The kind of vacation where strangers take over your home

If you weren't willing to hand over the keys to your home to a near-stranger, it would be hard to take part in a house swap.

Long before Airbnb, there was house swapping

House swap vacations

38 years ago
Duration 4:31
In 1985, Midday delves in the world of house swapping.

Hand the keys of your home over to a stranger?

Sure. Why not?

It was the kind of attitude you needed if you wanted to take part in a house swap in 1985.

That was when CBC's Midday introduced its viewers to the intriguing style of vacation that was then more familiar to Europeans than Canadians.

On Midday, viewers met the Hyslops, a couple from Ontario, as well as the Sharkeys, a visiting couple from Scotland.

A European tradition?

1980s car driving near airport
Some house swaps included the use of a vehicle. That was the case for the Sharkeys, who, as seen above, drove their hosts' car to their home in Southampton, Ont., in 1985. (Midday/CBC Archives)

The two couples had gotten in contact with one another through a house swap exchange organization, which listed their respective homes in a printed book of listings.

"People around the world have the same book and they arrange swaps by writing letters," the CBC's Rae Hull explained to viewers back in September of 1985. 

"The Europeans have been doing house swaps for the last 35 years."

From Scotland to Southampton, Ont.

Man and woman
The Sharkeys spoke to Midday about their Scotland-to-Ontario house swap. As of 1985, it was their fourth such trip. (Midday/CBC Archives)

As Hull explained, the Sharkeys' Canadian adventure was their fourth such exchange. 

Hull said previous trips had taken the Scottish couple to both a Manhattan apartment and a Massachusetts beach house while their owners occupied the Sharkeys' Scotland residence. 

Their destination in Canada was Southampton, Ont., a small beach town on the shores of Lake Huron.

They met the Hyslops at Toronto's Pearson airport to exchange house keys and pick up their car.

That unexpected landing place for a vacation was part of the charm of the house swap.

"The people who take these exchanges can end up in literally any corner of another country," said Hull.