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Question for home exchangers

My question is, how to you prepare your home for guests you may never meet? The first time we had an exchange arranged, I did not think of anything other than providing a sparkling clean home with clean sheets on the beds and dishes put away.

But then I became concerned about security and for the last 4 exchanges have removed all our financial files and other sensitive information ( medical, etc.) from our file cabinet and locked it all in a trunk downstairs in the storeroom. I also remove all prescription meds from the bathroom cabinet and clear out two bathroom drawers and some in the bedroom for guest use.

I put our laptops and extra iPad in the locked trunk, and clear all papers and calendars off our desk, storing these items in a cardboard box.

But that's it. I leave the alcohol bottles in the liquor cabinet ( it's just gin, Campari, and vermouth for my husband's favorite Negroni) and we do not have a lock on the wine cellar.

Otherwise we de-clutter and clean, set out clean towels, etc., clean out any perishables from the fridge, and leave a sheet of instructions for appliances and contact info for the neighbors as well as for us.

I am curious if others who belong to a home exchange network do more, or less, than this to get their home ready.

Posted by
3934 posts

Thinking about homes where we have stayed through regular vacation rentals, having a small package of coffee next to the coffeemaker is much appreciated! Also, a few recommendations for a bakery, restaurant, walking trails, close highlights were helpful.

For security as the homeowner, I would want one of the combination locks on the front door that need a code you can change, etc. so that my key to the house could never be duplicated.

Posted by
9862 posts

We do not “exchange” but have house sitters, so not dissimilar in preparation and concerns. Over the years we have had friends, friends of friends, relatives, and people I met through stay to take care of pets and household for anywhere from 5 nights to 8 weeks and we have done this in Rome and at our current home in Oregon.

My husband used to worry about PII and other sensitive data and would lock a desk drawer (in Italy) or take it to our son’s (Oregon) but we have so little on paper we stopped bothering. It is almost all on laptops now.

When we have had a guest room we have kept it as free of our stuff as possible, otherwise we clear as much hanging space as we can and maybe a couple of drawers in the bedroom. Clearing some bathroom cabinet or counter space is thoughtful, too. We leave alcohol where it is, but we often have special wines we do not wish to have someone drink so we just tell them “please don’t.”

I clear some cupboard space and tell them to use any foodstuffs and usually prepare a meal we can share then leave them leftovers. Luckily, we meet all of our sitters so that clears up some issues you might have with a home exchange.

I also have created a welcome manual, which has gotten quite robust over the years. 😁 It covers a lot: emergency contacts, trash and recycling, where to shop and eat, how appliances work (important in Italy since it was all strange), how the TV and cable controls work (with pictures!), expectations for yard care, pet care (when we had cats) including veterinary info, names of services that could be required like electrician, plumber, heating company, etc. You get the idea. I can email this info in advance so the sitter has a chance to formulate questions. Once, in Italy, French relatives of some American friends came from Provence to house-and-pet sit for 3 weeks. They had no English but she and I spoke Italian at about the same level. I sent the welcome book in advance and her daughter did a read through with her, translating to French. That helped so I didn’t have to translate it all into Italian!

Posted by
9862 posts

Jean’s post reminded me: one set of keys is in a lockbox like realtors use in case they lose a set or lock themselves out. And we tell the neighbors what is going on to avoid suspicion,

Posted by
2950 posts

We have exchanged with families, mainly in Europe, every year since 1995. We overlap with the families on one end of the exchange or the other only about half of the time. We correspond with them off and on for months prior to the exchange to try to get a sense of how we can help them have the best experiences in our area.

We do pretty much everything you mention doing for each exchange. I think if I had my important papers in a file cabinet though I would just run a cable lock through the handles rather than moving the files to a different location. We only lock one desk drawer and we put financial statements, checkbooks, etc in that drawer. We are guests in each other’s homes and we don’t look through things that are not left for us to see or use. For instance, to keep people from needing to look IN drawers, I leave a basket or organizer of basic desk supplies out in the open on top of the desk. I do the same in the master bathroom but we do completely clear out one drawer.

We clear out a bit of closet space in each bedroom closet that will be used. We clear out One dresser in our bedroom. The guest bedrooms both have empty dressers already. Typically our exchanges are for 3-4 weeks and since we travel with a carryon each we think this enough space for clothing. We put the clothing that comes out of our bedroom into the nearly empty closets in the guest rooms.

We leave a binder with house instructions and local recommendations. We leave an attractive file box with folders organized by distance for area attractions. We leave a bottle of wine and food for a meal if the exchange family is coming to our home within a day or two after we begin our travels. Sometimes we go early or stay later than the actual exchange. It’s really important to communicate dates, preferences, etc.