Make Your Home HomeExchange Ready

Welcoming new friends to your home is one of the most thrilling and rewarding parts of a Home Exchange journey. At the same time, many people new to HomeExchange find preparing their home for visitors a bit overwhelming. Even the most experienced HomeExchange veterans can learn from the combined knowledge of the community.

We’ve asked many HomeExchangers; “what do you do to get ready for a home exchange?” and compiled their answers in a comprehensive list of tips, tricks, and downright good sense suggestions. From supplies to safety tips, we are happy to present our 2017 HomeExchange Ready checklist.

(Download this checklist as a printable PDF)

The comparison with having friends to stay really resonated for me – I go around tidying up and trying to make the place presentable when friends stay. Doing an exchange is not that much of a leap.” Sophie, UK

Before we get started, let’s get some things clear:

  • Your home is not a hotel, and that’s a good thing. A home exchange is about immersing yourself in the world of your new friends. Letting your home shine with what matters most to you is what makes swapping homes so fun!
  • Readying your home has an added benefit; you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor long after your exchange partner’s return home.
  • This is by no means a comprehensive list of all possible home improvement items. We did not including large-bill items such as home additions, granite countertops, and installing industrial gourmet kitchens. We’re keeping it simple. You can decide on those big-ticket items yourself.

Are you ready?

2017 HomeExchange Ready checklist

Use this checklist to make your home ready to exchange.

Tip: As you make repairs and check to make sure your home is in working-order, don’t forget your camera and a note pad. Including photos in your “home manual” is a great way to let your exchange partners know how things operate in your home.

Doors/Street Access:

Dress things up: take a tip from fancy real-estate catalogues and spend a little time giving your home curb-appeal.
House Number: make sure they are clearly marked and visible
Clear Weeds and dead/dying plants: tidy up your front yard and make the path to your front door.
Fresh paint: touching up your front door is a cheap and effective way to make your place look inviting. Adding a nice welcome mat can make it inviting but also helps to keep floors clean.
Doors: squeaky doors are sometimes a fact of life with old homes or homes near the ocean. A little grease will, if not eliminate the squeak all-together, make the issue less problematic.
Sliding doors and screens: you may have gotten used to your sliding door “sticking” a bit, but an exchange partner may not be so keen to ignore the issue.
Locks and bolts: ensure these…well…lock! If not, it may be time to replace them.

When we prepared our first home exchange, we “felt” the need to make our house feel as much like home as possible. We took advantage and did some arrangements that we had been thinking of for some time but never found a moment to. We painted rooms, fixed two faucets, and changed the (very old) shower screen. We have the same feeling before every exchange, we changed the position of all the furniture in the living room because we thought our exchange family would be more comfortable that way. Let’s see what happens with our next exchange!” – Pili, Spain

Whole house:

HVAC: Check and replace air filters for your HVAC systems
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 Breakers: make sure your exchange partner know where the breaker box is located.
Paint: it’s a no-brainer, if there is paint that is chipping or peeling off, it’s a good time to touch up those areas.
Stains: 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 you notice a stain and think that you 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 clear out any gutters 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 footboards, and patch up that dent from a door handle.

Since I have exchanged my apartment, it’s silly, but I put things away more often. I also did a little decorating – I repainted the room. In short, home exchanges make me want to look after my little nest, for me, of course, but also for my future guests.” – Catherine, Belgium

Living Room:

Upgrade furniture: chances are, most exchange partners will spend most of their time here.Good time to replace old furniture. Sofabeds are a great addition, especially if you have a smaller home.
Rearrange and organize: we all get used to our furniture arrangements, but maybe it’s time to refresh the layout for optimal usage.
Coffee Table: place some books or brochures out featuring local history and attractions

Seasonal Decor:

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.

It was our mattress. The springs were fine but it not only had seen three children grow up, it had also withstood four dogs, a rabbit, not to mention cups of tea, coffee, cornflakes, chicken soup and the (very occasional) glass of champagne. The poor thing was looking and feeling its age. Its replacement arrived the next morning.” – Sandra, UK


☐ Mattresses: use HomeExchange as an excuse to upgrade your mattress.
☐ Sheets: a set of “guest sheets” will make you and your exchange partners feel more comfortable.
☐ Pillows: many folks are allergic to down. It’s a good idea to provide alternative options.

“It forces us to keep things on a regular schedule. We want to be pleasant to other people and we are proud to give it a soul. I even keep baby accessories even though my kids are grownups!” – Arm Or, France

Closets and Drawers:

Drawers: Two drawers per room should be more than enough. Let your exchange partner to unpack.
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 exchange.
Hanger rack: if closet is so full that you can’t make room, this is a cheap option that will allow exchange partners
Coat closets: especially during winter/wet months, be sure to leave some room to hang coats and rain-gear.
Foldable luggage rack: make it easy for exchange partners to turn their own luggage into usable space.


Unclog drains: nothing fancy here. Just 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: Clear the clutter especially things like toothbrushes, you’ll feel better and so will your exchange partner.
Towels: a nice set of soft and very CLEAN “guest” towels goes a long way in welcoming friends.
Shampoo and Soap: Chances are your exchange partner won’t want to travel with these. Chose neutral aromas, and fragrance-free items.

I clean my kitchen cupboards more often. I always thought my house serves as a holiday resort for other people and that it should be comfortable for them, where they can spend good times relaxing.” – Magali, France


Coffee makers and electric kettles: first, remember to have one of these, even if you don’t drink coffee, secondly, clean and descale your coffee maker or electric kettle.
Make Space: 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 usually expected.
Dishwashers: 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.
Drinking water: depending on where you live, your tap water may be cleaner than Evian, 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).
Toaster: make a point to clear out the crumbs as they can be fire hazard.
Overfilled cupboards: you don’t want things falling on your exchange partner’s head when they go to open a cupboard.
Refrigerator: take some time to toss out leftovers and things that may spoil.
Groceries: experienced HomeExchangers leave 5 basic groceries for their exchange partners (as well as nice note letting them know to help themselves)

    ☐ Milk
    ☐ Eggs
    ☐ Bread
    ☐ Coffee/Tea
    ☐ Butter

It’s a good idea to check with your exchange partners if they have any allergy/dietary requirements before they arrive)

Making our home ready to exchange has given us a new philosophy. We look at our house differently now. Everything must be great for our guests. It pushes us to store things we don’t use often, keep it clean and continue to make improvements all the time. It’s a wonderful.” – Anne-Catherine, France

Cleaning Supplies:
    ☐ Broom and Dust Pan
    ☐ Dish detergent
    ☐ Washer detergent
    ☐ Paper Towels
    ☐ Mop – preferably simple to use.
    ☐ Dishtowels
    ☐ Vacuum cleaner – clear out the dust bin/bag and make sure it’s in working order.

Wall Anchors: 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 go buy one now.
Fire Escapes/Emergency Exits: confirm that they are easily accessible, well marked and clean of clutter or obstructions. It is nice to include a layout in your welcome packet.
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 learn to avoid certain obstacles in our homes, if there are cords running across walking paths make sure to either tape them down or cover them in some way.
Anything with a heating element: toasters, space heaters, even hair dryers should be checked frequently to ensure they are free of debris (like hair).
Gas Lines: inspect for any leaks and ensure all connections are tight. If you detect a leak. Turn gas off immediately and call your provider.
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: 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 neighbour/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.
Flash lights: check the batteries and place them in easy to find locations.

Garage (If you give exchange partners access):

Organize: 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.


13 Comments on “Make Your Home HomeExchange Ready

  1. Some great tips here.

    I would add:
    – leave instructions for how to work things like the oven, the washing machine etc
    – always leave the kitchen and bathroom spotless
    – make space in your kitchen cupboards, fridge, bedroom etc for your exchange
    partner to put their stuff – people won’t feel welcome in your home if it feels like
    there is no space for them
    – leave details of a local contact – friend or family – who can be called on in

  2. Would love to see something more interactive focused in a particular area, and in a format (facebook?) where people could respond and others could see the responses. Also a format where people could post videos:
    What makes you feel at home in someone else’s kitchen?
    What kind of house notes help you feel more at home, do you like getting them emailed ahead?
    What makes a listing inviting to you, even if is not in your preferred location ?
    What makes creating an exchange/hosting most fun, easy and safe for you?
    What would make the HE site easier to use, or more useful/helpful for you?
    What questions are important to ask when creating a home exchange?
    What has been helpful to access fun things to do and see during and exchange?
    What strategies have worked best for you in finding an exchange/hosting partner?
    What tips do you have for ease in working with the passport program?
    What challenges have you experienced with hosting/being hosted for a balloon?

    Would love to see an email every couple of weeks or so posting a question or a short blog topic that is interactive.

  3. Closets – Several of my exchange partners could have used these hints. These people not only didn’t offer any space, they didn’t even have an available hanger. I now travel with hangers in my suitcase because I end up using door knobs for my closet.

    • Hi Diana,
      Yes, we precisely did this list to help HomeExchangers better prepare their home. Feel free to share the link or the PDF list with your next exchange partners. This way, you’ll be sure to have both a home HomeExchange ready!

  4. Your home maintenance should be the first thing you tackle before considering offering a home exchange for the safety and enjoyment of both your exchangers and you. We honestly don’t care if your gutters need cleaning, there are a few weeds in your yard or your front door is not freshly painted but most everything inside should work and be clean. You will save enough doing home exchanges that you should be able to supply clean, comfortable mattresses and pillows. We invested in matching white towels which we reserve for our exchangers. Clear ALL of your personal items off the bathrooms counters with the exception of a box of tissues, a new bar of soap and some disposable drinking cups. We leave shampoo and body wash in the shower. We leave printed instructions for operating appliances and electronics in protective plastic sleeves where appropriate–in the laundry for the washer/dryer, in the kitchen for the coffee maker, in the den for the TV, etc. This is much easier on your swapper than having to page through the manual that many exchangers have. Be gentle with your guest home–if you don’t know how something works consult with your exchangers. Clean the refrigerator out and dispose of any expired items. Other than that, communicate as questions arise… i.e…do you have a hair dryer in your home and if you do we’ll leave ours for you and not bring it.

  5. Advertise your home with what you are actually offering, so that would-be exchangers are not mislead. For example, a four bedroomed flat should have four useable bedrooms with beds and adequate bedding. If you want to leave one bedroom out of bounds, for example if being used as an office, say that you have three bedrooms.

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