Renting a private home allows you to experience another family’s life in a different country for a wonderfully voyeuristic few days. There are plenty of good home rentals sites, for example, HomeAway.co.uk and HolidayLettings.co.uk. But if you are feeling even more adventurous and want to save on costs, why not consider using your own home to access the perfect rental?
VISIT THE SWAP SHOP
Love Home Swap (Lovehomeswap.com) is like a dating site for your home — would you consider a Parisian pied-à-terre, an Ibiza modernist villa or a Provençal beach house, perhaps? The site bills itself as the world’s biggest home-swap club with 50,000 properties across 150 countries, and its portfolio is five times bigger than it was 12 months ago.
Users list their home for free but can only start talking to other owners once they take out membership, with the annual cost from £119. A big part of the site’s appeal is its flexibility. Members can do a straight exchange or a staggered one a few weeks apart.
“It works more like a travel club than a straight swap,” says Ben Wosskow of Love Home Swap. “Eighty-two per cent of new members have never swapped before and might have some nervousness about it, but that soon goes.”
Casa Lazzari: 400-year-old farmhouse, on the Tuscan-Umbrian border. Through Lovehomeswap.com
A total of 1,700 upmarket properties are listed with 3rd Home (3rdhome.com), which also concentrates on exchanges. These are impressive holiday homes, not primary residences, and the average value, says co-founder Giles Adams, is £1.2 million.
Club members “deposit” weeks in their holiday homes that they do not intend to use themselves, and in return earn “keys” which are used as currency to bag any home on the site. Membership is £295 for two years plus a flat £295 fee per exchange. “The market is more mature in North America which is where most of our properties are but we have properties from Argentina to New Zealand,” says Adams.
As well as private homes, the site features Ritz-Carlton Residences and Trump Tower New York. Properties are billed as worth a minimum of £500,000 each and the club ensures its standards are met on location and quality of furnishings.
TOP FIVE MOST REQUESTED GETAWAYS
1 Casa Lazzari, Tuscany
If you can tear yourself away from the dreamy interiors and infinity pool at this 400-year-old farmhouse (pictured above), on the Tuscan-Umbrian border, day trips to Cortona, Florence and Siena beckon.
Beach or a hike? Combine the two in a two-bedroom villa owned and decorated by Italian floral designer Fabio Zardi.
Scottish mansion: rural splendour near Gleneagles. Through Lovehomeswap.com
Classical architecture and a hot tub in rural splendour are yours in this eight-bedroom Scottish mansion (above), near Gleneagles golf course.
4 Freeport, Bahamas
A London family designed their five-bedroom holiday home in a beachfront complex. The fishing’s superb and you can swim with dolphins.
Wild and mountainous outside, cool and elegant inside — a four-bedroom 1910 house in the historic French town of Bastia.
- All at Lovehomeswap.com
SIZE MATTERS: ‘WE GET MORE SPACE FOR THE FAMILY’
London musician and X Factor songwriter Marcus Vere, the keyboard player in Eighties band Living in a Box, owns a striking five-bedroom holiday home in the Cotswolds with his wife Laetitia, where they enjoy time with their children JJ, Giselle and Nina, aged 13, 11 and nine.
Trading places: Marcus and Laetitia Vere swapped Cotswolds for the Caribbean
As members of 3rd Home they list empty weeks with the club and in return have enjoyed holidays in New York and the Caribbean. “With young children it works well to stay in private homes and in the past we have done direct home swaps,” says Vere. “They work well but have certain limitations like agreeing a date and working around school holidays. 3rd Home opens up lots more opportunities.”
The family is heading back to New York in the summer through 3rd Home. “It’s a new concept and mainly an American one so the current range of properties is fairly US-centric,” acknowledges Vere. “But for us as a family it makes a great deal of sense. You get more space and owners often pass on useful local knowledge.”
- 3rd Home (3rdhome.com)