Ways to keep your home safe when you do a house swap

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE - Grace Ham­mond

AS the eco­nomic cli­mate forces us to look at al­ter­na­tive hol­i­day ar­range­ments, the pop­u­lar­ity of home ex­change is grow­ing by 15 per cent each year.

Fol­low­ing an ini­tial spike in stay­ca­tions, usu­ally un­der can­vas, the con­cept of ex­chang­ing homes is fast be­com­ing the trend for many look­ing to save costs on their hol­i­day.

It is es­ti­mated that 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple took part in a house swap last year, en­joy­ing a hol­i­day in a new area, of­ten abroad, rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a tem­po­rary “lo­cal” while sav­ing on ho­tel fees or ex­pen­sive accommodation. Dr St­ef­fan Ge­orge, de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor of the Mas­ter Lock­smith’s As­so­ci­a­tion (MLA), the UK’S lock­smithing trade as­so­ci­a­tion, gives ad­vice for peo­ple con­sid­er­ing house swap­ping for their next hol­i­day:

“A house swap can rep­re­sent an ex­cel­lent value hol­i­day and a fan­tas­tic way to see other parts of the UK, or in­deed the world, at min­i­mal cost. How­ever, there are sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity is­sues at stake in al­low­ing strangers ac­cess to your home and the MLA would rec­om­mend that you fol­low the ad­vice be­low to en­sure that the house swap is a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s para­mount that you find your home and be­long­ings as se­cure on your re­turn as when you left them. These point­ers should help you to rest as­sured that your home is pro­tected against un­scrupu­lous house-sit­ters and give you peace of mind to en­joy your hol­i­day:

A home ex­change will in­volve giv­ing the key to your house and all of its con­tents to your ex­change part­ner. You want to be sure that the guest in your home is not mak­ing copies of your keys, pro­vid­ing them­selves with un­war­ranted ac­cess in the fu­ture. In­vest­ing in a patented key sys­tem is a good way of pre­vent­ing this threat. Patented keys carry le­gal pro­tec­tion, pre­vent­ing their du­pli­ca­tion with­out proof of own­er­ship, en­sur­ing you know ex­actly how many keys are in cir­cu­la­tion and who has ac­cess to your home. Visit www.lock­smiths.co.uk to find an MLA li­censed lock­smith who can as­sist with this.

It’s ad­vis­able to put your guests in touch with a neigh­bour, friend, or fam­ily mem­ber. Not only does this give those close to you the chance to check up on your be­half, it presents them with the op­por­tu­nity to run through any ground rules.

It’s wise to lock away any valu­able items that are eas­ily stolen or bro­ken. While many in­sur­ers will cover house ex­change pro­grammes (pro­vid­ing they are in­formed be­fore­hand), they will not cover thefts that show no signs of forced en­try, a prob­lem when you are es­sen­tially giv­ing a stranger ac­cess to your home. For this rea­son, it may be a good idea to in­vest in a safe, ex­pertly spec­i­fied and fit­ted by an MLA li­censed lock­smith. A safe will al­low you to store valu­able items, se­cure in the knowl­edge they’ll still be there when you re­turn.

Be sure to change the codes on your alarm once the ex­change is over to pre­vent your “guests” re­turn­ing un­in­vited in the fu­ture.

Make sure you dis­cuss in ad­vance whether the guests will be leav­ing the prop­erty un­oc­cu­pied at any time dur­ing their stay (per­haps to visit friends or rel­a­tives) and that you have agreed the se­cu­rity pro­ce­dure for this even­tu­al­ity, in­clud­ing set­ting timers for lights and or­gan­is­ing col­lec­tion of mail from the door­mat.

Try to ex­change keys ei­ther in per­son or through some­one you can trust to en­sure all keys are re­turned and se­cure.

It’s worth call­ing out a pro­fes­sional to con­duct a re­view of the se­cu­rity of your home be­fore you put it on the hous­eswap mar­ket – it’s im­por­tant not to over­look things like re­pairs to perime­ter fenc­ing which could com­pro­mise your prop­erty’s se­cu­rity.

Al­ways use a rep­utable com­pany to ar­range an ex­change.

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