Let's say you have chosen a prospective member in the country you want to go (and you can also do home swaps here in the USA). You have found somebody who fulfills your criteria regarding, location, smoker or not. children or not and last, but not least, pets or not. You have established a convenient exchange time that suits you both. You agree on swapping the car. Now it's time to build up some kind of relationship between the two families (parties). After all, you want to know who is going to stay in your house. What do they like doing? Which trips are they planning? Which other people are coming to visit or join them?
The website will tell you whether they are newcomers to this experience or old hands. In fact, we encountered people who have home swapping over 20 times. Our French partners had done 10 prior swaps, allegedly.
Modern media like Skype are handy to get an occasional cheap call in, talk about preparations that are going on, swap extra photos, and dare to ask for a reference. We did that with our German exchange partners. Not with the French. I was so impressed by his job and the lifestyle what I expected to go with it in my small imagination, that I just took it for granted they would have similar lifestyles and standards.
Wrong! We had bought new towels and sheets. They offered us stained pillows and non-matching sheets. We bought new mattress protectors, their 4 inch rubber/foam mattresses would not pass muster and make it onto my garden furniture. We had bought two new chaises. All of theirs were green or black with no attempt at cleaning them. The evasive answers he gave me at times I justified by him being so busy. Wrong. When we had problems and grievances during our stay, he brushed them off by saying:"Don't worry. It's French.It's delicate." And I can well visualize the Gallic shrug going with it. Swapper beware! Prepare! if you lose an exchange this way, so be it. That could be for the better.