Read the updated version of this post: Best Home Exchange Networks 2018
The number of home exchange websites out there can be overwhelming to someone new to house swapping. When I first got interested in home exchange I spent a few weeks looking at networks, and searching in vain for objective reviews, or at least some overview information comparing the sites. In response to this lack of information, I created this website which includes a list of all the existing home exchange networks with relevant comparative information. And I’ve also written individual reviews of many of the house swap networks.
To help people distill all this information, every summer I write an updated guide to the best home exchange networks. I think this is the question everyone who is new to home swapping wants answered: Just tell me which network to join!
Well unfortunately it’s not as easy as just naming the best one. But I can give you some good guidance based on your personal needs. Read what I write below, and feel free to get in touch if you have more questions. Also, here are my best network posts from 2016, 2015 and 2014. I recommend looking at the reader comments on those to get some good input from others. As always, comment below if you have other input to offer!
Overview of the home exchange networks
As of July 2017, I count a total of 70 home exchange networks. 11 are location specific, 27 are focused on some special interest group, and the remaining 33 are generalist. Within the 33 general networks, 13 of them have listings predominantly in one location even though they are not geographically limited by design.
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 too much 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 home exchange networks 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.
How to pick the best network for you
There isn’t much information out there about the home exchange networks so I created a spreadsheet of them all. Every year I do a lot of research to keep this updated, including conducting multiple searches on each site to see how many houses turn up, and exploring the features of each site.
You can find this spreadsheet with all the home exchange sites and relevant data on each one here.
You also need to think about what’s important to you in a home exchange network. I recommend starting with a list of your goals for house swapping. Below are some of the key considerations and goals to think about.
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. You can find these in the “Location” category in my spreadsheet, and you can filter the Specialty column by whatever region of the world you want to select.
Vacation home swapper
If you have a second home you might want to only swap with others in this same situation. That will really narrow down the number of swap options, so I don’t think this is the best way to take advantage of your vacation home. But if you only like staying in luxury properties that are sure to be unoccupied as a primary home, these are the networks to use. These networks can be found in the “Specialty” category in my spreadsheet.
There are home exchange networks for special interest groups including but not limited to: several different religions, people with disabilities, gay folks, golfers, long term exchangers, and home schoolers. If it’s important to you to only swap with people in a specific category, check out these networks. These are in the “Specialty” category in my spreadsheet.
Other features offered by some networks 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). You can find information about many of these options in my reviews of the networks.
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 networks you are considering joining. Look at the results for cities you’d like to visit, and include the consideration of how many people in that network want to visit your city.
There are variations on how you can exchange homes. Here are the options:
- 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.
- 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.
I will put in a plug for networks that include the option to do points-based swapping. I don’t like to be constrained by finding someone to do a simultaneous exchange. Check out that link for a full review of the pros and cons of this system of home exchange and a list of networks offering points-based swapping.
Top home exchange networks for travel generalists
If you want to travel to various places around the world, and you don’t fit into any of the categories I discuss above, there are a three general home exchange networks that I recommend.
The two largest home swap sites are now owned by Guest to Guest, but they are run entirely independently. These are:
- Guest to Guest – the largest network, it’s free, and focuses on points-based swaps.
- HomeExchange.com – the second largest network, a paid service mostly focused on simultaneous home exchanges.
These generalist networks are a good place to start if you are new to home exchange. The other one that I recommend for general exchanges is:
- Home Link – a smaller network (9000 listings) but very much loved by its members. Known for having very active members who are responsive to requests as well as very friendly, responsive and honest owners.