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How to become a ‘swapping swinger’

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By ROSIE MILLARD

London - You are asset rich but cash poor. You’d love a holiday, but you have no moolah. How about swapping your house with someone else’s, somewhere far more balmy and exotic? No money exchanges hands. House swaps.

The reality is not quite, but almost, this perfect. First, you have to have something worth swapping. Your house may well be lovely but, if it is nowhere near anywhere a tourist might imagine spending a week or so, forget it. Is there public transport? Is there a pub? Is your village idyllic, your city exciting or your sea view breathtaking?

Now, inside. You may think a DIY kitchen, a solitary bathroom and dog hair on saggy sofas is cosy and charming. A cool young couple from Florida might not.

I got drawn into the swapping game thanks to my dear husband who spends hours on LoveHome Swap.com which is basically short-term property porn. A villa in Tuscany with infinity pool? A bungalow in Bali, with driver, butler and cleaner thrown in? We had some pictures taken of our house, which is way off the Bali standard, (but is in Central London), slapped them up online, and waited.

Amazingly, the offers started to come in. Did we want to spend three weeks in Hawaii, a fortnight in LA, a week in Florence?

The main problem is that swappees want to come over in peak season. And we have four children. The delights of Bali do get toned down by the attendant horror of an £8,000 (about R104 000) flight bill. In the end, we took a ‘staggered’ swap with the owners of a chateau in Bordeaux.

They came and stayed chez nous in October; we camped out with my parents, and are going to the chateau in March. They got London life for seven days; we get a three-day house party in the chateau for 12 with all the cooking thrown in.

Clearing out the house was a slight pain, I’ll admit. Your home need not appear like a boutique hotel but I would advise clean sheets, fresh towels (and, if yours are anything like ours, new tea towels) and things such as Wi-Fi and heating must work. But that’s all you need do.

Our neighbours Anna and Christopher have done it so much through homeforexchange.com they call themselves “swapping swingers”.

“We’ve had summer on Long Island, a weekend in Amsterdam, a fortnight in New Orleans. One of the best was Tokyo,” says Anna. “People come and stay, they look after our garden and the cat, it is convenient and easy.

‘”leave the place clean and put out a few coat hangers but I never empty drawers or anything like that. Snags? Never had any. You might get home and find a fish slice in a different place, but that’s about it.”

Her tips for happy swapping? Flexibility. “You have to say ‘I don’t mind where we go’.

“And use a Google Map so people really understand where you are.”

With social media, references now are far easier to check, and as long as you inform your insurance company, your house and contents will be covered.

Britain is, frankly, such a tourist magnet that even the most unprepossessing property can be traded. French teacher James Ross has been swapping his tiny two-bedroom flat in Fulham for four years with homelink.org. He’s had eight swaps and never had to pay for accommodation abroad.

‘”’ve gone to a farmhouse in the Pyrenees for a month, and a flat in Chicago for two days, because I was passing through. The owners just left their keys in the garden and that was it. One email.”

I think I’ve rather caught the bug. And I can’t wait to go to “our” French chateau, particularly since I know what a lucky escape our swappees have had when they were here.

Three days after they went back to France, the hot water tank in the loft burst and poured down through our entire house. Whoops. - Daily Mail

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