If you had your druthers, how would you spend your retirement? Many people answer that they would like to travel – to experience foreign countries, see exotic landscapes, or visit all of America’s national parks.
However, traveling can be expensive. It’s only a dream for many retirees. They simply cannot justify its costs. Although it fits into their ideal retirement, it doesn’t fit into their budget.
Others are afraid to go against the advice of their financial planners. They don’t have enough disposable income and are reluctant to withdraw money early in retirement for fear they’ll run out.
However, if you value travel, home exchange, also known as house swapping, may be your solution. It’s a method of paying for your adventures without sacrificing your savings.
If you have a home, plus want to travel, have more time than money, and don’t mind strangers staying in your home, you may be a candidate for house swapping.
What is home exchange?
Home exchange is a way for retirees to stretch their travel budget.
Most popular with the 45 and up crowd, home swapping is a form of lodging where two parties agree to exchange homes simultaneously.
No money is exchanged. It’s a form of barter, or sharing.
Home swap residences can cover everything from a family home in a suburban neighborhood to a farmhouse in a rural countryside. It’s also not out of the realm of possibilities to swap your residence for a stay on a yacht.
In brief, here’s how it works.
Let’s say that you live in suburban New Orleans. You wish to take a 2-week vacation to a quaint village in the Apennine Mountains of Tuscany where you watch the sunset as you sip wine on the patio of a charming cottage.
You would find someone in Tuscany who desires a trip to “The Big Easy”. Perhaps they’ve always wanted to experience the gregariousness of “The City that Care Forgot”, the decadence of Mardi Gras, or listen to jazz in the world-famous French Quarter.
You would then make arrangements to stay in their house, while at the same time, they stay in yours.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Let’s delve a little deeper starting with the pros and cons.
Pros of House Swapping
There are several perks to house swapping for the retiree. The most beneficial being that it saves you money – it’s economical.
Save on lodging – Unlike an Airbnb, you don’t pay to stay. However, you do pay an annual membership fee to a home exchange site. It’s anywhere from around $40.00 to $160.00 and it’s necessary to connect with others who want to swap houses. However, most home swappers consider it a bargain.
Lodging is expensive. It can costs you hundreds of dollars a night, especially if you want to stay in a desirable locale. With home exchange, you pay nothing for lodging and you have a house that’s completely furnished.
Save on food – Having a kitchen with all of the appliances and tools you need for cooking is a lifesaver to your pocketbook.
Eating out on vacation isn’t always satisfying, or satiating. Perhaps you’re on a special diet, or it’s simply difficult to find food that suits you. It’s an awful experience paying a restaurant for food you couldn’t eat.
Staying in a home where you can stock the fridge with food of your choice enables you to save money and enjoy a wholesome meal of your choice. Remember to ask your exchange partners for grocery stores and shopping recommendations.
Save on car rental – If it’s not incredible enough to swap one’s house, it’s not uncommon for exchange partners to agree to the use of their vehicles as well.
This results in substantial savings! You will, however, be responsible for paying for gasoline.
Needless to say, communication is essential. Work out details beforehand. Know what happens in the event of a breakdown.
Check with your automobile insurance company as to your liability when driving another person’s vehicle.
Experience the local flavor – Have you ever been on vacation and realized that all you’re seeing is the tourist area? I know I have.
While it’s great to see what’s popular in a specific region, it’s also fun to discover how the locals live. A home exchange provides the opportunity to experience your destination from that perspective.
Rather than having accommodations in the tourist part of town, you could be homestaying in a suburban neighborhood, or a high rise loft in a big city.
In addition, because you are staying in someone’s home as opposed to a hotel, you are likely to have access to books, exercise equipment, laundry facilities, and other amenities that provide comforts of home.
Also, you’re more likely to meet interesting new people – perhaps the neighbors!
Cons of House Swapping
House swapping is not new. It’s been around since 1953 when a group of European teachers wanted to travel over their summer vacation, yet do it economically. Although most home exchangers agree that it’s safe, there are some considerations.
Complete Strangers – While house exchange participants tend to be of good character, and the system is based on honor (I respect your property, you respect mine), the fact remains that you are allowing complete strangers the use of your home.
From all accounts, it’s unlikely you’ll be dealing with thieves. However, it is not recommended that you arrange a swap without a long and thorough communication with your swap partners.
Potential Damage to Property – Damage to property is virtually unheard of. Nevertheless, how would you feel if your valuables or cherished memorabilia got broken? Even the most careful of families can have accidents. It might be a good idea to store your keepsakes in a safe place while you’re away.
Long detailed planning – This in and of itself is not a problem unless you have the opportunity to take a vacation on the spur of the moment. House swapping requires setting up an account and getting to know the people with whom you plan to exchange.
Most exchange sites recommend starting your search for a potential swap at least 4 to 6 months in advance of your travel date.
Language Barrier – From my research, language barriers in the home exchange community are rare. However, written and verbal communication is essential for a successful swap. If you intend to travel abroad, it’s wise to find a couple that speaks the same language as you do.
Travel Made Easy: How to get started with home exchange.
If you’re a retiree who values travel and are ready to give home exchange a try, here’s how to get started.
First – Sign up with a home exchange website, and complete your profile.
Here are 3 of the top-rated sites to help you get started:
No.1 – Intervac Home Exchange – This is the company that started it all. The website’s home page states, “Since 1953 we have been leading the way facilitating home exchange between families, singles and retired people”.
No. 2 – Home Exchange – Started in 1992, this company has been growing ever since. It boasts a database of 187 countries, over 400,000 homes, and says that they add over 10,000 homes per month for exchange.
No. 3 – Love Home Swap – “Swap your home and travel (just about) anywhere in the world”. Members rate Love Home Swap 4.9 out of 5 stars. The site offers a tempting free trial membership.
Next – Find your dream home in your desired location, make contact with house swap members, and organize an exchange.
Lastly – Finalize details, and head off on your dream vacation!
Communication is a must in order for house exchange to be a success. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Have a written agreement. There is no room for confusion when everything is in black and white.
Review your insurance policies. Check with your agent to find out if you need additional liability coverage on your home and contents. Likewise, if you share your automobile.
If you’re like me, you have plenty of other questions about house swapping such as:
- Can I bring my pet? Can I leave my pet?
- How do we exchange keys?
- What if something breaks down while I’m away?
- Who is responsible for cleaning?
Travel on the House answers these and many other questions you may have about house swapping. I also found them to be an excellent resource for Home Exchange for Seniors: Tips from HomeExchange50Plus.
You may be interested in this book Home Exchange: Getting to Know People Around the World . If you buy from our Amazon Affiliate link, you will get Amazon’s great prices and we will get a few cents commission.
“Homeowners can stay anywhere in the world for free. “Home Exchange” tells you what the exchanging is like. The authors — Peter, a journalist, and Jan, a photographer — have traveled the world by exchanging their home many times since 2003 for sojourns as short as a weekend and as long as a month.. Never have they encountered a problem. Yet home exchanging is not for those people who cannot downsize. It’s the proliferation of Wifi that makes the exchanging possible.
A successful retirement is about doing what you value over worrying about money. If travel is one of your retirement dreams, but your bank account doesn’t agree, home exchange may be an option for you.
With a little time, effort, and communication, you can travel the world for a lot less.
Have you participated in home exchange? We would love to hear about it!