The cost-of-living crisis sweeping across the globe has hit South Africa with a bang, crushing many potential travel plans. When it’s a choice between a swanky hotel and groceries for the next couple of weeks, it’s not really much of a choice, is it? If only there was a way to take a vacation, gain local knowledge about your destination, stay somewhere with a bit of character and get a cheap car to rent.
Mercifully, there is such a way: you simply swap your house for someone else’s. They take a vacation by staying in your home and vice versa. It’s stunningly simple solution, provided you do your homework properly. Ten years ago, the idea of a total stranger moving into your home was beyond the pale for many South Africans.
However, people’s perspectives have been broadened by the rise of sharing economy services, most notably Airbnb, which launched in South Africa in 2015. House swapping has been around since the 1950s when Intervac International was founded by a group of Swiss teachers.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, holidaymakers sought out more private accommodations as anxiety about shared hotel spaces increased. Currently, house swapping is proving to be an ideal way to satisfy the world’s insatiable appetite for travel, as it serves as an economical means of satisfying it.
How It Works
It’s easy enough to arrange a house swap with your buddy who stays in the oh-so-lovely suburbs and is seeking a pad for a wild weekend in the city. If you want something a bit different – even exotic – you’ll probably want to try a house-swapping site. On this front, you’re spoiled for choice.
There are around 50 websites that facilitate house swaps, with HomeExchange, Love Home Swap and HomeLink among the more popular options. There is a fee of some kind that most reputable house-swapping networks charge – whether it is a monthly, annual, or per-night fee. Be sure to clean up a bit before you snap, but don’t overdo it.
Be honest, choose representative photos, and if your place has a quirk, let people know in advance. You should include details like the view, park availability, public transportation, and nearby amenities. Also include some information about yourself and the places you want to visit.
From there, it’s a matter of messaging potential matches until you find what you’re looking for. There are some sites that work on a direct swap basis and provide some flexibility, which may be suitable for those who work remotely, while others work on a points system where you accumulate points by staying with someone when it’s convenient for you to do so.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Lock away any valuables in your home.
- Check whether or not your insurance covers incidents that occur while guests are staying there. • Leave the number of a local plumber or electrician in case anything goes wrong, and the contact details of your next of kin.
- Tidy up before someone stays in your house, and before you leave someone else’s.
- Compile a list of restaurants, attractions, activities or other things to do in the area.
SA’s Top House Swapvacation Spots
1 – 3 Brenton-on-Sea: This modern, two-bedroom home perched on a hill above Brenton-on-Sea offers breath-taking views of the ocean from the dining-room, garden, balconies and even the hot tub.
4 – 6 Cape Town: “Camps Bay luxury villa with pool” kind of says it all. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot to soak up the sun and enjoy some sundowners in the Mother City. Plus, it sleeps eight people, so you can vacay with your mates.
7 Marloth Park: Six bedrooms, five bathrooms, plenty of exotic animal noises to accompany your evening G&T on the porch, plus the chance of running into a lion. This holiday house bordering the Kruger National Park has it all.
8 – 9 Franschhoek: This boutique bubbly house in the Winelands is so opulent, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re staying in a hotel.
10 Margate: Fancy staying a short walk from the beach in one of South Africa’s hottest tourist destinations? Then this family penthouse, located in the Ugu District of KwaZulu-Natal, is for you. It’s within walking distance of Ramsgate and Margate Blue Flag swimming beaches. And if you’re feeling hungry, Waffle House and Blue Lagoon restaurants are just around the corner.
Words by Anthony Sharpe
Photography: Courtesy Images