Post image for Home Exchange 101 Lesson Ten—the end of your house swap

Home Exchange 101 Lesson Ten—the end of your house swap

by John Mensinger on November 10, 2010

At the end of an exchange I am feeling like a local, comfortable and familiar with the house and the neighborhood. I know how to get from A to B or if in Britain from A to Zed. I am sad to leave. It takes several hours to pack the bags, rearrange the house to its original condition, and clean it up.
You should leave the home as clean as you found it. Our most stressful cleanup was in Switzerland—the hosts were immaculate and it was culturally difficult for the barbarians from California to match their standards. Our easiest times were several occasions where our partner’s housekeeper was available to clean up. In such cases understand the fee involved and be happy to pay it.
We agree to leave dirty towels and sheets. There isn’t time for a family of five to wash and dry everything. As long as there is a second set of clean sheets to put on the bed and enough clean towels this is a good system. They do the same in our home.
You might leave a small gift for the returning family. You could label any food with a post it note showing the date it was bought or cooked. They should be able to find enough food for a first meal home without shopping.
It can be difficult to clean up the house and catch a flight home on the same day, especially if the airport is a few hours away. It might be more relaxing to spend the night at the airport hotel. This gives you time to clean the house without the pressure of a deadline. You should also clean their car and fill the tank with gas.
A few days before the end of the exchange we send an e-mail to confirm the end of the exchange and the handover of their car. If left at the airport you need to describe exactly where it is parked. Extra credit if you can personally welcome them at the airport. They should have a set of car keys. You lock the other set in the car, hopefully having remembered to first take your bags, phones, wallets, and passports.
It is common that there will have been a few things broken or damaged during an exchange. You should fix or replace anything if convenient. Otherwise you can leave it for them, but let them know what to expect. We offer to pay as do our partners. We don’t worry about it if the damage is minor. Twice I have damaged a car. Our friends received a quotation to fix it; I approved the amount and reimbursed them.
When you arrive home you will discover that plates, cutlery, cookware, and glasses may not be in the usual places. There might be oriental foodstuffs in the fridge and pantry. Maybe they bought cheap toilet paper instead of the good stuff. They might have depleted certain staples such as pasta, potatoes, or rice. The thermostat now reads Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. Plan on an hour or two and a few bucks/quid/euros to get everything back to normal. This is par for the course. It is a small price to pay for an economical and adventurous vacation.
Once home you should send an e-mail letting your partners know everything is ok. If you discover any major problems let them know. It is common for a set of keys to be taken across the world. You might have left books or clothing at their place. Anything valuable should be mailed back. Minor items can be donated to the other family or chucked in the rubbish bin. This is the end of the exchange. If you are lucky it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. That will be the subject of my next post.

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