Getting Ready for a Home Exchange


The downside to exchanging your home or renting it on Airbnb is that it greatly increases the work involved in going out of town. The upside, besides the compensation you get either in the form of free stays or money, is that you come home to all the nice things you did to get your house ready for the exchange.

My preparation to have strangers stay in our house generally has two phases: maintenance/improvements and staging. We have a family scheduled to arrive in our home in two weeks. So although what we really wanted to do was head to Tahoe to check out Memorial Day Weekend skiing, what we actually did is spend the weekend taking care of our home. We’ve been really busy all spring, so believe me, it needed it. Here are the projects we hoped to tackle in between taking the kids to sports and birthday parties and stuff, and what we actually accomplished:

  1. Lawn care
    Our lawn was overgrown with tall weeds and my flowerbeds needed weeding too. We were hoping to engage some cheap kid labor here. My stretch goal was to get the plants I keep on the front steps repotted and maybe even buy a new plant or two and get it in the ground.Accomplished: Got the flowerbeds weeded and the front yard weeded and mowed. Back yard didn’t get finished, and the mower is still sitting out there.
  2. Painting
    Since moving into our house five years ago, that fresh white coat of paint we bought it with has gotten grungy all over. Last fall we finally painted the living room, but we didn’t touch the hallway/stairway leading from the living room to the rest of the house. So this weekend The Miles Dad planned to take all the pictures off the walls in that area and prep them to paint. He is incredibly detail-oriented, so painting prep takes forever with him, but when he’s done, it looks amazing. He also planned to get out the shiny white cabinet paint and touch up trim here and there. My stretch goal for this project was to finish framing the family photos that I’ve been wanting to hang in this space, and have Erik hang them after the paint is dry.
    Accomplished: Walls and ceiling painted. Stair risers Magic Erasered so effectively that it turned out they didn’t need paint. We framed and hung several pictures, but I need to go buy frames for one or two other pictures.
  3. Something new
    I always try to use an upcoming rental or exchange as incentive to do some small improvement. This weekend, we decided to replace the ugly-ass light fixture in that hallway Erik was painting. The plan was for me and the kids, on my way back from an out-of-town skating competition, to stop at Rejuvenation in Berkeley to shop for a new light fixture for that freshly painted stairway/hallway. Then Erik could install it.
    That shopping expedition ended up taking more than two hours, because NOTHING in that damn store is in stock. The kids were truly champs during that marathon. Erik installed it, which was a challenge because it turned out the old fixture and the wiring it was attached to was truly ancient, but the result looks amaze.
    Unexpected accomplishment: When Erik opened up the attic in installing the light fixture, I noticed that it was pretty much empty, and we moved the kids’ outgrown Amish table and chairs up there, to be saved for THEIR children. Also boxed up and stored several large boxes of kids’ artwork and other mementos, making our attic a de facto time capsule.
  4. DeclutteringI planned to give each of my kids a big box during the weekend and implore them to fill it with toys and clothes they’re not using anymore. For me, I planned to attack the junk sitting around in our bedroom that I’ve needed to deal with for ages, and about five “organizer” bins of papers sitting on the desk in the kitchen that I need to file or toss. Stretch goal here was to start working on the storage cupboards in the laundry room and my son’s room, which are very badly used at the moment.
    Accomplished: Each kid filled a box. I dealt with some of the stuff in my bedroom as part of the attic time capsule project, and ended up emptying a lot of space in those cupboards in son’s room as part of the same. I did not yet touch the bins on the kitchen desk.

All in all, I feel very good about our weekend accomplishments. Time to chill with a movie!

Phase two, the staging, can happen next weekend and throughout the week leading up to our departure. During that phase, I lock up valuables, box up personal items from dressers and bedside tables, etc., to generally make a little space for our guests. Ideally, I empty out a drawer in each bedroom so the guests have someplace to put their stuff.