Your home, my home

Berlin (dpa) - Swapping apartments for a holiday can be a bit nerve-wracking - you are letting a stranger into your home, after all. To ensure the process runs smoothly, it's a good idea for both parties to take a few important precautions. Here are five tips from the German consumer association Stiftung Warentest:

1. If you've found someone to swap apartments with online, be sure to sign an agreement so that both parties are clear about the conditions they're expected to adhere to.

Most home-swap websites provide a basic contract template that offers some legal protection. This should be filled out and signed by both parties.

2. Legal experts advise taking out landlord's insurance and liability insurance before swapping apartments in case of any loss or damages. You should also inform your insurance company whenever guests are staying in your apartment while you're not there.

Each apartment swap website has a different policy regarding what happens if a trip must be cancelled at the last minute - it's up to users to be aware of the conditions.

3. People using apartment swap websites should first gauge the seriousness of any potential guests or hosts, and check their telephone numbers, email addresses and social media accounts.

In addition, experts recommend speaking with any potential swap partners on the phone instead of communicating only by email. Scouring the ratings left by other guests or hosts is also helpful.

4. Users should always take care to depict their apartment online as accurately as possible. In addition, because swap websites are international, descriptions should always be translated into English.

It's also a good idea for hosts to put together a folder with important information on the apartment and neighbourhood to leave for guests.

5. Before you leave for your holiday, be sure to inform your friends and neighbours about your swap plans. Asking the neighbours to hand over keys or answer questions can make things easier on everyone.