Review updated May 2016
Founded in 1992
$150 per year
Privately held and run by Ed Kushkins
65,000 listings in 150 countries
Listings by geographic region (approximate, based on counting from map view):
- Africa: 400
- Asia: 500
- North America: 20,000
- Europe: 31,000
- Oceana: 3500
- South America: 1000
These numbers do not add up to 65,000, but HE explains that this is because the rest of the listings are hidden by members who do not wish to be contacted.
I’m a little surprised to see no increase in total number of members reported by HE since 2015. They have purchased a number of smaller exchange networks but perhaps have not integrated them yet. But even without those I would expect to see an overall increase in number of people joining one of the largest home exchange networks. But without further research I’m hesitant to draw any broader conclusions from this fact.
Overall my experience with my HE membership has been very positive though in the past year I have not used it nearly as much as I did in previous years. This is because my travel needs have been international but shorter term for most of my trips and so I have relied on swap points to better meet my specific date and location requirements. HE does not currently offer a points-based exchange option.
Searching: The search page starts with a box for location. The results return a map as well as a list of properties and 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. This includes a search on people wanting to come to my location, which you can narrow down to your specific city or just search on your country. HE also returns results for people who say they are open to going anywhere, with a nice tab separation between the two groups. I find this very useful since both categories of people are good potential swap partners but those specifically interested in my city/state/country are a better bet. 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. I only want people who are 2 or fewer because more than that won’t fit in my house).
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 also allows for saved searches, sending you notifications when new properties come on matching your search criteria. In addition, 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.
Many people have complained that since HE implemented an infinite scroll on the returned listings this past year it has become much more difficult to use. The infinite scroll can be a problem if your search returns a lot of results because 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. In addition, the geographic searches don’t work very well for people who do not live within a city.
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.
Site design: This website is relatively easy to use and has very quick response time. It has a modern look and feel, and new updates seem to be ongoing to keep the site current.
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 very responsive customer service chat function. HE recently partnered with Trip Advisor to integrate TA reviews and ratings into their website.
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. I’d like to see them add some of the features that we’re seeing on other sites like swap points and insurance. But still, if you are looking for a house swap website that will meet a diversity of travel needs and interests, this is a good bet.
Read my interview with the HomeExchange.com founder for more on this website.