Home Exchange

What to do when your home exchange partner stops responding

home exchange problem

I’m taking a trip to the San Juan Islands in a few months. And fortunately for me, there are a lot of homes for swap on the islands. I reached out to a few of them to offer either a simultaneous or a points-based exchange. Many of the homes listed are second homes (not a surprise as island living isn’t for everyone). And so I was optimistic about the possibility of finding a place available for my already-fixed dates.

Someone who has a second home on Orcas island quickly responded to my request on the HomeExchange network. She said my dates would this work for a points stay. And she also asked if we might be open to hosting her a different weekend when she has some vacation coming up. I told her I wasn’t sure if we’d be away that weekend, but if we were she could definitely stay in our place. She was fine with figuring that out later, and we agreed that for my stay in her Orcas island home we would use points.

The last message I got from her asked what dates exactly we wanted to stay. That was January 30. We were flexible a bit as we were considering staying on two different islands over the course of the week. I responded asking if she had a preference for dates. I never got a response.

After considering the options we decided to just base ourselves on Orcas island. So I again sent a message, this time with the specific dates we wanted. I updated the request with all the details so that it was ready for her to approve in the HomeExchange system. And I heard nothing back. On February 16 I sent one more message. I politely asked if her silence meant she wasn’t interested in hosting us, asking that she just let us know so we could move on to other options. Still I heard nothing back.

In this situation where the other person has been super responsive, I always wonder if something bad happened. Like what if she’s in the hospital and can’t get online. Or maybe she’s out of the country somewhere without wifi. It seems rude for someone to stop communicating for no reason. We hadn’t agreed to anything formally, and it would be fine for her to just tell me something has changed and the swap won’t work any longer. I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. So I waited a while longer hoping nothing bad had happened to her.

On February 20 I decided it was time to move on. The trip was only 2 months away, and ferry tickets need to be secured well in advance. I went back to my two home exchange networks that have homes listed on the San Juan islands: LoveHomeSwap and HomeExchange. I sent out a few more requests. Fortunately, one of them agreed to host us. This time the host is on LoveHomeSwap.

I’m planning on leaving the LoveHomeSwap network at the end of this year (some of the reasons are in my review of this network). I only signed up again because I have a large stash of unused points and it seemed like a shame to have hosted lots of guests and not benefit from using these points for some fun travel. So in the end this is better for me than the original host. The home is much larger than we need, and so I’m spending a lot of points. But this is a good use of points that might otherwise just go to waste.

Also this host on LHS is a much better communicator. This is a second home for them as well. They are “superhosts” on Airbnb and get great reviews on there. They are well practiced in communication with the folks they are welcoming into their home. While I know some home exchangers don’t like the idea that Airbnb rentals might also be used for house swaps, I have found the professionalism of rental hosts to generally be a benefit in my home exchanges. As long as they don’t cancel an exchange when the offer of cash comes in, I don’t mind the mixing of these two uses. Since my fallback was to book an Airbnb stay for cash if I couldn’t find a home exchange, this is definitely a win.

How long do you wait when your swap partners stop responding before looking for other options?


  • I have close friends who are from the Bay Area who now live in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and they have now done about 55 home exchanges, with mostly great connections. Since HomeExchange was bought out by another home visit program and gone to a more commercial format of points they rely on their many former contacts and just make arrangements themselves without points for this or that. In their experience they say that if you have not heard from someone within 2 weeks inquiring about the exchange then you should probably move on as there are many people interested in exchanging and arrangements need to be secured. Many people do NOT LIKE the so called points system as it loses the spontaneity of exploring and adventure.

  • I don’t think this is anything to do with the points system, it’s all to do with having several lines of communication. Let’s suppose that the writer, as soon as it was looking as if they are seriously talking about an exchange on a web site, had asked for an email address and phone number, this almost certainly would not have been a problem. In my experience, it’s unwise to rely on the web site as the only communication- the other party only has to change to another website, suspend their listing, not pay on time, or the site goes faulty on you, and you have possibly lost them. However, on the one occasion we lost contact because the other party stopped listing forgetting that they owed us a reciprocal exchange in the future, homeexchange.com did write to their email on my behalf to help get the communication going again- it only took them a few days.
    This example, by the way, just proved to us that non simultaneous exchanges are always at risk of problems if they have been to your house first! Unless you are doing a simultaneous exchange (which is a nicer way of exchanging where it’s possible) the points system is a far better deal.
    We love it.

  • I’m having this exact issue now!
    And, as an airbnb SuperHost, I can’t agree more…. Home Exchange is such a fantastic concept, but there are absolutely zero standards across the board when it comes to hosting, managing expectations for each exchange, etc. Which has it’s charm if you have time to follow up on 30+ conversations with various potential partners, but personally, I would really appreciate it if there were some minimum standards to enforce or process guidelines for all members in place.
    Of course timely and clear communications from hosts and guests would improve the process immensely! But it’s been a giant headache trying to sort through what each member expects from an exchange, because it varies from just a bed to sleep in within a shared home, to full service travel recommendation and the host’s car thrown in. Airbnb has it’s issues, but they have their process streamlined to a T. Everyone knows what they’re getting out of the process before it even begins. Simple!
    My fear is now I’ve accumulated a ton of points I’ll never be able to use. Frustrating!!!

  • I am so sorry this happened to you. Unfortunately we have had a similar experience with Milan this year, and have failed to find an alternative. Like you, we try three approaches but then move on, relying only on officially registered exchanges. We never used to bother with registering an exchange in the past ( we have been swapping for almost 30 years) but these days it is OK apparently to ‘ghost’ someone in all kinds of situations – dinner invitations, holiday invitations etc etc. We think it is very rude too, but it does seem to be the prevailing culture.
    Have a lovely time on Orcas – we enjoyed an exchange there for a balloon last year and the whole trip, including the ferry rides, was fun despite heavy rain at times.

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