Exploring home exchange sites –and then choosing one– is the first step to traveling often and richly within your budget. (And it’s fun. They’re kind of like free-vacation candy shops!)
First, poke around the exchange sites (below). Listing your home doesn’t obligate you to exchange. It’s a great way to explore the potential and become more familiar with the idea and the process. When you have an offer, you can decide then to say yes or no.
Think you’re ready to list your home for exchange? Or just want to browse? Hint: Quality sites allow non-members to browse home listings (but not contact members) so you can kick the tires before you commit.
How to Start
Home exchange sites are the most efficient and effective, and safest, way to arrange home exchanges. They offer many features, but basically allow members to list homes for exchange, search for exchanges, and send and receive offers.
Psst! Sign up for email updates so you’re sure to see updates I send about exchange site memberships.
- What Home Exchange Sites Do (and Don’t)
- Why I Recommend Paid Memberships
- Recommended Websites
- How to Pick the Right One for You
1. What Home Exchange Sites Do (and Don’t)
There are many sites and they vary, but generally they
- allow the public to search and browse home exchange listings
- restrict communication (sending/receiving offers) to members only
- charge a membership fee (ranging $50-500/year, but typically $100-150/year)
- provide user-friendly screens to create your home exchange listing
- never display your name, address or contact information
- provide a secure, anonymous and confidential messaging system (so you can decide if and when you share your personal information with another member)
- offer extensive search features, including who wants to visit your location
- include a ‘references’ function so members can review people and homes they’ve exchanged with
- allow members to list more than one property (additional fees sometimes apply)
- offer regular email updates alerting you to new properties in locations you want to visit
- link with social media sites to varying degrees
- provide helpful information like home exchange contract templates and fraud protection advice.
Typically, home exchange sites do not
- vet or endorse members – all communication and exchange agreements are directly between the members
- find an exchange for you.
2. I Recommend: Paid Memberships
I recommend you use a paid membership site (some are free). Here’s why:
- There’s more credibility and trust associated with paid services. The members have invested 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.
- More members means more opportunities for exchanges. Free ones are usually trying to attract their first members.
- Features are usually more advanced which can make finding exchanges easier and more enjoyable.
3. Recommended Websites
There are lots of home exchange websites: 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.
These are the sites I recommend:
4. How to Choose the Right Home Swap Site for You
To choose the right Home Exchange site for you, consider these:
- Membership Numbers
- Search Functions
- Membership Fees
- Cost of Listing Additional Homes
- Which sites offer Home Exchange insurance
- Travel Agent Services
- Ease of Website Use
Criteria #1 – Membership Numbers
In February 2013,
- homeexchange.com had the largest membership with 44,000 members worldwide.
- LoveHomeSwap had 35,000 members.
- Knok had 14,000 members.
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.
I’ve included details about all 7 considerations in “How to Choose the Right Home Exchange Site for You”. For free access to it, sign up for updates here.
Have fun and let me know if you have questions! I’d love to hear from you.
*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 them 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!