I get asked variations on the same question over and over: which home exchange network should I join? 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. If you’re looking to get started with home swapping, this post is for you. And if you think it’s time to join a different home swap network, this post is also for you. Read what I write below, and feel free to get in touch if you have more questions. As always, comment below if you have other input to offer!
In addition to this post, check out the other useful resources on this website. The spreadsheet of all existing home exchange networks includes a lot of comparative information. You can also read more in depth reviews of many of the house swap networks.
OVERVIEW OF THE HOME EXCHANGE NETWORKS
As of August 2019, I count a total of 63 home exchange networks (down from 71 last year). Most of the networks that disappeared in the past year were very small, though a few with more than 1000 members were purchased by or integrated into others. 9 are location specific, 25 are focused on some special interest group, and the remaining 29 are generalist. Within the 29 general networks, 10 have listings predominantly in one location even though they are not geographically limited by design.
Most home exchange networks charge a membership fee, 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 network or networks that will best meet your house swapping needs.
HOW TO PICK THE BEST NETWORK FOR YOU
I created a spreadsheet of all home exchange networks for easy comparison. 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 network.
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 live in Australia and only want to travel within Australia, join a network devoted to that rather than one that lists homes all around the world. You can find these in the “Location” category in my spreadsheet. Within that category 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 exchange with others in this same situation. That will really narrow down the number of swap options, so this might not be 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” column 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” column in my spreadsheet.
Other features offered by some networks that might be important to you include: house swapping insurance, 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 in a network, 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 places you’d like to visit, and consider that if there are only a few people with listings, your odds of finding an exchange aren’t great.
There are a few 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 – In this case each party picks different dates for the swap. Non-simultaneous works best with second homes, but is also useful for people going on vacation and leaving their home empty.
- 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 – People with extra space in their house host visitors in exchange for being hosted themselves at some other date.
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 review of the pros and cons of this system of home exchange. An indicator of which networks offer points-based swapping can now be found in my master spreadsheet (hint: scroll to the right to find this column).
BEST HOME EXCHANGE NETWORKS FOR TRAVEL GENERALISTS
If you want to travel to lots of places around the world, and you don’t fit into any of the categories I discuss above, there are a few general home exchange networks that I recommend. There are many other great networks, but I think these three stand out from the others in important and interesting ways.
- HomeExchange – With more than 200,000 active listings this network is significantly larger than any other. They offer both traditional simultaneous home exchanging as well as a points-based swapping system. This network charges a $150 annual fee, but also offers the option of paying per swap. Visit the HomeExchange webpage here.
- HomeLink – One of the oldest home exchange networks, HomeLink has independent customer service representatives in each country. This is a popular network for experienced home exchangers. They have been around for a long time and have a very good reputation. I have found the country leaders to be passionate, helpful, and honest. HomeLink charges an annual fee of $95. They have 9000 active listings and offer all types of exchanges except points-base swapping. Visit the HomeLink webpage here.
- PeopleLikeUs – This is a very new network, and quite small (less than 2000 listings), but they have grown dramatically in the past year and attract folks who are passionate about home swapping. PLU has the strongest active community (via facebook mostly) of any network I’ve seen. And they have picked up a lot of long time exchangers in the past year. PeopleLikeUs offers both traditional exchanging as well as a point-based swap system (globes). Visit the PLU webpage here.
What network do you recommend? Which network didn’t work for you? Share your experiences in comments below.