Preparing Your Home and Office for an Exchange

You've secured a home/office swap. Travel plans have been finalized and now you're ready to prep for guests. Here are some helpful tips and reminders on tasks to complete before your visitors arrive and before you leave for your destination.
Create a List of Action Items
  • Exchange important information. Make sure to send your swap partner important phone numbers and addresses for a local contact in case of emergencies, directions on how to get to your home/office, information on how to exchange keys, codes for a lockbox or alarm system, and Wi-Fi passwords, etc.
  • Review your insurance policy. Check in with your insurance company and review what is covered and under what circumstances. If necessary, purchase additional insurance before your home/office swap. Do the same with your auto insurance, if a car exchange is part of your arrangement.
  • Store valuables. Put items that are of value or are special to you in a safe and secure location. Lock them up in a closet or put them in storage.
  • Suspend deliveries and subscriptions. Ask your post office to hold your mail. Temporarily discontinue newspaper delivery and magazine subscriptions.  Or have your packages delivered to a trusted neighbor or friend.
    Prepay bills. Take care of cable, mortgage and other regular bills before you leave. This will also ensure that all utilities are set up for your guests.
  • Get your car serviced. If you have a vehicle in your home/office swap agreement, make sure it’s been properly maintained. Take it in for an oil change and make any necessary repairs.
  • Stock up on home supplies and essentials. Depending on the length of stay for your guests, outline the exact details of what will be provided for them before their arrival. But basic necessities such as toiletries (toilet paper, soaps) and kitchen and cleaning supplies (trash bags, paper towels) should be in stock before your visitors arrive. 
Arrange a Local Contact for Guests
Enlist a trusted neighbor or friend to be your guests’ emergency contact, check in on your home/office from time to time and just provide general assistance for your visitors. You can have this person be the welcoming party for your guests upon their arrival, delivering keys or holding a security box with important paperwork. You can have this person also collect keys when the home/office swap is over.
Clean Your Home/Office
  • First impressions are everything, in business and especially in hospitality. Make your guests feel comfortable in your home—in the same way you'd like to feel comfortable in theirs. That starts with cleanliness. Communicate expectations in advance of your guests’ arrival. Your guests' idea of a clean home/office may lean toward relaxed more than organized.
  • There are many considerations to think about, from children to pets, and should be discussed beforehand. So get an idea of their needs and a sense of their expectations and communicate your own. Here a few recommendations applicable to almost any situation: 
  • Set aside fresh linens and towels.
  • Make sure bedrooms, workspaces and all common rooms are tidy.
  • Mow your lawn, clean your pool, and ensure outside areas are straightened up and safe for guests.
  • Clean all surfaces, especially in the kitchen and all bathrooms.
  • Empty wastebaskets, wipe down mirrors and clean out the fridge.
  • Employ a professional cleaning service if needed.
  • Additionally, guests will need enough space to store their luggage and groceries. Leave room in the closet. Provide plenty of hangers and empty out a few drawers for guests to place their clothes. Clear some shelves in the pantry and make some space in the fridge for guests to store food and drinks.
  • Most importantly, give yourself enough time to prepare for your guests. The small details complete the big picture. Uncluttered spaces make home/offices feel more inviting and allow guests to settle in.
Prepare a Welcome Basket and Guide
  • Include owner's manuals or a "How-To" list with instructions on how to use appliances in your home/office—from the coffee maker to the air conditioner.
  • Provide information on the location of the breaker box, how to operate the alarm system.
  • Leave post-it notes about amenities and common household items guests can expect to find if needed: iron, hair dryer, umbrellas, power adapters etc.
  • Include instructions on how to take care of any plants or pets. 
  • Leave copies of vital paperwork (car insurance and registration).
  • Write down Wi-Fi passwords and important contact information. Include phone numbers and addresses to the nearest hospital, police, and fire department. Include your car repair shop, plumber, cleaners, etc.
  • Provide a city map, with travel instructions, pubic transit information, and directions to popular destinations. Give them directions to the local post office, grocery store or market, and banks and ATMs.
  • Add takeaway and delivery menus, recommendations on restaurants and activities not found in tourist books. Mix in some of YOUR favorite activities. Give your guests the opportunity to live like a local. 
  • Write a personalized message. Maybe include a small gift. Set out a coloring book if you’re expecting children or a bottle of wine and snacks for your visitors to enjoy on their first night.
These simple tips and recommendations will allow your guests to comfortably settle into their home away from home. It will also give you the piece of mind that your home/office is in good hands while you’re traveling.