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.
Free trial, $220/year
Single founder, created by 22 families from around the world
English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch
140,000 listings in 133 countries
HomeExchange is by far the biggest network out there. And their geographic diversity offers excellent opportunities for travel around the world. This network is the leader in the points-based exchange model. It’s been their focus from the start. Points allow for greater flexibility in finding swaps. But they can also lead to a sense of monetizing the process.
Listings by region:
- Asia: 1%
- North America: 23%
- South America: 2%
- Europe: 70%
- Africa: 1%
- Oceana: 3%
Searches start with typing in a location and optionally entering the number of travelers and travel dates. The searches return home summary profiles, alongside a map of listings. 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. There is an additional filter to hide anyone with less than 80% response rate if desired.
The website includes a reverse search option. This important feature enables searching for people who want to swap to your area. Of course this will only capture people who have explicitly listed your area as a desired destination.
Search results return listings with 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 search results 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 three ways:
- available for reciprocal exchange
- available to host a GuestPoints stay
- open to any request
This is useful because you can note when your home will be available while you are away and so can host a guest, but you can also indicate the dates you are hoping to do an exchange and will also need lodging yourself.
This network 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 gives 500 GuestPoints for setting up your account and an additional 200 for verifying your listings. You can also earn 250 GuestPoints after sending your first 10 requests, and 50 points for each person you refer to the network. This is a reduction in the sign up bonuses HomeExchange offered in the past, which is a good thing. Awarding lots of free points can lead to a problem with too many points in the system. Some HomeExchange members complain that this is already the case. Though I am able to find places to use my points with much difficulty.
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 if you don’t have enough 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. Obviously at that cost it’s usually not going to be a good value to buy GuestPoints for the entire value of the stay.
Site design: Modern look and feel with good responsiveness.
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 is one of only a few networks offering insurance for home swaps. You can find the details of what is covered here. Many people find it reassuring that HomeExchange will provide some financial assistance for hotel stays (up to $120/night) when a home swap is cancelled and no alternative can be found. The insurance also covers damages to hosts’ homes, up to $1,000,000. This includes a $500 deposit secured from the guests when a swap is finalized, which is used to cover damage up to this amount. At the end of an exchange the host is asked to release the $500 deposit hold upon verification that all went as expected during the swap.
Overall I’ve had good success using HomeExchange to find swaps. I find the points system particularly useful when I’m traveling alone and 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. People who quit the network and joined other smaller swap communities over the past year complain about too much focus on monetizing points, a 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.