A reader recently wrote to me with an interesting question:

I have been reading your site and have learned a lot.  I initially thought I would “home swap”, but I think I like other options.

I live on Cape cod and our season of interest is limited.  I have a very nice room over the garage that I use for AirBnB.  I would like to exchange that room as opposed to my whole house.  I will be traveling as a single and I will only need a room/bathroom anyway.

It sounds like the point system is the way to go.  But, can you use points, even if no one has stayed with you??  I’d like to travel to Australia and New Zealand in Feb/Mar.  in exchange for whoever would be interested in Cape cod.  It sounds as if guest to guest is the best web site for this.

I’d appreciate any insight, recommendations, or whatever!!  I have a friend with a cottage here also, and she was wondering about the same.

Thanks for all of your work on this!

Here’s what I wrote back, edited for public posting, and with a few more thoughts I came up with as I was editing: 

The idea of exchanging just rooms instead of your the house was tried out by the Nightswapping website but they pivoted to a more rental-focused concept. Nightswapping initially focused on people with roommates who really only had a room to offer. And for someone used to renting out a room on AirBnb the Nightswapping program might be a good fit. There is also Room4Exchange, a network that focuses on people who have only a room in an apartment to swap. This network might work for people who don’t want to swap their entire home, though the Room4Exchange listings are concentrated in just a few cities in Europe.
I’ve also written some posts about hospitality exchanges. These are usually hosted, and might suit this writer’s needs. Here’s my overview of hospitality exchange options.
I think this reader is right that the points system is likely to work better for her if she ends up only offering guests the one room. I’m guessing that she hosts people in the room over her garage when she is home. And if it’s just a room it’s probably not appropriate for a simultaneous exchange since most people are looking for a full house/flat for simultaneous swaps.
Just keep in mind that if you are paying points for a stay that only offers you a room, you will most likely be staying with hosts, instead of alone. I think most home exchanges are listed as non-hosted, but as you can see from my website I have ended up staying in a few hosted places, so they do exist.
My question for this reader: why wouldn’t you want to exchange your whole home while you are traveling? Is this a concern about security or just not wanting people in your living space? It’s certainly easier to find people to stay if you offer your whole house. I’m not saying she is wrong to have this desire, I just think it’s worth thinking about a bit more to make sure this limitation is really worth sticking to.
Lastly, she asked if, on the points-based networks, you can spend points before staying. Each one is different, but it’s possible on some. I know Guest to Guest offers some points for completing your profile and paying to verify your identity. And if you don’t have enough points you can buy them. From the G2G website:

Here’s what they’ll cost:

  • First, GuestPoints are offered at 0,10€/GP until you reach a limit of 20% of the total number of GuestPoints of the exchange.
  • Then, if more GuestPoints are needed to finalize the exchange, they will cost 1€/GP.

 

Hope that helps other folks who are considering what is the best format of home exchange for their travel and hosting desires.