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 to create an account and search for an exchange, membership required to finalize exchanges
Single founder, created by 22 families from around the world
English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, Dutch
450,000 listings in 187 countries (I estimate 315,000 active listings)
HomeExchange is by far the biggest network out there. And their geographic diversity, especially in South America and Africa, is impressive. 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.
Because it’s free to create an account on HomeExchange there are a lot of inactive and incomplete listings. The network does delete listings that go three years without a member login. Last year I came up with an estimate of active listings based on profile completion. I’m not super happy with that metric since it’s based on completing only 60% of the listing. This year I’m basing my active listings estimate on the percent of listings that have a response rate to requests greater than 80%. This is a default filter used for all searches. So I’m assuming the folks working at HomeExchange consider this a reasonable proxy for active listings. That number is currently a bit over 70% based on my random sampling of major cities and countries. I’m using 70% as a fair estimate of active members.
Listings by region:
- Asia: 2%
- North America: 19%
- South America: 4%
- Europe: 72%
- Africa: 1.5%
- Oceana: 1.5%
This past year things have settled down considerably after a rough 2019 ironing out the issues with the integration of HomeExchange.com into the Guest to Guest platform. Some people quit the network because of the changes. But I think that was a vocal and active minority. The network is still quite large and growing. And they have responded (if a bit slower than some would like) to member complaints and concerns. Significantly, HomeExchange eliminated the option to pay per swap, switching entirely to a paid membership model. And they’ve some work to clean up the display of listings to remove inactive homes.
Searching: 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. The filter to hide anyone with less than 80% response rate is on by default. You can also filter out homes without pictures.
The website added in a reverse search this year. This important feature enables searching for people who want to swap to your area. Unfortunately it still doesn’t return many results. This is because everyone needs to redo their desired destinations due to a new map implementation. Those updates have been especially slow to happen during the pandemic.
Listings: 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 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 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 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 (pre-Covid) 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 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.
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 for paid members. You can find the details of what is covered here. 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 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.