Some Drawbacks Of Home Swapping
Ask most home-swappers about the disadvantages of home swapping and they’ll probably look vague and draw a blank. For most, once experienced, this becomes a way of life.
Problems of any significance rarely occur. But there are some drawbacks unique to home swapping which include:
Misunderstandings can arise between any two parties negotiating an exchange but are even more likely to occur when there are language barriers.
It is generally accepted that most people embarking on a home exchange holiday can speak at least some of the language of the destination country. English is widely spoken among home exchangers. If you’re going to a non-English speaking country, it’s obviously an added bonus if you can speak and understand the language.
In arranging the details of any exchange, good communication is essential and where the participants do not share a common language, it is even more important to spell out all the details of the arrangements as clearly as possible.
Exchange plans falling through
Even with the best of intentions, plans occasionally get cancelled at the last minute due to circumstances beyond control such as ill-health or sudden death.
Once a firm exchange agreement has been made, backing out obviously causes considerable disappointment and inconvenience to the other party. Doing so without very good cause is unacceptable practice. Each party should assume responsibility for considering what alternatives you could offer your guests if you were forced to cancel the arrangements, rather than focusing on what would happen if the other party cancelled.
We know of one English lady who became seriously ill just four days prior to the intended departure to Australia. Rather than ruin the holiday for the incoming Australians, her husband decided not to mention that they would be unable to travel. He met the two sisters at London airport as arranged.
During the drive home, he explained that his wife was in hospital recovering from surgery and they would not be able to undertake the journey to Australia for the foreseeable future. He assured the Australians that they were most welcome to stay.
The Australians were, at first, uncomfortable with this idea since the planned exchange was for a period of six months. They knew their welcome would be worn out long before then. To their surprise, it did turn out well for several reasons.
The house was large enough to accommodate the visitors without them feeling as though they were getting in the way. As the lady was in hospital for some time, the guests provided excellent companionship and support for her husband. Because there was a second car available, the Australians were able to take themselves off to other parts of the UK for varying lengths of time to give everyone a break.
The Australians did return home earlier than originally planned but not before strong friendships had been forged and an open invitation had been given for the English couple to enjoy reciprocal hospitality in Australia at a mutually agreeable future date.
Although not ideal, and certainly not a common situation, it highlights the sense of responsibility of exchangers once a commitment has been given, even in the face of adversity.
Later, the husband, Jack, had this to say about the experience: ”Events certainly overtook any plans that had been made and it is quite a long story. Quite suddenly, Rita was diagnosed as having angina. As our home is quite a large house with five bedrooms, we were able to accommodate the ladies. My wife had a successful operation and was improving all the time but naturally she was not allowed to fly. Shortly afterwards, Gwenda and Rona arrived.
"For our part, we could not be sharing a house with two more pleasant and interesting ladies. There have been – from our point of view – no problems at all and we have really enjoyed their company in between their various visits to other parts of Britain. This has been some compensation to us for not being able to complete the exchange since we would not otherwise have met them.
"We live in hope of another visit to Australia some time.”
If you found your exchange partners through a formal club, the club may be able to help you find a substitute at short notice, especially if you’ve chosen a company noted for its personalised service. In their database they may have members who have been unable to secure an exchange or who have joined only recently, for example.
Bob and Joy of Tasmania were able to take advantage of a substitute when their planned exchange couldn’t go ahead.
“We arranged a swap with a couple from Western Australia. But just when we were due to go to W.A., we had some serious illness in the family which forced us to travel to Queensland instead. Our exchangers came to our house but we were never able to take up our portion of the swap. Aware of the situation, our home swap club later arranged a subsequent exchange for us at no extra cost with another couple in the same area.”
It is important to understand that you should not rely on the club for this assistance. The responsibility is your own and that of your exchange partner. Remember that some clubs, particularly internet-based only clubs, offer no such personalised assistance so this should be taken into consideration when selecting a club to join.
Misrepresentation of incoming guests
An issue that confronts only a few exchangers is the misrepresentation of the number and age of arriving guests.
And then there are those inevitable little mishaps. Those minor irritations that arise with any form of travel do apply to home swapping as well. Usually these little unexpected surprises make the best stories and create the lasting memories of travel of any kind.
Dora of Buderim, Queensland has this advice for would-be swappers: “Go for it, you cannot lose, weighing the pros and cons, even with minor problems, you cannot afford not to do this. It is important to communicate with your exchange partners prior to departure.”
Dora and husband John spent six weeks in Bolton, England. Dora says: “Our exchange experience was great. A wonderful idea to have a base to travel from and the use of an exchange car was an added bonus.”
You need to keep an open mind to all these things and consider that even in the worst case scenario that you can imagine, you’re probably still better off by swapping.
Excerpted and adapted from the ebook "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? How to Swap Your Home and Enjoy FREE Holiday Accommodation Worldwide" by Jackie Hair.