Recently, neighborhood friends announced they will be relocating to Italy for a year. They homeschool their two children and will use this experience to further their two daughters’ education. Spending a year in a country filled with immense history, culture, art and music will be an enriching learning adventure for the entire family. Since they own their home, they have decided to house swap with an Italian couple who live in Tuscany.
House swapping is an ideal way to live abroad for a brief or extended period of time. It allows you to live somewhere without having to pay for housing accommodations because you stay in the residence of the individual(s) you swap with. If you are doing a swap for an extended period of time, it affords you the opportunity to leave your home without having to sell it.
Many Internet sites provide accommodations for housing in Italy. International exchanges are typically for one to three weeks. However, there are sites that offer longer stays. One such site, SabbaticalHomes.com, includes listings with minimum stays of three or six months.
There are a few considerations as you contemplate home exchange. Your first question might be, “Is it safe?” HomeExchange.com states, “…we’ve never had a report of a theft, malicious vandalism, or a case of someone getting to their exchange home and finding a vacant lot. Don’t be worried about “Having a Stranger in Your House.” Think of home exchange as Internet Dating for your home. Before you would actually go on a date with someone you met on the internet, you would exchange some emails, talk on the phone a few times, and swap recent photos. By the time you agreed to meet, it wouldn’t be with a “stranger.”
Another question may be whether to make your car available for your guests’ use. Again, HomeExchange.com states that about 50% of their members exchange cars. Liability and insurance for both your home and car can be another factor to consider. It’s important to check with your insurance company, but typically, insurance treats “exchange partners” as invited guests in your home or “permitted” drivers.
Many of us have pets, so be sure to check if pets are permitted and to communicate whether you will allow pets in your home. Additionally, most of us do not own a beachfront property or loft with cityscape views. However, don’t let that prevent you from pursuing your dream to swap homes. There are many people who, just like my neighbors’ upcoming guests, want to live in a suburban community to experience typical American life. A potential home exchange partner may wish to be near relatives or need to be in the U.S. for an extended business trip. An “average” home might be just what someone desires.
Finally, you may wonder what to do with your valuables. Again, most home exchange sites state that it’s perfectly OK to leave your home “as is.” However, if you want to err on the side of caution, it can be a good idea to rent storage space and store items you wish to protect. Items such as family china, silver and crystal, original artwork and jewelry might be better off stowed away for safekeeping.
When you leave, you want to feel secure that your home and possessions will be safe. You also want to feel confident that the home you’re going to will be comfortable, clean and inviting. Communication and clear expectations go a long way to create a pleasurable experience for everyone involved.
Kenneth McCall is director of IT for storage.com. In this role he builds the systems that help customers find the best self storage units for their needs. Through Kenneth’s and his team’s work, customers can find self storage in Washington DC and other cities. In his spare time, Kenneth likes to bike and participate in outdoor activities.