Irish Daily Mail

How a HOUSE SWAP could save your SUMMER

... and a fortune in accommodat­ion bills thanks to ever-more-popular websites

- By Holly Thomas

ANYONE who has seen the film The Holiday will have been tempted by the idea of home swapping. The Christmas romcom sees Iris, played by Kate Winslet, trade an idyllic cottage in Surrey for an LA mansion owned by Amanda (Cameron Diaz) for a two-week holiday of a lifetime.

Now, 15 years after the movie premiered, home swapping is more popular than ever.

The concept is simple. You stay at someone else’s house while they stay at yours – and neither of you pay a cent in accommodat­ion costs.

Ordinarily, holidaymak­ers are looking to trade their homes for properties in sunnier destinatio­ns at this time of year. But this summer, soaring numbers are seeking exchanges closer to home.

Ever-changing travel advice, costly Covid tests and the risk of having to pay to quarantine in a hotel means many families have been forced to ditch their usual trips abroad. But with more people opting for a staycation, the cost of holiday accommodat­ion has rocketed.

It’s no wonder families are starting to feel priced out.

So could house swapping save your summer holiday? Joanna and Kris Fleming certainly think so.

The couple have just returned from a week-long break with their children, Archie, 16, Amelia, 15, and Poppy, 12, where they stayed in a luxury four-bedroom mews house in London’s Notting Hill that would ordinarily cost around €1,100 a night to rent.

But by agreeing to swap their four-bedroom, three-storey house just 50 metres from the beach in Cornwall for the duration, they were able to stay for free.

Kris, 47, who runs a retail business, says: ‘House swapping is an absolute no-brainer when you are tied to taking holidays out of term time when prices rocket. This is particular­ly true this year with the demand for staycation­s so high. Swapping homes means we can travel in style.’

The Flemings enjoyed a funpacked itinerary during their seven-night stay – lunch at Ronnie Scott’s Soho jazz club, a theatre trip to see The Lion King, a picnic in St James’s Park, shopping at Portobello Market and a day at the Natural History Museum.

Kris adds: ‘We don’t mind spending money on things like theatre tickets and some meals out in smart restaurant­s when we’re not having to fork out huge amounts for accommodat­ion.’

FAMILIES like the Flemings use websites such as HomeLink, Love Home Swap or HomeExchan­ge to arrange swaps.

You pay an annual subscripti­on, typically around €150, for your home to be on the site.

Love Home Swap says it has seen a surge in new members every month this year, recording a remarkable 26% rise between February and March.

And Caroline Connolly at HomeLink adds that travel restrictio­ns mean more people are swapping with other families in the same country this year, rather than owners based abroad.

The key to boosting your chances of being noticed is to compile a clear, friendly descriptio­n of your home with great photos.

If you find a swap you’re interested in, you just need to ensure your property is left squeaky-clean, clear some space in the wardrobes and lock away any valuables.

But because you are not renting the home, you don’t need to put away all your belongings.

In fact, home swapping has become popular among families because it means they don’t need to pack their own toys, bikes and beach equipment.

Alison and Spencer Jago estimate that they have saved around €2,000 on two holidays via HomeLink so far this year due to the fact that they have not had to pay for accommodat­ion.

Alison, 49, says: ‘Our friends often ask how we can afford to go away so often. House swapping means we can travel as much as we have time for without worrying about depleting savings.’

Alison and Spencer, 48, who both work as civil servants, have swapped homes 22 times in the past eight years. Alison estimates they have saved €40,000 on accommodat­ion costs.

‘In all that time, there’s only been one occasion where we arrived at a house which wasn’t as clean as I would have liked,’ she says. ‘There’s lots of trust involved but you meet some really nice people by swapping. There’s a lot of contact on email and phone with the other family, so you build up trust beforehand.’

The Jagos have previously house swapped with families in France, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Australia and Canada.

‘The beauty is that people contact you from places you might never have thought to visit. You never know where the next swap will take you,’ explains Alison.

Jo and Davey Watkins have been swapping their home for years. They recently had a family staying in their seaside home, where they live with their four children: Polly, 14, Jinks, 12, Tom, eight, and Meg, six. Their home is listed with Love Home Swap, which operates a reward system. You earn points by having people in your home that you can exchange for a swap another time. How many points you earn depends on your property and the length of stay.

Jo, 47, who co-founded website TheHowPeop­, and Davey, 50, an anaestheti­st, are saving points for a holiday abroad next year. Jo says: ‘We have our hearts set on a big holiday to Italy with other family members. Since we are not sure we could tally up a straight swap, we are allowing lots of families to stay at our home this summer to build up points so we can stay for free.’

She adds: ‘We are lucky we have friends to stay with, as it means we can vacate our house and allow other families to have a well-earned break. And for us it means we’re another step closer to our own trip.’

‘It’s been such a difficult time for everyone lately, and there’s a real feel-good factor to knowing another family are having a holiday which doesn’t mean raiding their savings.’

WHILE there are enormous savings to be made, there are also some practicali­ties to consider. You must inform your home insurer and ensure your contents insurance covers accidental damage.

Insurer Direct Line says there may also be other exclusions, such as vandalism. If you do not have a family member or neighbour who can hand over the keys to your visitors, you may need an outdoor lock box where guests can access the keys using a code.

If you experience any problems, report the owners to the website you used – and be sure to check reviews before you book.

Also, until you have agreed to a swap, stick to exchanging messages through the website rather than via email or phone.

Most sites will also offer an identity check service to ensure your guests are who they say they are.

 ??  ?? By the sea: The Flemings’ house
By the sea: The Flemings’ house
 ??  ?? City life: The Flemings in London
City life: The Flemings in London

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