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Exclusive NewTake Members Guide: How to Choose the Right Home Exchange Website for You

You’re going to list your home for exchange? Congratulations!

There are lots of home exchange website options: long-standing and new ones, free ones and religion-specific ones; there’s one for members aged 50+ and another for those in the ‘academic community’. The list goes on.

So how do you choose which one is best for you?

Your Shortlist

Gelato in Florence, Italy

How to choose? There are almost as many home exchange sites as there are gelato flavours. Florence, Italy

With all the home exchange websites out there, I knew you’d need a shortlist.

Want to know how I narrowed it to just three? (Or just skip to the list!)

To develop the shortlist I restricted the options to:

  • ‘Direct’ or ‘one-to-one’ home swap sites
    • Direct swap sites use the ‘I stay in your home and you stay in mine’ model.  The homes exchanged may be primary residences, second homes, vacation homes, timeshares, RV’s, boats, etc.
    • There are also sites that use formalized credit earning and redemption systems. They are usually oriented towards those who own a second home (if you’re interested in these, feel free to contact me directly).
  • Paid membership sites. Here’s why:
    • There’s more credibility and trust associated with paid services. The members have invested (albeit modestly) with their membership fee and recognize the value of a professionally operated site with responsive staff.
    • Well established sites monitor system security, spamming and other questionable behaviour; and, respond to inquiries and concerns.
    • Free sites are usually trying to attract their first members, reducing the number of exchanges you’re likely to find.
    • The website features are usually more advanced which can make finding exchanges and communicating with exchangers easier and more enjoyable.
  • Sites that, in my estimation, have acceptable or exceptional
    • user experience,
    • home listing format,
    • search functionality, and
    • member-to-member communication.

My Recommended Shortlist

Here’s my shortlist of home exchange websites for you to consider:

Two notes:

  • Home exchange websites are changing all the time. Since you’re on my mailing list I’ll make sure you’ll have my most recent shortlist when your membership comes up for renewal each year.
  • *Disclosure. Sites sometimes give me a free membership so I can become familiar with their features; but, my decision to recommend them is mine alone and I only recommend one when the recommendation is deserved. Also, some exchange sites (not all) pay me a small fee if you click on this link and become a member. I never recommend a site because of the fee, but if you’re going to register with one, thanks for clicking on the links on this site!

Which home exchange site is best for you?

Well, what do you want from it? Do you want to…

  • maximize the likelihood you’ll find exchanges?
  • get the best value you can from your membership fees (considering costs and benefits)?
  • feel more confident about swapping your home?
  • have travel planning services available to you?
  • find a home exchange site that you enjoy using and reduce frustration?

Do you know which of those is important to you?

Criteria to Pick Your Home Exchange Website

Criteria #1 – Membership Numbers

In February 2013,

Why is this important? The larger the membership, the more likely that you’ll find exchanges.

Thousands of exchanges happen every year. But finding one requires some stars to align. Exchange partners need to

  • belong to the same membership site in order to find each other;
  • want to visit each others’ locations,
  • be interested in staying in each others’ homes, and
  • be able to accommodate each others’ travel dates.

So, if all sites were created equal I’d recommend the one with the largest membership.

But –of course!– each of them has a different set of features and benefits.

Criteria #2 – Search Functions

Although it’s nice to have an easy process for setting up your listing, once it’s done you won’t make a lot of changes to it. So in my opinion, that’s not a critical feature to consider.

Instead, you’ll spend most of your time on the website searching for home exchanges (either seriously looking or just dreaming!). Being able to sift through the thousands of homes easily and efficiently is key to finding exchanges that could work for you.

The search functions should be comprehensive, with lots of options to specify the kind of home, location, dates, amenities, etc. that you’re looking for.

  • homeexchange.com – extensive and easy to understand search features
  • LoveHomeSwap –  least comprehensive search features
  • Knok – good search features and I see new ones being added to this site regularly.

Criteria #3 – Membership Fees

In December 2012 the regular membership fees (they sometimes offer specials, too) are:

Compare these to the average cost of a hotel room.

Offers for the first year of membership:

  • homeexchange.com – offers the second year free if you don’t exchange in the first year provided you upload photos of your home and complete your listing
  • LoveHomeSwap – is offering a 14-day trial for $1
  • Knok – is offering a 30-day free trial

All these fees and trial offers may change; refer to each site for current discounts and pricing.

Criteria #4 – Additional Home Listing Costs

This is only relevant if you have more than one home to exchange.

Some sites allow you to list an unlimited number of homes for the single annual membership fee, while others charge for more than one listing:

  • homeexchange.com – the full membership fee is charged for each listing
  • LoveHomeSwap –  additional listings are free
  • Knok – additional listings are free

Look at the total annual cost for listing all your homes but not without considering the cost of hotels and the other criteria.

Criteria #5 – Insurance and Home Swapping Confidence

People find the confidence to exchange their home in a variety of ways. If supplemental, exchange-specific insurance is important to you, consider the two sites that offer it:

  • homeexchange.com – does not offer insurance
  • LoveHomeSwap – offers insurance for additional fees (only for European homes)
  • Knok – includes insurance with its membership fee (exchanges involving US homes are excluded)

Visit each site to confirm the insurance cost, coverage and eligibility terms as they can change.

Additionally, LoveHomeSwap offers members a free optional service through a third party called Experien. I know of Experien from other work I’ve done independent of home swapping and they are internationally known for data aggregation, analysis and management. In this case, LoveHomeSwap submits a members’s name and address to Experien and Experien validates that “they are who they say they are.” I’ve communicated with Love Home Swap about this, but the criteria used remains unclear to me.

As you consider insurance and the LoveHomeSwap identity validation, you might want to read my post, Will my house be robbed? for ways that you can help validate the identity of a home exchanger that you’re communicating with.

#6 – Ease of Travel Planning

Do you arrange all your travel details yourself?  Or do you like using travel agents and other service providers to do the planning and logistics?

  • homeexchange.com – no travel concierge services are offered
  • LoveHomeSwap – offers a premium-priced ‘Luxe Membership‘ (click on the ‘Pricing’ link at the top of their page) with travel concierge services and other bonuses. They’ll even help find you a swap.
  • Knok – no travel concierge services are offered

Criteria #7 – Your Preferred Experience

All of the sites allow you to explore them –for free– before becoming a member:

  • homeexchange.com requires you to enter any email address and a password (that you make up then) before you can see listings.
  • LoveHomeSwap offers free browsing access if you click on some home page links, and requests an email address when you click on others. A little playing with it will get you where you want to go.
  • Knok makes it easy to view listings and then click ‘search’ to see those features.

If you don’t already feel strongly about your choice of site, spend a bit of time on them to see which one you prefer.

A couple more tips:

  • On some sites, some search features are only be visible after you’re a member and logged in. Check with me if you have a search-specific question.
  • Be aware that setting up a free trial listing takes a bit of time and effort, and you may be less inclined to change sites once you do one.

Bonus Tip: Length of Membership

I recommend that, regardless of the site you choose, you sign on for a year.

While some sites offer shorter options, it can take time to establish connections with other members and to receive offers as other members go through seasonal vacation planning.

Basically, I suggest give swapping a year-long opportunity to work for you.

My Take – Recommended Sites

The homeexchange.com site has been very effective for me for many years. The design isn’t as modern as that of Knok and LoveHomeSwap but the user experience is acceptable and the search functions –that are extremely important– are top-notch.

More recently I’ve also used Knok and LoveHomeSwap. Both offer very current and attractive site designs.

Knok‘s member-to-member message system is excellent and the search options are generally good. I also like the wishlist features and the user-friendly format of the regular ‘recommended home swap’ emails.

LoveHomeSwap‘s process for setting up a new home listing is well-designed and intuitive. The messaging function is easy to use but the search features are less comprehensive. I haven’t had any personal experience with their premium ‘Luxe Membership’ services.

Your Take

Which site did you choose? Do you have any questions?  Let me know!

 

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  1. Pingback: Home Exchange? Home Away? | BlondeBrunetteTravel

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