Review updated: July 2018
Founded in 1992
$150 per year for first listing, $75 for additional listings
Sold in 2017 to Guest to Guest
56,000 listings in 150 countries
Listings by geographic region (approximate, based on counting from buggy regional search that seems to mis-classify some Europe homes into North America):
- Africa: 2500
- Asia: 1000
- North America: 20,000
- Europe: 31,000
- Oceana: 2800
- South America: 1000
Consistent with last year, HE still claims 65,000 listing, but explains that the remaining ~9,000 listings are hidden by members who do not wish to be contacted at this time. Once again I’m surprised to see no increase in total number of members reported by HE since 2015. As one of the largest home exchanges networks, in a growth industry, I’d expect to see them growing.
Since the purchase of HE last year by Guest to Guest there really haven’t been any significant changes. To most HE members I think this is a relief as members are pretty loyal to the way HE works. From my experience there has been an increase in adoption of the balloon system, launched last year, by HE members. Balloons are the HE alternative to point-based exchanges, a way to facilitate non-simultaneous home swaps across multiple parties. You earn balloons by hosting guests (usually while you are away), and then you can redeem those balloons for stays in other people’s homes. You can redeem (or earn) one balloon for one stay, regardless of the length of stay. Sites that use points generally charge a set number of points per night, so that shorter stays “cost” less than longer stays. The balloon concept is more like a non-simultaneous swap where the exchangers are less concerned with matching up exactly on number of days.
I’ve been a member of HomeExchange.com since I started doing house swapping and overall my experience has been good. I like the large network giving me more chances of finding a swap match for my travel desires. But I did find the emphasis on simultaneous swaps a bit restrictive so I’m happy about the introduction of the balloon system.
Searching: The search page starts with a box for location. The results return a map as well as a list of properties. You can move around on the map to narrow in on your desired destination (small complaint: they offer an awkwardly shaped rectangle map and fixed intervals of zoom so it is difficult to focus on a city center that will match these parameters exactly).
Within the geography searches it is possible to filter the results by a number of features. You can limit it to only those with a high response rate (which appears to be 65% and up). There is also a filter on people wanting to come to my location, which you can narrow down to your specific city or search more broadly on your country. This filter returns results for people who say they are open to going anywhere, those who want to visit your country, your state, and your city, with a nice tab separation between the groups. I find this very useful since all categories of people are good potential swap partners but those specifically interested in my city are the best bet.
I’ve heard a few complaints that the infinite scroll on the listings page is difficult to use. I see how this could be a problem if your search returns a lot of results. You may not get to the end in one session and it is not possible to pick up where you left off at another time.
Overall I like the filters HE offers for searching, and they are one of the only sites that lets you select on number of people in the swapping party (i.e. more than 2 people won’t fit in my house). HE also allows for saved searches, sending you notifications when new properties are listed matching your search criteria.
Listings: In the search results you see pictures of the properties with a few icons for details about them. Users need to familiarize themselves with the meanings of these icons, but after some practice they are easy enough to understand. It is possible to save listings for mass emailing or viewing later. Individual listings are cleanly displayed with details easily readable and a map for locating the property. HE offers the option of pulling info from other home swap sites or peer to peer rental sites (i.e. Airbnb) to create your listing, which should make it easy for new members to get started on the site.
As with other networks that offer points-based exchanges, HE has failed to implement a calendar feature that would distinguish between availability for simultaneous swaps and dates when you’re going to be out of town and could host a balloon stay. I think this makes date-based searching far less useful, and means I’m much less likely to keep my calendar up to date.
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.
- hospitality exchange – this allows people with extra space in their house to host visitors in exchange for being hosted themselves at some other date.
- points-based exchange – although HE doesn’t use points, the balloon concept is very similar. The main distinction is that you use one balloon for one stay, regardless of length of stay. Similarly you earn one balloon for each time you host guests, regardless of length of stay.
Site design: This website is relatively easy to use. New updates seem to be ongoing to keep the site current, but sometimes they are slow to fix bugs. For instance, I’ve noticed the email notifications have the wrong options and rejecting a swap request often results in a notification that the other member has rejected your offer; this bug has been there for over a year now.
Additional features: The email facility is well organized, with threading of messages, simple one click archiving of old messages, and the ability to see who you have already contacted if they come up in new searches. HomeExchange.com offers a standard home swap agreement and a lot of resources on how to optimize your house swapping experience as well as general travel resources. They also have a responsive customer service chat function. HE has partnered with Trip Advisor to integrate TA reviews and ratings into their website, though I’ve never found a use for this feature.
Pricing note: HE charges $150 per year for membership in the U.S. (price varies by country), but this includes only one listing. Right now they are charging $75 for additional listings. This means that if you have a primary and a vacation home, you will have to pay extra to list both.
Overall I find HE members to be reasonably responsive and actively seeking swaps. Due to the large number of listings it’s possible to find potential swaps in many places around the world. The membership includes a diversity of ages, people with and without kids, and travel interests. HomeExchange.com is definitely one of the market leaders in home swapping. If you are looking for a house swap website that will meet a diversity of travel needs and interests, this is a good bet.