I want to address why a lot of folks who like home exchange don’t like the points-based home swapping concept. I agree with some of their concerns but overall still think points swaps are a good addition to the home exchange options for travelers. If you are not familiar with home exchange you may want to start here: Why Home Exchange is a Good Vacation Lodging Option.
Before reading this you may want to check out the first two posts in this series on home exchange with points:
- Overview of Home Exchange Points
- Choosing the Right System for You: the Four Home Exchange Points Options
1. I want the security of knowing I’m staying in the home of the person I’m swapping with
I agree that reciprocal swapping provides an added sense of security. I know where you live and you know where I live. We’re staying in each other’s homes, often at the same time. There’s no pretending that point-based swapping is the same.
I think this concern is mitigated in the same way you gain confidence with any swap partner. Screen the person coming to your house just like you would with a traditional exchange. Talk over email, on the phone, on video calls. And read reviews or ask for references.
From all my interviews with exchange networks, and my discussions with other swappers, I have never heard a story of actual malicious damage or theft. The bad stories tend to be more about different standards of cleanliness, rude behavior, or lack of amenities (i.e. no air conditioner in sweltering heat, not enough hot water). And I hear these stories from both reciprocal exchanges and points-based swaps.
If you join a reputable exchange network and screen your swappers in advance, I don’t think you’re at greater risk doing a points swap than you are with traditional home exchanges.
In a way this is true. And for those who love traditional home exchange I say stick with that if it’s working for you. No reason to change what works. Some folks are home exchange traditionalists, and there are plenty of networks that focus only on reciprocal swaps.
But points-based swapping does provide an extra option for finding a match. And given the small number of people who participate in home exchange, I think this increase in my odds of success is valuable.
Most people who do home exchanges find it confusing when they first start out. The beginners who I’ve swapped with have lots of questions for me about how it all works, even when we’re doing a simultaneous exchange. Any new thing requires some work to figure out. So to me this sounds like a cop out, and folks who say this should really just say they don’t like the idea. That’s ok. See point 2. For people who want to understand the different points swaps systems out there, you can start with my overview of home exchange points.
It’s definitely easier with a vacation home. But if you are sometimes out of town, visiting friends or family, or just staying in other lodging because you couldn’t find an exchange, then your home can be made available to earn points. In addition, if you have the extra space, you can host of travelers while you’re at home.
It’s also possible to arrange a three-way swap with points. You go stay in a beach cottage in Mallorca while hosting a family from London in your home in Chicago. You can earn points at the same time you’re spending them.
5. It’s too hard to find a points swap match
In an ideal scenario everyone keeps a calendar of availability up to date so it’s easy to find places where you can spend your points. In my experience people with second homes are much better about this. But this problem exists for reciprocal swaps too. You have to put in some work to find a home exchange of any type. In my experience points-based swaps are easier to arrange than simultaneous exchanges.
In addition, I think it’s easier to keep a calendar up to date for points swapping than for traditional home exchange. With simultaneous home exchange you have to be flexible to find a match so picking specific dates is very limiting. But for points-based swapping you can say exactly when you’ll be out of town at a wedding and your home will be empty. It’s easy to have accurate and up to date calendars. This really speeds up searching for a match and saves people from sending out tons of inquiries to places that aren’t available.
For those using vacation home swap networks (Third Home, IVHE, TradetoTravel), this argument is just untrue. Especially with Third Home where owners can not change weeks of availability in their calendar once entered.
6. Points encourage people to scam and not take house swapping seriously
I think this criticism is more of an issue with networks giving away points for free to new members. It’s possible to sign up for a membership, “earn” a bunch of points, and then just spend those for a week of free lodging without actually hosting anyone. These scammers don’t add anything to the house swap community. And they make it harder for everyone else to find exchanges. I believe it’s possible to set up a system that stops this behavior. That’s on the home exchange networks.
Conclusion: Keep an open mind and experiment with points-based home exchange if you want to increase your chances of finding home swaps. You may enjoy the increased flexibility.