We swapped our house with strangers!

What's it like to swap your house with another family you've never met? We tried it these holidays!

Residz Team 4 min read

Cover image for We swapped our house with strangers!

These holidays our family did a very daring thing. We swapped our house with complete strangers!

Our home is a 12 minute walk from the beach in Sydney, their home is near the #27th coolest suburb in the world, Fitzroy in Melbourne.

We had a dog, they had a dog. We had a pool, they had a pool.

Here’s how it went.

“Feel like a beach holiday?”

I’d found ‘Aussie House Swap’ in an online search and scrolled through the listings. There was a similar-sized Melbourne family open to doing a home swap in January.


We needed a Melbourne base for a family wedding, so this looked ideal.

I paid $65 for a six month membership to the site so I could message the ‘swappers’:

‘Hi, does your family feel like a beach holiday in Sydney?’

A bit like online dating

House swapping is a bit like online dating (or so I imagine). You check your inbox constantly to see if they’ve replied, and then ‘ping’’ - I had my answer.

“Yes, we would love to come up to your place there.”

I was over the moon. We messaged a few times on the website, phoned each other once, and then emailed a brief ‘user manual’ for our respective houses.

Betty the Irish Wolfhound

Our family comes with a kelpie and our daughter had also asked us to mind her chihuahua/jack russell cross for a week, so we needed a dog-friendly option. Luckily our ‘swappers’ were dog lovers and, in fact, the house came with a large, friendly, 12-year-old dog who spent much of the week on the family sofa.  While this wouldn’t suit everyone, we were more than happy to bond with Betty the Irish Wolfhound, who greeted us with loud barks and a waggy tail when we arrived and seemed to adore her walks with our two dogs.

The preparation and the embarrassment

To prepare for our first ever house swap, we decluttered and cleaned our house for weeks. We took food out of the fridge and freezer, emptied space in wardrobes, swept toiletries out of bathroom cabinets, took down photos, and bought new dishcloths and some sheets. I was sure it was expected we would depersonalise the space.

Our ‘swappers’, on the other hand, were old hands at swapping, and were more relaxed in what they left intact. There was a quite full fridge with a salad and some cheese, photos of the family on every wall, school books on desks, and sheets on the line. It was a place where you felt instantly at home, and I felt embarrassed I’d taped shut some of our wardrobes.

Finding fun in Fitzroy

Our week was spent walking the dogs and exploring the area. Fitzroy is a gem of a suburb, and our adult children found hiring Lime electric scooters (which are dotted about) the best way to get around. We went vintage shopping in Brunswick St (we recommend ‘Lost and Found Market’ upstairs at 288 Brunswick St - it’s huge) and boulevarding along Gertrude St. We also widened out to visit relatives at Mornington beach and lunched at Kooyong Tennis Club, and can highly recommend dinner at Mya Tiger in Hotel Esplanade in St Kilda.  

Pool vs pool

When we weren’t out and about we enjoyed the pool in our swap house. This is where they really got the raw end of the deal. We loved their beautiful, huge, solar-heated pool with glass viewing panel (pictured above), although we only really had one day of great swimming weather to enjoy it. They no doubt froze in our small plunge pool, not helped by a week of poor swimming weather in Sydney.

Bye bye Betty

After a delightful wedding at Fairfield Boathouse we packed our things, put sheets in the wash, vacuumed the house, and said farewell to Betty the wolfhound. Two of our daughters stayed with her a bit longer (as they were flying back late that day), and reported she whined for a while when her little dog companions left.

Where shall we go next?

So, that was our first experience of house swapping. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Apart from the petrol to drive to Melbourne we didn’t have to spend a cent on accommodation.

In the time we’ve been on the site we’ve been contacted by a number of ‘swappers’ asking if we’d like a trip to Perth, to the Great Ocean Road, to Brighton Beach. We’re probably going to try for a Tasmania trip next, and then who knows?  

Tips for house swappers

As a seasoned homeswapper with one house swap under my belt, here are my tips for a successful experience.

Image: The glamorous pool in the Melbourne house.