Each of our Members have their own way of preparing their home for their upcoming guests. Some follow their homemade checklist, others prefer to hire someone to get their home "exchange ready". Whatever suits you best, here is a (reasonably) comprehensive list to jump-start your preparations.
Let's find a home exchange first!
But before getting started, we want to be clear:
Your home is not a hotel, and that's a beautiful thing. A home exchange is all about immersing yourself in the world of your exchange partner. That means letting your home shine in its best light is the thing that matter most.
Preparing your home has a fun side effect; you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor long after your exchange partner's return home.
This list is just a place to start. It is by no means complete and could be a little overly detailed for some.
Remember: A little effort goes a long way. This can be an intimidating list, in the end, it is all about making your exchange partner (and you) feel safe and welcome. Feel free to personalize and adjust the items based on your time and ability.
TIP: As you walk around and check that everything is in working order, bring a camera (or your phone) along with a note pad along with you. Including pictures in your "home manual" is a helpful way to demonstrate to your exchange partner how your home operates.
House Number: Make sure it is clearly marked and visible.
Clear weeds and aging plants: Tidy up your front yard or patio to make an accessible path to your front door.
Touch-up paint: Have a scratch on your door? A ding in the frame? A fresh coat of paint is an affordable and effective way to make your home look inviting and the addition a welcome mat will not only be friendly but also help to keep your floors tidy.
Doors: If you have an older home or live near the ocean, squeaky doors might be a fact of life, but a little grease will, if not solve the problem, make it a little less problematic.
Sliding doors and screens: We all get used to doors that "stick" but an exchange partner might not know the "lift-and-slide" trick you've mastered. And if your screens have big holes, now is the ideal time to get those repaired.
Locks and deadbolts: Make sure that everything, well, locks! If not, it might be time to invest in something new. You may even think about getting a "keyless" entry to make the house key hand-off even easier.
Smoke and CO2 detectors: Check batteries and replace as needed.
Water heater temperature: You may like your water to be scalding when it pours out of your shower, but many people prefer 105 Degrees F/40 Degrees C.
Fuses and breaker box: Make a point to let your exchange partner know where the breaker box is located. Some electrical things can be a simple fix with a little knowledge.
Paint: Like with your front door, if there is paint that is chipping or peeling off, it’s a good time to touch up those areas.
Stains: The is only so much you can do, but if something is noticeable, let your exchange partner know in their welcome packet. It can be stressful if, halfway through an exchange, they notice a stain and think that they may have been the culprit.
Leaks: Even if you live in the middle of the desert where it hardly rains, you don’t want an exchange partner having to deal with an issue during the one day it does rain.
Gutters: Take a few moments to clear out any drains that have been clogged and overflowing.
Fireplaces and chimneys: Fireplaces should be clean and free of rust. Gas burning fireplaces may not be as dirty; however, gas lines ought to be checked to ensure there are no gas leaks. Chimney inspections should be done yearly as the buildup from repeated use can be extremely flammable.
The “little” things: Use this time to fix those little jobs that you may have been avoiding. Repair that squeaking stair, replace that loose footboard, and patch up that dent from a door handle.
Rearrange and organize: We all get used to our furniture arrangements, but maybe it’s time to refresh the layout for optimal usage. This is a great time to put away your grandmother’s antique vase, or that collectible item that you love.
Coffee Table: Place some books or brochures out featuring local history and attractions. It will give your guest something to flip through and discover more about your area.
Check remote batteries: After a long day of exploring, your exchange partner might want to watch something. Make sure the can actually turn the television on and off with your remotes.
WiFi/Internet-access passwords: Make a note and place it in a few strategic places around your home, including in your welcome guide.
Mattresses: Have been meaning to replace your mattress? HomeExchange might be the perfect excuse for an upgrade.
Sheets: Getting a set of “guest sheets” will make you and your exchange partners feel more comfortable.
Pillows: Many folks are allergic to down, so it is a good idea to provide alternative options.
Closets and Drawers:
Drawers: Two drawers per room should be more than enough. This allows your exchange partner to unpack and feel more at home.
Closets: Clear a space and leave some extra hangers, if you can’t make space, consider using this as an opportunity to get rid of those old clothes you don’t use and go shopping while on an exchange.
Hanger rack: If your closet is so full that you can’t make room, this is a low-cost option that will allow exchange partners to have a little extra space.
Coat closets: Especially important during winter/wet months, be sure to leave some place to hang coats and rain-gear.
Foldable luggage rack: Make it easy for exchange partners to turn their luggage into usable space.
Clear drains: Nothing significant needs to be done but make sure all drains are in working order.
Toilets: “Jiggle the handle” is not the most inviting way to let people know how to use your toilet. It’s often resolved by tightening some bolts, but if not, consider replacing the flush mechanism.
Countertops and cabinet space: Clear the clutter of things like toothbrushes and give a little space to store toiletries. You’ll feel better and so will your exchange partner.
Towels: A nice set of soft and very clean “guest” towels go a long way in welcoming your exchange partner.
Shampoo and Soap: There is a chance your exchange partner won’t want to travel with these. Pick something with neutral aromas, and fragrance-free items.
Coffee makers and electric kettles: Remember to have one of these, even if you don’t drink coffee and, if you do have one, clean and descale your coffee maker or electric kettle.
Drinking water: Depending on where you live, your tap water may be cleaner than bottled water; however, many people prefer to have filtered water available. A filter pitcher goes a long way and so does bottled water (especially in countries and areas where water quality is questionable).
Make room: Just like clothes drawers, one cupboard or shelf should be made available to your exchange partner.
Appliances: Home exchangers don’t expect to have a top-of-the-line industrial cooktop, but one that in proper working order is expected.
Dishwashers: Take a look for any signs of rust on dishwasher racks; replacements can be easily ordered and installed. Also, run a dishwasher cleaner through a few cycles to ensure smells and food residue are eliminated.
Toaster: Make a point to clear out the crumbs as they can be a fire hazard.
Tidy up cupboards: You don’t want things falling on your exchange partner’s head when they go to open a door.
Refrigerator: Take some time to get rid of leftovers and things that may spoil.
Groceries: Experienced HomeExchangers tend to leave 5 basic groceries for their exchange partners (as well as nice note letting them know to help themselves)
(It’s always a good idea to check with your exchange partners if they have any allergy/dietary requirements before they arrive)
Broom and dustpan
Laundry detergent: Include instructions for how to use your washer and dryer, if you have them.
Mop: preferably simple to use.
Vacuum cleaner: Make a point to clear out the dust bin/bag and make sure it’s in working order.
Wall anchors: Any wall-hanging art and other decorations should be secured with adequate wall anchors.
Fire extinguishers: If you don’t have one, stop what you are doing, and buy one now.
Fire escapes/Emergency exits: Confirm that exits are easily accessible, well marked, and clean of clutter or obstructions. It is nice to include a layout in your welcome packet.
Keep baking soda near stoves
Electrical outlets: Check that they are all in working order. If some are prone to sparking, get them checked by an electrician.
Electrical cords: We tend to learn to avoid certain obstacles in our homes. If cords are running across walking paths make sure to either tape them down or cover them in some way.
Furnaces and heaters: Gas furnaces and heaters should be inspected to ensure the pilot lights and spark-plugs/starters are working correctly.
Water and gas main lines: Inspect your gas line for any leaks and ensure all connections are tight. If you detect a leak, turn gas off immediately and call your provider. If your home will be empty for some time before your exchange partners arrive, turn off the water and gas entering your house, and leave detailed instructions (preferably with photographs) on how to turn them back on again. Better yet, ask a neighbor/friend/family member to help, and train them on how to turn these off and on.
First aid kit: Chances are, your exchange partners will not know where to look for items like bandages, and you don’t want the rummaging through your stuff in the unfortunate event of a minor accident. Pre-made first aid kits are available for purchase, but you can build your own. The Red Cross has a great list as a reference, click here to review it.
Flashlights: check the batteries and place them in easy to find locations.
Garage (If you give exchange partners access):
Organize: Be sure to check and secure boxes and other items that may fall over.
Sporting equipment and toys: Many exchangers love to share their toys. If you choose to share, make these items easily accessible.
Designated areas: Clearly mark-off what is off limits by using a system like colored tape or roping-off certain areas.
Pests: Deal with pests like insects and rodents, not just for your exchange partners, but for you.
Automatic Garage Door: Ensure the door opens and shuts correctly and remember to replace batteries in door openers.
Holiday decorations: These may be a great way to welcome someone who is far away from home during the special seasons.
Keep it local: Don’t overdo it. If possible try to make it as local as possible.
High-maintenance decor: Pass on anything that requires maintenance; including flowers, pumpkins, and evergreen trees. If you chose to include these, be sure to leave detailed maintenance instructions but don’t expect your exchange partners to do much more than add water.
I am ready for my next home exchange