check out properties on line, as well as members’ profiles to get an idea of a good match. If you have young children you probably want to stay in a house that is child-friendly.

Seven top tips for house swaps

Be honest about your property (because you want others to be honest about theirs!)
Plan ahead. You can be lucky but the most desirable properties are often booked well ahead.
Study those photos! Seriously – years of booking apartments and villas on line has taught me to examine the photos of properties very carefully. You’ll be surprised what you can pick up.
Leave good linen, fresh towels, basics such as tea and coffee, a good local guide for shopping/cafes/restaurants, and emergency numbers (doctor, hospital etc).
Leave instructions on how to run the dishwasher, TV, video, the security system.
Tidy up. Leave your house super clean.
Take out insurance – check your house insurance and take travel insurance just in case you have to cancel.

Here’s a sample of what’s on offer

Manhattan, New York, New York

01 Manhattan apt Home Exchange, optionWow. Talk about live the life. If you’re thinking New York, consider this art-filled designer loft, in a leafy locale just off Park Avenue. Book-filled, curio filled, designer-chic furnishings. It sleeps six – but who wants to sleep in New York? The apartment occupies an entire floor, with sun filtering in by day, and a terrace with views of the Empire State. The owners prefer a property with a pool or by the beach – can you do a swap?

Downtown Stockholm apartment

02 Stockholm Home ExchangeIn true Scandi style, this apartment is crisply white, but with flashes of colour (the owner is an interior designer). It’s quiet but central enough to make the great base for exploring Stockholm, one Europe’s most beautiful cities. At night, you could settle down with a Schnapps and a Stieg Larsson book and relax, feeling truly Swedish. There are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, internet and cable TV. You can even negotiate to drive the owners’ Rav4.

Montmartre, Paris

03 Montmarte Paris, Home ExchangeWhat could be more romantic than this artistic quartier? An original duplex with dreamy Paris views (yes, that is the dome of Sacré Coeur basilica) 3/4 bedrooms, polished floors, French doors and a roomy kitchen. Live like a local – walk to the metro, pick up your baguette at the boulangerie, pop into the boutiques, sip a vin rouge at a local cafe. The owners and their two teenagers are open to a swap for any destination.

Scottish mansion, Gleneagles, Scotland

04 Gleneagles, LoveHomeSwapIt may not be for everyone – you will need a very substantial property to swap –but golf tragics could be in seventh heaven. Apart from Gleneagles, there are 25 golf clubs within an hour’s drive. The mansion, designed by classical architect Robert Adam, could easily accommodate an extended family. There are vast entertaining rooms, eight bedrooms, endless opportunities for outdoor activities and fabulous views. Did we mention the outdoor heated pool and hot tub? Adelaide is included on the list of potential swap locations.

Golden Bay, Tasman, New Zealand

05 Golden Bay, New ZealandA little corner of Middle Earth overlooking one of New Zealand’s loveliest bays, this unique house swap mixes rustic and refined. Natural tree-trunk pillars stretch up to high ceilings but there is also a grand piano and collection of antique and ethnic furnishings. Doors open from every room onto amazing views. There’s an outdoor fireplace, even an outdoor bath (as well as two inside), vegetable garden and fruit trees. It’s an easy drive to local beaches, villages and Abel Tasman National Park. This peaceful haven sleeps 6 people in 3 bedrooms. The owners’ dream destination is ‘anywhere’.

SoHo London, Penthouse

06 Soho, London  LoveHomeSwapYour very own (well, for a little while) London pad. This top-level apartment has a flourishing rooftop garden and London views. Open-plan living, a palette of cool silvers and rich greys and enough space to feel at home. You would be well placed for a trip to the National Gallery, a stroll in St James Park, or a West End show. The helpful owner can advise on the hip local restaurants and cafes.

Photos courtesy of Love Home Swap, and Home Exchange and the property owners.

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