Founded in 2011 under the name Guest to Guest. This network bought and integrated HomeExchange.com (which was founded in 1992) in 2018 and took on the name HomeExchange.
Two membership options:
- $15 per night during home swaps
Single founder, created by 22 families from around the world
English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch
400,000 listings in 187 countries (I estimate 255,000 active listings)
Because membership is free, the listings on HomeExchange never expire. So while the overall number of listings on this site is very large, the proportion of inactive listings will be much greater than on paid home exchange websites. Two years ago I wrote about this problem and did a test calculation for the city of Budapest to see what proportion of listings are really active. I concluded that about 32% of Guest to Guest members were active. I can’t replicate this calculation due to changes with the new Home Exchange website, but I did come up with a new estimate of active listings. Nonetheless, even just looking at active listings Home Exchange is by far the biggest network out there. And their geographic diversity, especially in South America and Africa, is impressive.
Listings by region:
- Asia: 6200
- North America: 62,000
- South America: 26,000
- Europe: 300,000
- Africa: 8800
- Oceana: 6200
The numbers come from HomeExchange as it’s no longer possible to count listings on the website.
HomeExchange ran into some significant issues when they integrated the two networks (Guest to Guest and HomeExchange.com). Some of the problems were technical as the integration required a lot of new website work. Some of the problems were related to the HomeExchange.com members not liking the new system they were forced to use. Here are a few posts on this subject if you want to read more:
- Home Exchange integration fallout
- Home Exchange Networks Merge
- The Great Divide in Home Exchange
- Post Merger Q&A with HomeExchange CEO
Searching: Searches start with typing in a location and optionally entering the number of travelers and travel dates. The searches return the home profiles that meet your criteria with a map with pins for each listing. These search results are sorted by the relative activity and verification status of the members, which roughly translates into the likelihood that you will get a response to your request. They automatically turn on the filter to hide anyone with less than 80% response rate and prioritize matches with calendar availability. You can also filter out homes without pictures, limiting your search to just active listings, which I’d recommend. The website lacks a reverse search, an important feature that would allow you to look for people who want to swap to your area.
Listings: Search results return listings with just a picture and few details about the home. You can click into each one to see the details of the home and the member.
Individual listing details include a lot of information about each property in a readable format. My only criticism here is that it would be nice to have summary information on the owners (family size and number of kids) on the initial page in case you’re looking for a reciprocal swap. Listings do indicate whether you have already contacted a member.
HomeExchange allows members to set calendar availability in two ways:
- guest wanted generally means you’ll be away and are accepting guest points for a stay
- available generally means you are looking for a simultaneous reciprocal exchange.
This is useful because you can note when you’ll be away staying with family or friends and so can host a guest, but also can indicate the dates you are hoping to do an exchange and will also need lodging yourself.
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.
- guestpoints – earn points by letting people stay in your house when you will be away, and redeem points to stay in other people’s homes
HomeExchange sells itself as a social network for people who want to exchange their homes during vacation. This site gives away guestpoints for setting up your account, referring friends, and becoming a verified member. I think this ultimately leads to a problem with too many points in the system. Some HomeExchange members complain that this is already the case. But I am still able to use my guestpoints for places I want to visit.
Primarily you earn guestpoints by letting people stay in your home. Average properties charge between 100 and 200 points a night. The rate is suggested by HomeExchange based on information you enter about your house, but this can be modified somewhat by the user.
HomeExchange does allow people to purchase GuestPoints but they make it impossible to use their site just for rentals by limiting this purchase to no more than 50% of the points required for a swap: The first 20% of the total GuestPoints needed costs 10 cents per GP. For the remaining GuestPoints needed the cost is 1 euro per GP.
Recently I have seen ads from HomeExchange selling their services as a way to get lodging for $15 per night. This might be effective advertising, but it risks bringing in new users who don’t think of the service as a home exchange. And long time members of this network are unhappy about the appearance that their homes are available for rent. Some feel this is having a negative impact on the overall quality of the network.
Site design: Modern look and feel with good responsiveness.
Additional features: The email facility is functional and reasonably well organized. They have some built in translation tools to try to display messages in the primary language of each user. Each message is displayed with details of the person’s home, a picture if available, and requested swap dates, which is very helpful.
HomeExchange offers insurance for all home swaps. They also offer a verification service. Members can submit documentation to verify their identity and this is displayed on the member profile.
Overall I’ve had some good success using HomeExchange to find swaps. I find the points system particularly useful when I’m traveling alone and so my home won’t be empty, and when I need lodging for only a short period of time and so am unlikely to find a simultaneous exchange. However, feedback from members this year is particularly negative. A number of people quit the network and joined other smaller swap communities. Complaints include the removal of customer support features, loss of the sense of generosity and goodwill among members, and lack of responsiveness from people in the network.
Read my interview with the founder of Guest to Guest for more information about the history of this network.
If you’re trying to figure out which one to join, check out my reviews of all the major home exchange networks.