Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Long-term house swapping

Until very recently, if you Googled "house swapping," you'd generally uncover sites such as HomeLink and Intervac: organizations that focus on helping vacationers switch homes for a few weeks at a time.

Lately, however, I've been hearing about more people arranging longer exchanges. Swaps of six months to a year have long been a small niche of the home exchange industry, but they appealed mainly to professors, who connected on specialized sites such as Sabbatical Homes. Now, according to the Shelter Offshore blog, more people are considering long-term swaps as a way to "test out" a foreign country for a year or so before buying property abroad.

Probably due to the upheaval in the worldwide economy, particularly in the real estate industry, a growing number of people also appear to be swapping homes permanently. The legalities of such a large-scale barter deal must be complex, to put it mildly. However, at least one social networking site, Domuswap, has popped up to help people do permanent trades.

By the way, if you're interested in doing a shorter term trade, do check out my tips for house swappers at


Lois said...

Hi Laura

Thanks for drawing attention to another way that people are using home exchanges apart from short vacations. Swapping for longer periods (up to a year) is not new - Australians (retired and those on sabbaticals - common there amongst non-academics too) often arrange exchanges in the UK and the rest of Europe for several months (when unable to arrange one long swap, many arrange more than one and/or use alternative accommodation for any periods not covered by an exchange).

Trying out a new country by arranging a home exchange before making a permanent move is another option (some exchangers arrange this as a normal holiday period whilst others want lengthy periods to check out local facilities, jobs, etc).

Increasingly, as many people can now work anywhere in the world as long as they have a high speed internet connection, longer exchanges are arranged that combine work and a holiday.

Keep up the good work on your blog!

Home Base Holidays, London
Blog: Travel the Home Exchange Way

Tony said...

Hello Laura,
A couple of comments for those interested in a long-term home exchange.

It's really important that you get to know the people you will be swapping with. Over the extended period of the exchange,the home is bound to have some problems. If you don't have a good relationship with the other party, it may be harder to get problems resolved as well as agreeing to who's responsible for payment.

When we were looking at our first long-term exchange, the family we were in discussions with came to visit our home and we went to visit theirs. This may be an additional expense, but the last thing you need upon arrival is to find out that you don't like the house or neighborhood. Pictures can't always give you a complete feel of the home and neighborhood. If it's short-term (a few weeks), it's less of a problem but if the swap is long-term - it can make your time away from home absolutely miserable.

You need to start searching early. We started about 18 months before our departure date.

Have a backup plan. You just never know what may happen.

At 1st Home Exchange our advanced search page makes it easy for people to identify those listings that are interested in a long-term swap.

For whatever reason you may be looking at a long-term swap, it's a fantastic way to immerse oneself in the local culture.

Laura Byrne Paquet said...

Thanks so much, Lois and Tony, for the detailed and thoughtful feedback. It's a very good point that people should try to establish a strong relationship with their exchange partners. And doing a "pre-trip" to check out the neighbourhood before doing a long-term exchange makes excellent sense.