Vacationers Urged to Use Caution When House Swapping

House swapping is increasing in popularity among vacationers throughout Utah and the world yet homeowners are being urged to use caution before listing their home on a home exchange website.

Pros and cons of a hotel stay

Photo by: Hamzu Butt

Part of a good vacation is staying someplace in an upscale part of town that is clean and preferably inexpensive. When it comes to hotels, the clean and centrally located ones are usually priced accordingly and the cheaper rooms can often be filthy or in a questionable neighborhood. Those who are wanting a vacation away from home have another option to look forward to known as house swapping.

House swapping

Photo by: Mary Greathead

House swapping takes place when a person or family temporarily trades homes with another through one of the various online companies such as Airbnb, HomeExchange, and LoveHomeSwap. House swapping can occur with primary homes and apartments as well as second homes or cabins. The individual lists their home with pictures, location, price, and availability while also browsing homes in their chosen vacation destination. Once they have found temporary “renters” as well as a place to stay on their vacation, the swap is complete and the escape from ordinary life begins.

Not as glamorous as it seems

While movies in Hollywood have portrayed house swapping as a magical experience that may even end in unexpected romance, real-life house swapping doesn’t always have a happy ending. Some horror stories from house swapping including problems with the vacation home, such as:

Photo by: Abril Rubio

• Booking a dump. A picture says a thousand words but can also leave out a lot of detail if things are staged just right. Many house swappers arrive to find their temporary abode not up to par. Incidents have occurred that include leaking roofs, missing furniture, bug infestations, and even utilities being shut off. Most of the complaints however include dissatisfaction on the cleanliness of the swapped house. This is common as most families do not have a personal maid to ensure the home is hotel clean.

• Pets. House swapping really means life swapping. This includes beds, toys, food, vehicles, and even the family dog.

Photo by: Tristan Ferne

It is encouraged to research a vacation home fully and be informed on whether or not there are pets in the home and what type of care they need. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if Fido needs to be walked daily and loves snuggling any human in existence.

• Change of plans. Unfortunately, sometimes plans change suddenly which can include not having the vacation home available during the scheduled dates. While this doesn’t occur on a regular basis, it is something that should be planned for just in case.

Trouble at home

Other problems that can arise with house swapping take place on the home front. Issues that have been reported include:

Photo by: Antti T. Nissinen

• Vandalism. Not all house swappers take care of their vacation home. Some swappers may leave things messy while others may leave items broken and needing repair. There is always a risk of a bad renter, which is why it is important to get to know the other house swapper in advance and read their prior reviews carefully.

• Insurance coverage. Before making the swap, ensure that you and your guests are covered. This includes vehicle coverage as well as home owners or rental insurance. House swapping may not be covered so it is vital to find out for sure before making the trade.

Photo by: Quinn Dombrowski

Prostitution. What does a pimp love more than a cheap hotel to work his girls out of? A cheaper home that isn’t monitored by hotel employees or authorities. This may seem like a rarity but in fact it has been reported several times nationwide. Someone in the sexual solicitation business poses as a prospective house swapper and with a little bit of acting, sells a family on letting the “nice couple” rent the house for a week or more. For the entirety of the swap, the family home has a revolving door to the coming and goings of random “Johns”, and the family is left feeling violated and uncomfortable returning to their own home.

Not for everyone

House swapping is not for everyone but for those who wish to give it a try, there are always risks involved. Home exchange companies encourage clients to get to know the other families and do plenty of research prior to a swap. If criminal activity such as prostitution or drugs takes place in a home while the owners are vacationing elsewhere, it is wise for them to inquire with an attorney upon their return about any possible legal backlash of the house swapping gone wrong.


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