Best Home Exchange Websites – Updated August 2016

This post is outdated! Read the 2017 version here.

This is one of the most popular posts on my site, and my thoughts on this change over time, as do some of the facts in this post. So here’s the version for 2016. Check out the older versions for some good comments from 2015 and 2014 on home exchange networks my readers like and dislike.

When I decided to try out house swapping I was overwhelmed by the number of websites serving people interested in home exchange. I spent a few weeks going through them at random, and searching in vain for objective reviews or at least some overview information comparing the sites. I finally made my own comparison document of the sites that seemed like the best potential match for my purposes. But even after doing that I couldn’t pick a best one, so I ended up just joining three of them and hoping for the best. Now, after learning more about how house swapping works and what I want from a website, I’ve gone back and done a more comprehensive search for home exchange networks, dug through all of them to pull out relevant comparative information, and reviewed many of them individually.

select a doorI have identified 85 active home exchange websites: 12 are location specific and another 10 are predominantly in just one country or region, 30 focus on a specialty population (elderly, luxury homes, gay, etc.), and 33 are without a specific focus. There are new home exchange websites popping up regularly, but the older ones are also consolidating and/or shutting down, and this year’s assessment actually represents a pretty significant consolidation of the industry since I last wrote this in July of 2015 when I counted 108 active home swap sites.

Competition might seem like a good thing for improving products, but this is a case where too much competition is inefficient for the users. You only have to join one house swapping site, but that means you will only see homes listed on that site. And house swapping depends on your ability to find someone interested in visiting your town when you want to visit their town, so volume is especially important to improve your odds. Most home exchange networks cost money, and it takes some work to build a decent profile and go through listings, so ideally you want to only join one or two. This means it’s important to pick the site or sites that will best meet your house swapping needs.

So how do you pick which home exchange network to join?

There isn’t much information out there about the home exchange networks so I created a spreadsheet of them all and then wrote reviews of those that have a sizable membership as well as those that are new but show promise. I tried out the trial memberships where available, joined many of the sites, conducted multiple searches on each site to see how many houses turned up and I explored the features of each site.

Home Exchange spreadsheet

You can find this spreadsheet with all the home exchange sites and relevant data on each one here.

You also need to think about what’s important to you in a home exchange network. I recommend starting with a list of your goals for house swapping. Below are some of the key considerations and goals to think about.

Desired destinations

Do you have specific destinations that you want to visit? Will you be focused in one region of the world or do you want to travel to lots of different places? There are swap sites that are location-specific or that just have the majority of their listings in one area. If you only want to travel within Australia, join a site devoted to that rather than one that lists homes all around the world.

Special needs

Do you have specific needs or a group of people with whom you want to swap? For instance families with children, vacation home owners, seniors, gay folks, etc.  If so, you might benefit from a site devoted to your needs or demographic.

Other features offered by some networks that might be important to you include: house swapping insurance and/or security deposit, contract templates, and variations on timing and method of house swapping (see below).

Number of members

Size matters. And not just the overall number of listings on a website, but also the number of listings in places you want to travel. Where possible, in my reviews I’ve provided a breakdown of listings by continent, or for some sample countries. But I strongly recommend doing some searching yourself on any sites you are considering joining. Look at the results for cities you’d like to visit, and include the consideration of how many people on that site want to visit your city.

I started off with membership in three of the largest swap sites, but when looking for swaps to Spain I found that I was better off joining a site that is focused almost exclusively in Europe: Home for Home. Their largest country of membership is Spain and many people on the site are looking to visit the United States so this greatly increased my pool of options for a trip there. In the end that site was only useful for me for my Spain exchange and I ended up canceling my membership after that trip.

Swapping options

There are variations on  how you can exchange homes. Here are the options that exist on home exchange networks:

  • Simultaneous house swap – this is the traditional model where two parties swap houses for an agreed upon set of dates.
  • Non-simultaneous house swap – Non-simultaneous works best with second homes, but is also useful for people going on vacation and leaving their home empty. In this case each party picks different dates for the swap.
  • Swap points – earn points for letting others stay in your home while you are away (or while you are home), and then redeem those points to stay in any of the other homes participating in the program.
  • Hospitality exchange – this allows people with extra space in their house to host visitors in exchange for being hosted themselves at some other date.
  • Housesitting – not a common option, but a few websites offer listings for housesitting.

The Best House Swap Websites

People often ask me to just tell them which home exchange network to join. I think that’s a tricky question to answer because it really depends on your specific travel needs. As I update this post in 2016 I am even more hesitant to endorse specific sites because I realize that I’ve only done in depth testing on a handful of the home exchange websites out there, and a LOT of people read this post! But the title of this post sort of promised to tell you which ones I think are the best. So…. if you agree with me that size is important for increasing your odds of finding a match, and you want to travel to lots of places around the world and not limit yourself to one specific country or region, I think the following sites are very good options.

By my count there are only four sites with more than 15,000 listings: GuesttoGuest, HomeExchange.com, and HomeforHome. Of these, only the first two are generalist sites with no geographic or demographic focus. Below I recommend the two biggest sites as good bets for people to join, and then give my suggestion for the most useful of the sub-15,000 members sites. (Note: some home exchange networks claim far more members than I can verify on their sites, and perhaps you should believe their claims, but my recommendations are based on verifiable numbers. I list the claimed membership in a separate column in my spreadsheet. If you work for one of these companies and can show me that my counts are wrong I will happily update my numbers!)

The Biggest Home Exchange Networks

HomeExchange.com – One of the largest swap sites, this one has been around since the early 90s and has all the basic features and functionality working pretty well on their site. For me this is probably the easiest site to use among those I recommend. This year they stepped up the innovation by offering “balloons” which you can earn and spend on exchanges. Balloons are similar to swap points, something I’ve been hoping HomeExchange.com would introduce because I like the flexibility, but I haven’t had a chance to try out their new system yet. I have had decent luck finding simultaneous exchanges on here to match my varied destination desires around the world.

GuesttoGuest – This is the largest general swap site as measured by membership, and the only free one of the big home exchange networks. A majority of their members seem to be in Europe. For me the base requirement of deciding to pay to join a swap site helps with the trust of those I find on the site. So although I personally love free, I like my fellow swappers paying, and so I opted to pay for the member verification on this site.  GuesttoGuest is the only website that has been doing swap points for a long time. With everyone automatically enrolled and earning guest points, I think the concept here is really good. If you want to play around with a free site while deciding where to spend your money, this one is a good bet. I have had pretty good results finding swaps in Europe and South America through GuesttoGuest. However, the down side to a free site is a higher proportion of inactive members, which can make it harder to find a match even when the number of listings looks promising for your desired destination.

Smaller Home Exchange Networks

Love Home Swap – I find this site useful for the structure of their points-based swap system, with a nice user interface. In the past year I have found an increasing number of matches for my desired swap destinations and had some really good Love Home Swap exchanges. But I have also heard more complaints about this home exchange network’s customer service than any others, and I’m dismayed with how long it takes them to fix serious bugs on the website. Beware that their billing practices are angering a lot of people so be sure you really want to use this site before you give them any payment information.

Homelink – This is the oldest home exchange network and it is loved by it’s members. I don’t use it but I know many members who are super loyal and their reputation is very good.

Have a favorite home exchange network? Tell me about it in the comments (and include reasons why you like them so that readers can benefit from your experience).

28 Comments

  1. I did two home exchanges this year, one through Intervac and the other through Homelink. Those services have consistently been the best for me through 66 home exchanges since 1990, so I should know what I am talking about. Any “best” list should include both of these.

    I feel that homeexchange.com is a bad deal for Americans: Too many US listings and too few in Europe (mostly in France) makes it a bad deal if you live in the US. I got absolutely nothing from the site despite heavily working it. I have had hospitality exchanges in Asia through homeforexchange.com, but have never gotten a home exchange from that site.

    Many home exchange sites, such as homeexchange.com include rentals–which mean you have to wade through a lot of homes before you find what you want. Also homeexchange.com has a really poor response rate. No site will elicit a response for every email you send, but homeexchange.com is especially poor. It could be that they simply leave up listings where people have not paid to jack up their numbers.

    No one can prove anything about any of these sites unless you actually join–which means you have to do your own research and occasionally get scammed.

    My views on the subject, which are different from Share Traveler’s can be found on my website. My most read piece is here:

    http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/how-to-do-a-home-exchange.html

    • dawnzerly

      August 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Thanks Lauren, it’s good to have some different perspectives here, especially since you’ve tried out some sites I haven’t joined. I did give Intervac a shot myself for a year and had very little luck finding matches so I ended up canceling my membership. But I know many members on there are very happy with the service. On the other hand, I’ve had good luck finding swaps internationally on HomeExchange.com Obviously success on any home exchange site depends in part on where you live and where you want to go, as well as other criteria. So we can’t expect to all have the same experience on all the networks. This is a big reason why I’m increasingly hesitant to recommend specific sites, and why I encourage people to give their opinions in the comments here.

      One point of clarification here though, HomeExchange.com doesn’t have any rentals on it as far as I have seen. You can see which sites have rentals in my reviews of the individual sites. I do agree with Lauren that sites allowing rentals can interfere with home exchange searches, especially if it’s not implemented with clear search exclusion options.

  2. Do you know how much does it cost to purchase points in LoveHomeSwap.com? it seems they dont publicize that on their website.

    • dawnzerly

      September 5, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      Good question Diego. I see their site now says: ”
      The rate at which you can purchase top-up points is linked to your membership level. Get in touch with the team today to chat to us about your best option for topping up.” Maybe someone who has bought points can tell us their current rates but I’ll also investigate for my level and get back to you.

      • dawnzerly

        September 8, 2016 at 10:37 am

        I asked LoveHomeSwap directly what it would cost me to purchase points and here’s the response: “You can top up your points by buying them from us when you have a trip ready to agree, if you are short on the amount you need. As you are a Lite member, the cost would be $3 per point, and if you were to upgrade to our Platinum membership it would cost you $1 per point. Depending on how many you need to purchase, we can negotiate the price.” I will add this info to my LHS review as well.

  3. Hmmm, so then we are talking about starting prices per night of about $100. I would have expect it to be cheaper :S

  4. We have been huge cheerleaders for homeexchange.com since we joined in 2008. We’ve done 10 very successful simultaneous exchanges domestically and internationally, from our prior home in Mesa, AZ and our current home in Raleigh, NC.

    Sadly, the reply rate when I initialize an exchange inquiry has become terribly low. Recently, I sent inquiries to 3 listings that specifically listed Raleigh when I did a reverse search. Two never replied, even after I sent a second inquirie. And a larger mailing of about 40 listings produced a response rate of less than 50%. Truly disappointing.

    So, it’s timeto add a second site for our exchange needs and I’m VERY grateful for your work and reviews! Thank you.

    A question: Most of our exchanges these days tend to be donestic, within the US. Besides homeexchange.com, is there another site you might suggest?

    • dawnzerly

      September 14, 2016 at 8:09 am

      Hi Jeanette, looking at home exchange sites that are not focused on places outside the US and that are in the top of the membership range really limits your choices. I’ve actually found a number of domestic exchanges on LoveHomeSwap, not as much luck with Guest to Guest but they are the biggest, and I know users really like HomeLink. There are a few others that are of comparable size and geographically diverse, if you sort my table by size you will be able to narrow down your options quickly.

      I did try to assess response rates on the different sites I was using a few years back, but it’s a hard thing to evaluate. Everyone’s experience seems to be different so I really like sites that offer information about people’s response rate on their profile. That helps me be efficient in my inquiries.

      Let me know if you find one that works well for you in the U.S. as I think this is a common question.

      • Thanks. I’ve subscribed to your blog (which is great, btw) so I’ll let you know what I find. May I suggest adding a column to your spreadsheet indicating which sites offer a reverse search? This function is important to many of us!

    • Hey Jeanette, how are you doing the reverse search for a specific city? I live in Nashville so I don’t think when people say they want to come to the US they are really thinking Nashville (more New York or LA). So it would be great if I could narrow it down to people that mention Tennessee or Nashville specifically. But when I do the Reverse Search, I can’t tell that they have the US listed anywhere and definitely don’t see TN or Nashville. Am I missing a filter or link somewhere? Thanks in advance, Brian

      • Brian, if you’re on homeexchange.com, you are not reverse searching correctly. I just did it and found 100 homes wanting to go to Nashville and 147 for the state of TN. Here’s how:

        Don’t use the search on the main page where it says “where do you want to go”. In the upper left there is a drop down that is a long list and includes stuff like inbox,dashboard, your listings, etc. Use that menu and click on “search homes.” This brings you to an advanced search area. Leave the “where do you want to go” field empty, put Nashville in the field that says “only show listings wanting to go to” and voila – you’ve got some incredible choices. (I wish I had 1/4the as many!)

        BTW there is a chat function that pops up on this site. I’ve found that to be VERY helpful.

  5. intervac.com
    Maybe not the biggest, but the oldest. have done 6 exchanges , all fist rate.!

  6. Hi.
    I have done a couple of home swaps through Craigslist but I always find people that are not serious about it. I want to try now a swap web site instead. I am looking for a place in San Diego near the beach. Can you tell me which website has more domestic listings especially in San Diego?
    Thanks

    • dawnzerly

      January 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Lulu, If you take a look at my spreadsheet of all the home exchange sites (http://sharetraveler.com/houseswap-spreadsheet/) you can quickly find the ones that focus on the United States, although you might just want to look at the largest sites since that gives you the best chance at finding matching. You will need to do your own testing to find which ones have lots of places in San Diego. That’s not hard to do: just run some sample searches to see how many homes turn up that meet your needs.

    • Where do you live, Lulu? We live in San Diego and we are serious about finding the right people to swap with.

  7. aving a holiday home allows you to join The Vacation Exchange Network and spend wonderful times at other resort areas around the world.

  8. At one time I was a member of 10 exchange sites but now I use only use only four, IHEN, HomeExchange, HomeLink and HomeFor Exchange.Since 1996 and 42 exchanges the friendliest exchange is HomeLink; if you submit a question a reply is forthcoming very soon. They also gave us a free year because of customer loyalty since 1998 They also have a very low subscription rate for those of us who no longer travel outside the USA except for Canada occasionally.

  9. It looks like I am coming late to this party, but now in June 2017 I can share this updated info.

    Guest to Guest has bought out HomeExchange.com, though the French owners state they are not going to change anything. Until they do…

    We have had about 11 exchanges with HomeExchange.com, but never any with G to G for the simple reason most requests come from Spain or Italy, places where we have been dozens of times. Our place is in Budapest, Hungary, so we often try to get out of Europe as much as possible.

    I checked out IHEN and found that many and I mean many of their listings show the last dates available to be years old, nothing close to current.

    We also belonged to a group for those of us over 55 years old. The format was really outdated, but we gave it a shot for a year. Nada, nothing!

    I am tempted to try Intervac, since it is the ‘oldest’, but I hate wasting money if it is a dud.

    As a gay couple, we have successfully used HomesAroundtheWorld.com eight times so far and have had great experiences. Just sharing for those who may be interested.

    Love Home Swap, I think is the one that is going through a major revamping. They had asked if I wanted to be part of the beta group.

    • dawnzerly

      June 22, 2017 at 8:31 am

      Thanks for the input Ryan. It’s always very helpful to hear people’s real experiences with the various swap networks.

  10. Thanks for pulling this list together and taking the time to keep it up. Very helpful!!

    Any thoughts on which site(s) does the best reverse lookup? From the few I have played with – GuesttToGuest, Intervac, Homelink, LoveHomeSwap – I don’t see a way to filter for people looking for Nashville or Tennessee. A lot of folks say “Anywhere” but I think I will have a lot more misses sending requests to them. I would love to find folks that mention my city or state specifically.

    Any site you know of that excels in that area?

    Thanks in advance!

    • dawnzerly

      July 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      That’s a really good question Brian. I have made some comments about reverse search functionality in the individual reviews I did of each site (linked in the spreadsheet if you want to take a look), but I can’t think of one that really stood out as doing this better than all the others. I agree with you that this search functionality is important, and could be optimized for people who don’t live in the major travel cities in their country. Let me know if you find a site that has worked this out.

    • Bryan, see my response above. The reverse search function works very well on homeexchange.com and, in fact, is one of the reasons I stay with them. They have also started sending emails showing members that are interested in traveling to my area. If you are not getting those emails, use the chat function to find out why

  11. We have used Intervac for more than 20 years now and have had a great response. I always use the ‘limit to members wanting to exchange to my country ‘ filter as we live in New Zealand. We would get at least a couple of enquiries a month, mostly from Europe, and others from the UK or US. We have always been able to find something suitable and have never felt the need to use another website. People using this organization seem to be very quick to respond and good to deal with.

  12. Janne Louis Turksma

    December 3, 2017 at 1:14 am

    Thank you for your recommendation as it is relevant to me as I live on the Gold Coast Australia. I am new to this so comments are helpful.
    Janne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Subscribe to Blog via Email

© 2017 Travel Adventures in the Sharing Economy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑