When we tell people we do home exchanges, this is one of the top questions we get. And yet, it’s one of the easiest parts of the home exchange process to manage.
First off, once the exchange starts, we don’t feel like we’re trading homes with strangers. By that point we’ve exchanged dozens of emails and messages, shared photos, checked references, learned a lot about each other’s families, and maybe done a video walkthrough of each other’s homes via Skype.
And people aren’t going to pay thousands of dollars for international plane tickets for their entire family just so they can steal items from your home.
For the most part, we trust people. Still, we’re careful with certain items.
Financial records: Stealing credit card numbers and even identities is common these days. We’ve never heard of these thefts in relation to home exchanges, but it’s easy enough to take precautions. We keep all our financial records in a file cabinet that locks, and we bring that file cabinet to a nearby relative’s home for the duration of the swap. If you have relatives or friends you trust nearby, you could bring these records to their home as well. If not, you might want to use a safe deposit box at a bank.
Jewelry, cash, and gift cards: Most of our jewelry isn’t worth stealing. The few items we have that are somewhat valuable go in the locked file cabinets. Sometimes the kids have cash or gift cards on hand—we lock those up too.
Electronics: We don’t worry about the big stuff (like TVs). Anything that could fit in a bag—phones, tablets, or laptops we aren’t bringing—either gets locked up or stored with a neighbor or friend while we’re away.
Data: If we leave a desktop computer for our exchange partners to use we set up a guest account, so they can access the Internet but not our data.
For us, that’s everything we need to worry about. We don’t have fancy china, or expensive paintings, or ornate vases. And we haven’t stayed in places that have a lot of fancy stuff, either. In fact, in many of the places we’ve stayed, people simply leave everything in place. There’s that level of trust among home exchangers.