Finalising your home swap agreement
- Once you have found definite exchange partners, provide them with any further information they have requested or may find useful. In turn, ask for any information not yet given which will help you with your plans. *Note: if a swimming pool is included with the exchange home, and it is not clear if this is a private or shared pool, ask for this information if it is important to you.
- It can be reassuring to exchange references before finalising your exchange plans. If you have exchanged before your previous exchange partners would be ideal referees; otherwise, send details of two or three people who know you well and would be prepared to write reference letters for you. Don't be embarrassed to ask for references - potential exchange partners will understand your concerns.
- Check that your home insurance will be valid while your exchange partners occupy your home. Emphasise that they are non-paying guests. Most insurance companies will acknowledge that your home is at lower risk from burglary when it is occupied but your insurance cover may be invalid if the company has not been informed before your exchange holiday. Note: Theft claims are hardly ever met unless there is evidence of forced entry.
- Car Insurance: if you plan to exchange cars, again check that your exchange partners will be covered to use your car. It is particularly important for British members planning to exchange with Americans to ensure that their guests will be covered as some British motor insurance companies refuse to cover Americans. Exchange members should not jeopardise no-claims bonuses for relatively small sums - agree maximum repair bills to be paid before making a claim. Also agree any restrictions on use or mileage.
- Agree payment of household bills (most exchangers continue to pay their own bills apart from the telephone bill which can be billed separately for the exchange period if arranged in advance; alternatively, agree to not use each other’s phones but use your own mobiles instead).
- Although you may make most of your arrangements by email or phone, do keep a check list of everything you have agreed and send a copy to your exchange partners for their approval - having a written agreement which you have both signed avoids misunderstandings later. This is the stage when it is crucial that you are both happy with all the arrangements.
- Very rarely a member reports feeling 'pressured' into agreeing something, perhaps allowing free use of their car when they would prefer restricted use, or caring for a cat when they don't want to be tied to staying the whole period in their exchange partner's home. It is much better to face possibly causing some disappointment now than to let it pass and go on your holiday feeling resentful or worried. And never accept an exchange offer if you feel in any way uneasy about it - better to risk losing the offer than to have regrets later.
- If any information your exchange partner has provided is puzzling you, do ask for an explanation. There can occasionally be misunderstandings over terminology, even between English speakers.
- Repairs to household appliances - you may agree to reimburse your partners for small, emergency repairs but ask them to consult with you before arranging major repairs.
- If you can arrange an overlap at one of the homes that's ideal as you will both feel more comfortable about your holiday if you have been able to meet. However, this is not always possible and, if not, arrange for a neighbour or friend living nearby to act as your agent, handing over keys and helping with any problems (unfamiliar domestic appliances can sometimes be a puzzle so it is reassuring to have a 'local' to turn to for advice).
- Exchangers are expected to allow use of most of their household equipment by their exchange partners but if you have anything of value which you don't want used, make certain your exchange partners are aware of what is 'out of bounds'; ideally, lock away anything not to be used or ask a friend to take care of small items.
- Pets/plants - Many exchangers are quite happy to look after plants and/or pets for their partners but don't feel obliged to do so if you are worried about the responsibility or want to spend some time away from your exchange base. If your guests agree to look after plants please keep to simple requests - few people want to spend hours on holiday tending someone else's garden.