With summer finally on its way, the bank holidays are the perfect time to start planning a break away. But with accessibility to factor in, it’s not always straightforward. However, swapping your house with someone who already lives in an accessible home could be the ideal solution. That’s why we’ve spoken to Theo Blackmore, who runs disability-specific house swap website Matching Houses, for his top tips on how to get the most our of accessible house swaps.
The house-swap idea is not a new one – people have been swapping their properties for many years, using it as an opportunity to travel to places they’d never thought of going to. However, no-one had thought of it specifically for disabled people. And yet it makes so much sense – as my house is accessible for me as a wheelchair user, it will probably also be accessible for other wheelchair users.
Also, on Matching Houses, it is one disabled person talking to another about exactly what they need. No longer do you have to rely on a travel agent, or a hotel, to get it right.
The site was conceived, designed and is run by a disabled person. We have a sophisticated database system, which matches each property with other, similar properties on the database across the world.
You decide where you want to go, make contact with the homeowner, and arrange the dates and exact details for your swap. It’s that simple!
7 top tips for accessible house swapping
If you have never house swapped before, here are some top tips to get you started.
1. Make sure you include pictures of your property. Nothing attracts people more to swap with you than a few good photographs. Include pictures of the outside of the property too, and any adaptations that make it particularly accessible for you.
2. Include some written information about any attractions, towns, or places of interest that are nearby. Imagine that you are a visitor to the area, and look at things from an outsider’s point of view. The more you can ‘sell’ your property to a visitor the more likely you will be to have plenty of swappers asking to come and stay.
3. Be as flexible as possible about where you want to go and when. By going to places that you hadn’t really thought of going to before you can really open up the possibilities and enjoy some new experiences.
4. When you have made contact with a possible swapper, ask them plenty of questions. We all know what it is like to arrive at a destination and for it to not quite meet our access needs. We think we have designed our Matching Houses property questions really well, so the houses should be well matched. But there will always be things worth clarifying, for your own peace of mind if nothing else.
5. Before you leave your property, leave a little welcome for your visitors. This might be a bottle of wine, some chocolates, a welcome note, together with a list of places that are nearby. This can really help them to feel settled and welcome. You could even ask one of your neighbours to pop in to say hello and to welcome them to the neighbourhood.
6. When you are on holiday, treat the house you are staying in as if it were your own. Leave it tidy and in a good condition for when they return. Perhaps take pictures on your phone when you arrive, so you know how to leave it when you depart.
7. And why not leave a note when you leave, letting your host know that you had a good time, and anything locally that you really enjoyed.
At the end of the day, this is an opportunity to go to new places, see new things, and meet new people. One person used Matching Houses to swap their property in London for a week in Paris. They have become good friends with the people they swapped with and now do the same swap every year. It’s become like a home from home for them!
More than 250,000 people swapped properties across the world last year. It’s a really popular way to holiday. It’s cheap as the place where you’re going to stay is free. For many people, particularly if they are travelling as a family, this can save them many thousands of pounds. And we have redesigned Matching Houses to include families with disabled children – a group of people who often can’t afford to go on holiday.
Many disabled people get adventurous with their holidays, and travel from one country to another, or one continent to another. However, for many disabled people, this long-distance travel is just not possible. Matching Houses works for all disabled people – there will be properties nearby, in your own country, or overseas. There will be properties in towns and cities, by the sea, or in the countryside.
Joining Matching Houses is simple. Fill in a form and questionnaire, upload some fabulous photos to show your property in its best light, including some pictures of any accessibility features you may have, and that’s it! You will then be able to contact other people who are registered on the site and arrange a swap.
This is still the very early stages of the new site, so we are currently in the process of populating the property database. The people who are up there are the pioneers in this new venture, so why not join them. You can swap as many times as you want, so you could spend lots of time travelling to new places. It’s fantastic!
By Theo Blackmore