Best Home Exchange Websites – Updated July 2015

Click here to read the updated version of this post from August 2016

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 websites, dug through all of them to pull out relevant comparative information, and reviewed many of them individually.

select a doorI have identified 108 active home exchange websites: 18 are location specific and another 16 are predominantly in just one country or region, 37 focus on a specialty population (elderly, luxury homes, gay, etc.), and 37 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.

Competition might seem like a good thing for improving products, but this is a case where 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 websites 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 site 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.

You can review my list of all the sites and relevant data on each one.

Relevant considerations in choosing the right home exchange website

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 websites 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.
  • Vacation rental – the usual rental system applies here, and owners collect payment via the website.
  • 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 general 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 2015 I hesitate to endorse specific sites because I realize that I’ve only done in depth testing on a handful of the 108 home exchange websites. 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.

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. I don’t have much to criticize except to say that they might want to try innovating a bit and offering some new options as the market is changing and growing. I have had good luck finding swaps on here to match my varied destination desires around the world when I’m seeking a simultaneous exchange.

GuesttoGuest – This is the largest general swap site as measured by membership, and the only free one of the big sites. 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 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 through GuesttoGuest, but in my experience there are a lot of inactive members and it’s tough to get a match elsewhere even if there are a lot of listings.

Love Home Swap – I find this site useful for the structure of their points-based swap system, with a nice user interface. However, I don’t have as much luck finding matches on this site as I would expect given their claimed membership size.

Homelink – This is the oldest home exchange network and it is loved by it’s members. Until their site redesign this year I found the interface so old school it was unusable for me. But the redesign is a significant improvement, and members are super loyal and their reputation is very good. I’m still not a member so I can only report second hand on user experience for this one.

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).

23 Comments

  1. Hi,
    I was wondering if you could recomend a long term house swap… I need to move to Montreal to finish my Masters and have a house in Albuquerque NM. I am looking at a year or so maybe even longer. I thought of exchanging my home so I didnt have to rent it out and because I have a dog I need a yard in the city…
    Anyways any help would be appreciated.
    Mila

    • dawnzerly

      May 27, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Mila,

      You’ll need to join one of the home exchange networks that I talk about above. Long term swaps are harder to find, in my opinion, because fewer people are looking for that. But I do think it’s worth a shot. First you should do some research by playing around on the sites you like to see if there are people from Montreal interested in Albuquerque and/or if anyone on those sites is looking for longer term swaps. You could try SabbaticalHomes.com as they focus on academics so maybe there are folks in the same situation as you who have a year to spend somewhere else.

      Good luck!

  2. Hi !
    Have you heard anything about these folks http://switchhomes.net ?
    I am a bit concerned as they ask for my contacts, but they have none. NONE!

    • dawnzerly

      July 6, 2016 at 4:36 am

      Hi Alla, I have them listed in my spreadsheet but I don’t know anything more about switchhomes.net. You can verify that the founders really do also work for Homelink.com.au, but I don’t know much about that site either, except that they claim a rather long history. I also found the Switch site to be quite sparse, but I think that’s their concept. Let me know how it works out.

  3. Does anyone have information about IHEN (international Home Exchange Network)? Has anyone used their services? Please let us know.
    Thank you!

  4. We are building a new house at the moment and think it would be a good time to try a house swap before cluttering starts!
    We would like to go to saigon next spring but wonder how many vietnamese woyld want to come to ireland in the winter.
    In this case do you think its possible to log our house for others to use while we’re away or is that possible?

    • dawnzerly

      August 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Hi Rita, It’s certainly worth a shot. My best advice to you is to search around on the various home exchange networks to see if there are any listings in Vietnam on them. If there aren’t any listings there’s very little chance you’ll find a swap to Saigon. So try to find one with at least some folks in the region active on the network.

  5. I’m just coming across your website as I’m doing more research on this house-swapping thing, and must say, you are awesome for putting SO much effort into this! I’m on a trial with LoveHomeSwap right now and debating on purchasing membership for HomeExchange.com… I really only have one trip in mind (to Oahu in a couple of months) so I’m not sure how to best utilize these sites other than for that, at the moment. I’m also debating on joining HomeLink.org. I will try and check out your other posts on here, but thanks again for your efforts. By chance, have you swapped/stayed in a second home on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, to lend advice or even a contact in that area as a potential host?

    • dawnzerly

      August 11, 2016 at 9:38 am

      Hi Jab, so glad to hear the info I’ve compiled is useful to you! Sorry but I haven’t done any swaps to Hawaii. Best bet is to search on the sites you might use to see how many listings they have in Hawaii. Trial memberships really aren’t long enough to find a match (and many don’t allow you that option anyway) so it’s a gamble but if you plan far enough in advance I think you’ve got a good shot of finding something. Good luck! and report back on which sites end up working for you so others can learn from your experiences.

      • Just a quick update, I signed up for three trials: Intervac (20 days), HomeExchange (14 days), and LoveHomeSwap (14 days).

        I sent nine requests on HomeExchange and got SIX denials already within 24 hours – only two people included a brief but kind courtesy “Sorry, the place isn’t available, etc. but good luck!” type response with the denial. The others didn’t even acknowledge my personalized message and just clicked the “deny request” button, which seems a little unfriendly to me but, it is what it is. ;/

        That said, I sent out only two requests on Intervac and have already gotten one reply as available for my time frame WITH vehicle!!! (Still needs to be confirmed) They were also very thoughtful and kind in their response.

        As for LoveHomeSwap, I have sent out four requests for a swap/stay and have received three denials (all with kind messages) and one tentative response (she is double checking the availability of her home for my needed time period). Not bad!

        Basically, it seems even though a site may have a lot of exchange listings for a certain area – like HomeExchange did, which is why I excitedly joined their trial – there may be no luck. However, I signed up for Intervac half-heartedly as it only had TWO listings for the entire county I am looking into visiting… yet I’ve already confirmed availability for one of them within a day!

        The question becomes- if you can’t accurately gauge a successful chance of exchange through the number of listings, is there any other way? Or just simple luck of the draw?

        • dawnzerly

          August 15, 2016 at 8:14 am

          Thanks for the update. Unfortunately I think this is quite common that responses will vary across sites and it will be different for each person and for each destination. For me Intervac didn’t yield any successfully matches in my year of membership, but I know many people really love that site and I agree the members tend to be kind and personalize their responses. I’m glad you are finding some good matches on the three sites you selected, hopefully this will lead to successfully exchanges!

  6. Lizbeth Seebacher

    August 12, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Intervac Home Exchange worked very well for us. All 3 exchanges were in Europe so far.

  7. Seniors Home Exchange no longer exists.

  8. Hi Dawn,
    THANK YOU for writing this helpful article. This is my first time looking into a home exchange. Can you recommend a site or any tips for a family? Specifically, I am hoping to find a home exchange for one school semester so that my kids can go to school back east (in Greenwich, CT where I am from) and am hoping to find a family that would like to try out the Bay Area (we live in Berkeley CA) for a semester. It would be ideal to work with a family, because then we could help each other enroll kids in schools, know how deadlines and application processes work, etc. Thank you in advance for your help!!

  9. I live in Australia and I’ve had very good swaps to Europe and the U.K. via HomeForExchange.com and Homebase-hols.com

    I was a member of homeexchange.com but didn’t get good results and its one of the more expensive ones, but other people I know have found them good.

    Cheers from sunny Sydney!

  10. Delighted to find this website. I really like the idea of house swapping and have used Intervac and LoveHomeSwap with limited success but will persevere again this year. What I have found is:
    – many requests I send go unanswered which is very annoying- a short reply saying ‘not interested’ is much better than not replying
    – many listings are rentals and this is equally frustrating as owners are not specific in their listings regarding this
    – European countries best for house swapping are France and Spain – we sent many requests to other countries, e.g. Iceland, Finland, etc and very little interest – we have homes in Ireland and Australia.

    Good luck to everyone and we will persevere for another year as we are retiring this year so will have greater flexibility.

    • dawnzerly

      January 9, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Congrats on the retirement Mary, I hope you have many great adventures ahead. Are you only using LoveHomeSwap? You might want to join one more home exchange network to increase your odds of finding good swaps. Let me know how it goes for you this year!

  11. Dawn,
    my experience with Home Away (a British firm) has been disastrous. They charged $38 for a conversion rate and refused to allow the apartment owner to offer me a discounted rate. Do you have personal experience with this company?
    Lisa

    • dawnzerly

      January 10, 2017 at 8:21 am

      Hi Lisa, Home Away is not a home exchange company but rather a peer-to-peer rental business. I mention this to start off because you are commenting on a review of best home exchange websites and you might want to try out home swapping since it doesn’t involve paying any money at all. That will save you the need to negotiate a discount! With that said, I don’t have much experience with Home Away, but like AirBnb and the other similar businesses, they make money by taking a percentage of the price so any discount is taken out of their profit as well. That doesn’t excuse bad pricing and conversion rate policies. I tend to think all companies end up doing better when they have customer friendly practices that keep people coming back. But I’m also not running a business and have no interest in doing so. Next time you might want to use one of Home Away’s many competators: you can find a Rental Lodging category on my site under Lodging where I’ve written about many of these, and also on my spreadsheet of all travel related sharing economy sites I include many of these in the “Rental Lodging” sub-category.

  12. Great post. Thanks for the insight!!

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