Founded in 2011
Free, with optional purchase of add on services including verification and insurance.
Single founder, created by 22 families from around the world
English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch
373,846 listings in 187 countries (between 60,589 and 130,026 active listings)
Because membership is free, the listings on GTG never expire. So while the overall number of listings on this site is very large, the proportion of inactive listings will be much greater than on paid home exchange websites. Last year I wrote about this problem and did a test calculation for the city of Budapest to see what proportion of listings on GTG are really active. I concluded that about 32% of Guest to Guest members are active. Nonetheless, even just looking at active listings Guest to Guest is the biggest network out there. And their geographic diversity, especially in South America and Africa, is impressive.
My estimate of active members restricts to only those who have a listing with pictures and who have a response rate of >80% (60,589 listings) or to only those members with pictures (130,026 listings). I think the former number is too conservative and the later is too generous. So I’d guess somewhere in the middle is accurate. I’m going with the 32% from my estimate last year because I don’t exclude non-responsive members in my counts for other networks, so I don’t want to be overly restrictive with Guest to Guest if people are trying to make a fair comparison. That gives about 120,000 members.
Listings by region:
- Asia: 8,884
- North America: 13,202
- South America: 53,342
- Europe: 267,869
- Africa: 6,805
- Australia & New Zealand: 2,386
The numbers above are counts without filters for active members, just to give an idea of geographic distribution. Oddly the counts in North America and Africa have gone down dramatically since last year, suggesting a search or geography bug since I don’t believe tens of thousands of people have quit Guest to Guest in those regions.
Guest to Guest continues to acquire networks and this year they began the integration of HomeforHome. Spending their funding on these acquisitions is a large part of the Guest to Guest expansion strategy.
Searching: Searches start with typing in a location and optionally entering the number of travelers and travel dates. The searches return the home profiles that meet your criteria with a map with pins for each listing. These search results are sorted by the relative activity and verification status of the members, which roughly translates into the likelihood that you will get a response to your request. Alternately you can filter out homes without pictures and with low response rates, limiting your search to just active listings, which I’d recommend. Additional filters can be added including desired dates matching availability on the host’s calendar, reverse searches to look for people who want to swap to your area, and desired features of the home.
Listings: Search results return listings with just a picture and few details about the member so you have to click into each one to see the details of the home. I’d prefer to see some more details within the thumbnail to help me decide which ones to look more closely at.
Individual listing details include a lot of information about each property in a readable format. My only criticism here is that it would be nice to have summary information on the owners (family size and number of kids) on the initial page in case you’re looking for a reciprocal swap and not planning to use swap points. Listings do indicate whether you have already contacted a member.
Guest to Guest recently introduced a calendar feature I’ve been asking for: you can set your availability for simultaneous exchanges separately from your availability to host using guestpoints. This means you can note when you’ll be away staying with family or friends and so can host a guest, but also can indicate the dates you are hoping to do an exchange and will also need lodging yourself.
This site offers the following variations on house swapping:
- simultaneous or non-simultaneous house swap – this is the traditional model where two parties swap houses for an agreed upon set of dates. 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.
- guestpoints – earn points by letting people stay in your house when you will be away, and redeem points to stay in other people’s homes
Guest to Guest sells itself as a social network for people who want to exchange their homes during vacation. This site gives away guestpoints for setting up your account, referring friends, and becoming a verified member. While this ends up with more points out there than available properties, the business model works because of their high volume of listings and the fact that everyone won’t be trying to redeem points at the same time. By offering to verify members (for a fee) and to hold a security deposit (for a fee) or to purchase insurance they help users feel comfortable letting strangers stay in their homes. In reality a minority of members pay to get verified.
Primarily you earn guestpoints by letting people stay in your home. Average properties charge anywhere from 30 to 100 points a night. The rate is suggested by Guest to Guest based on information you enter about your house, but this can be modified by the user up or down from the suggested amount.
Guest to Guest does allow people to purchase GuestPoints but they make it impossible to use their site just for rentals by limiting this purchase to no more than 50% of the points required for a swap: The first 20% of the total GuestPoints needed costs 10 cents per GP. For the remaining GuestPoints needed the cost is 1 euro per GP.
Site design: Modern look and feel with good responsiveness.
Additional features: The email facility is functional and reasonably well organized. They have some built in translation tools to try to display messages in the primary language of each user, but I have noticed it sometimes defaults to the wrong language. Each message is displayed with details of the person’s home, a picture if available, and requested swap dates, which is very helpful.
Guest to Guest offers two forms of insurance: a deposit and an insurance policy. Owners can set the required deposit and decide if a policy will be required or not. Both of these must be paid for by the guest. For the deposit a 3.5% fee is collected by GTG and the remainder of the deposit is returned to the guest if no claim is filed. Guest to Guest also offers optional travel medical insurance, the first home exchange network to provide this service.
Overall I’ve had some good success using Guest to Guest to find swaps when I need lodging for only a short period of time and so am unlikely to find a simultaneous exchange. For instance, while traveling in Spain we were in some towns for just 3 days, and points are a great option for this. However, the large number of members on this site doesn’t seem to increase the probability I’ll get a response. This may be a problem with offering free membership and therefore ending up with lots of people signing up who aren’t really very interested in home exchange.
Read my interview with the founder of Guest to Guest for more information about GTG.
If you’re trying to figure out which one to join, check out my reviews of all the major home exchange networks.