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Home Exchange 101 Lesson 6 – Preparing Your Home for Your House Exchange Guests

by John Mensinger on March 12, 2010

In this, our third part of Home Exchange 101 Lesson 6, we’ll look at some critical steps in preparing your home to receive your homeswap partners.

To Each Their Own…

Families vary in their approach to house cleanliness, condition, and order.  Standards tend to be higher in families without children, which is one reason we recommend trading with families with similar family structures.

There are also differences on this topic among cultures.  Some of our friends exchanged with a Danish family and had the sense that nothing had been done to prepare for their arrival.  That reflected the relaxed and casual attitude of the Danes.  This was OK for our friends: it meant they could enjoy the home and not have to worry about cleaning it up when they left.

In thirteen exchanges we’ve had only one family express disappointment with the condition of our home.  They were from Switzerland, a country renowned for its high standards.  We could sympathize with them as their place was immaculately clean and in brand new condition despite being ten years old and housing two younger kids.

Use Home Exchange as a Reason to Clean and Organize

A house exchange is an appropriate time for spring cleaning, repair, and renewal.  It is not a time for major construction projects which are rarely finished on schedule.  You need to organize everything to be as simple and easy for your guests as possible.  Here are some Home Exchange University tips for preparing your home:

  • The home should be clean and orderly.
  • Provide fresh towels in the bathrooms and fresh sheets on the beds.
  • Clean (and hopefully empty) the refrigerator.  It’s OK to leave staples such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.  We move everything to our second refrigerator/freezer in the garage.  Our guests are welcome to use anything in either of our refrigerators.
  • Put away anything fragile or difficult to use/understand.
  • Put away anything really valuable in a secure location.
  • Fix any deferred maintenance items such as a leaky faucet, loose cabinet knob, or broken chair.
  • Be sure the house is safe for the incoming family. If they have young kids disclose any hazards and put away household chemicals where they won’t find them.
  • The incoming family should have closet space in their bedrooms, space in the kitchen pantry for food they buy, and a place to put their empty suitcases.
  • If any basic equipment such as a toaster, cutlery, or cookware is shabby, give it to charity (or to your children living at University).  Buy new products to replace them.
  • If there are items such as bicycles that you know your guests will use, verify that they’re in good operating condition.  Extra credit for having accessories such as helmets, locks, spare tubes and a pump.
  • Secure your computer and back it up before your guests arrive.  If you are going to let them use it set up a guest account.
  • The garden should be looking good.  If you have a pool it should get a service and cleaning just before your visitors arrive.
  • If you are trading the car it should be clean with a full tank of gas.  It should have had a recent service and oil change.  The user’s manual should be in the glove box.

Extra credit if your garage is organized and clean.  We leave it as is and warn our guests that they enter it at their own risk.

So what’s on your home exchange checklist?

Click here for the next article in this series!

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John Mensinger is co-founder of HomeExchangeuniversity.com and an experienced home exchanger.  His passion is helping others experience the enjoyment (and cost savings!) of home exchange.  John can be reached at jm[at]homeexchangeuniversity.com.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bob March 13, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Excellent tips on how to prepare your home; let me ad a couple of mine:

Leave a manual with pictures showing:

Where is the fuse box; who to call in case of a problem
Where is the gas meter/water meter in case they have to be shut of.
Where is the thermostat for heating or cooling

Are there switches of in not such obvious locations. (behind a curtain)

Inform the family about particulars of your home that you are used to but which are not obvious for everybody, like: “if you open the front door you have to pull/push the door and then turn the key”.

Leave a key in a hidden place outside, in case the family will shut them self out. (be sure to tell them where it is :-) )

Leave passwords, logins or other codes for the computers of (wireless) internet.

Label all the keys of your bikes/cars/house

Make a colour photocopy of your remotes and write an explanation how they work.

Leave a note with emergency numbers and a description how to reach emergency help.
Leave list with phone numbers and address of a doctor en dentist.

Use post it notes to give extra info (eg, please do not use the plates in this cupboard, they where hand painted by my mother)

2 John March 15, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Thanks to Bob for his good ideas and suggestions. We have a switch for our bedroom ceiling fan that is hidden behind a curtain. If we don’t specifically tell our guests where it is they will waste a lot of time trying to figure it out before contacting us to ask the secret.

3 Marie March 23, 2010 at 2:03 PM

It’s funny how different cultures view things differently. We always offer our guests a space on the hideaway bed of the couch. When we visited family in England, they totally cleared out the master bedroom and let us stay in it while they slept in the floor in their kids’ bedroom. I’m glad we visited them before they visited us :) .

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