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Home Exchange review: How does house swapping work?

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If you love to travel but don’t have the money to do it, house swapping is an affordable alternative to hotels, Airbnb, and other vacation rentals.

Home Exchange is one site that allows you to switch accommodations with another person anywhere in the world. 

In this review, you’ll learn:

Find your dream home swap on Home Exchange >>

How does a home swap work?

With a home swap, you can trade places with another homeowner during the same time period to avoid paying for a vacation rental.

Sites like Home Exchange charge a monthly or yearly membership fee — much lower than the cost of most rental units on sites like Airbnb or Vrbo — that allows homeowners to search for and book available homes all over the world. 

How do you get started in house swapping? 3 home exchange sites:

Each site is different, but these are a few to consider when you want to try home swapping: 

Home Exchange

Home Exchange is the gold standard in home swapping sites, boasting an A rating from the Better Business Bureau and 4.7/5 stars on Trustpilot.  

A Home Exchange membership costs $175 per year. For that price, you get access to free, unlimited home swaps at more than 450,000 homes in 159 countries. You can stay just about anywhere, from San Francisco to Bali.

How does Home Exchange work?

HomeExchange works a bit like Match.com or OKCupid. Each member posts images and descriptions of their home and neighborhood, a bit about themselves and their family, and what they are looking for in exchange partners. It is up to you to reach out to potential exchange partners and arrange the dates and terms of the swap (again, like online dating!).

As a member, you can choose a Classic Exchange or a GuestPoints Exchange:

  • Classic Exchange is when you stay in someone’s home and they stay in yours at the same time. 
  • GuestPoints offer more flexibility. For example, if you want to book accommodations in Florida but can’t find anyone who wants to stay in your home during that time, you can “pay” the host with GuestPoints to rent their space. In turn, the host can use those points you’ve “paid” toward their own trip.

GuestPoints don’t expire, and you can earn them in multiple ways:

  • Accepting GuestPoints for someone to stay in your home
  • Completing your listing profile
  • Becoming a verified member
  • Renewing your membership automatically
  • Referring friends who complete a profile and listing and activate membership 

Some stays accept guest points as low as 40 points per night, while others charge 250 points or more per night. The points are typically based on the location’s popularity and quality of the rental itself.

For example, a home with a garden and pool that is close to a beach in Spain could run about 250 per night, while a one-bedroom apartment without extras in Italy could cost about 40 points per night.

If you don’t have enough GuestPoints for an exchange, you can purchase them for $0.15 per point up to 20% of the total number of points needed, and $1.50 per point beyond that. 

For example, if a property is worth 250 GuestPoints, and you have 200, you can purchase 50 GuestPoints (20% of 250) at $0.15 per point, or $7.50 total. However, if you only have 100 points, you can pay for 50 points at $0.15 ($7.50) and the remaining 100 points at $1.50 per point ($150). So, your total cost would be $157.50.

You can get started with a free account. If you only want to be a host — for example, if you own a rental property and don’t need your own accommodations when someone stays there — you won't need to pay for a membership. But, if you want to be a guest at any of the host properties — either via swap or GuestPoints, you must become a paid member.

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Who uses Home Exchange?

HomeExchange members are as varied as can be. They include:

  • Single people
  • Couples
  • Pet friendly
  • Pet adverse
  • Single-parent families with kids
  • Married couples with children
  • Multigenerational families
  • Friends traveling together
  • Families traveling together
  • Etc.

What do you look for in a Home Exchange partner?

When you are looking for a home swap property, you want a Home Exchange partner who:

  • Communicates – Open and prompt communication goes a long way as you finalize details for your trip. You can connect with other owners in Home Exchange Facebook Groups, giving you a chance to learn more about the properties you wish to visit. 
  • Answers your questions – Hosts should be open to answer any questions you have so that you can have peace of mind before you travel.
  • Offers what you need – Check the amenities and house rules before you book a house swap. For example, if you plan to bring a pet, make sure your pet is allowed. 
  • Provides a detailed description – Read the description of the property to get a feel for what you can expect. Hosts that offer detailed information are often the same kind of people who will go the extra mile to make you feel welcome.

What I like about Home Exchange

One of my favorite features of HomeExchange.com is the ABSOLUTELY UNREAL selection of homes that can potentially be yours within a matter of days. Examples of homes (some of whose owners actually reached out to me for a swap) include:

  • A 5,000-square-foot horizontal, white, hyper-modern home with an affinity pool that ended right on the sandy beaches of Australia
  • A charming-yet-intimidating country estate in Ireland
  • A glamorous 1920s Spanish-style Los Angeles house with a pool and palm trees (of course)
  • A sprawling Beaux Arts apartment overlooking Champs-Élysées in Paris
  • A 4,000-square-foot round villa in a mountaintop coconut grove in Fiji

Seriously, even if you don't sign up, just have a look and drrooooooooolllll.

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Is Home Exchange worth it?

Yes, for the price and travel options, it is worth trying. For about the cost of one night at a three-star hotel, you get access to unlimited home swaps at over 400,000 homes/apartments all over the world.

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Love Home Swap

Love Home Swap is another highly rated home exchange site, with 4.4/5 stars on Trustpilot. While Love Home Swap does not have its own BBB profile, its parent company Resort Condominiums International has an A+ accredited rating. 

Love Home Swap has more than 18,000 home swaps available in 100+ countries. You can create a listing for your home and view other hosts’ properties with a 14-day free trial, though you have to have a paid membership to complete a house swap. 

Like Home Exchange, you can book Classic or Points Swaps:

  • Classic Swap allows you to stay at another member’s home while they stay at yours. 
  • Points Swap allows you to stay at a property without having the owner stay at yours.

You can earn points when you become a member and when you host someone in your home without staying in theirs.

There are three membership levels (billed annually): 

Lite – ​​$132/yearStandard – $156/yearPlatinum – $180/year
2-week free trialXXX
List one or more homesXX
Free airport lounge passesXX
See shortlist of interested swappers for your homeXX
Get Love Home Swap extras like access to the best-value hotelsX
Get your home boosted as a featured property in search resultsX
Access to a dedicated team to help you plan your swapsX

You’ll also pay a service fee to cover booking costs for every Points Swap. The fee is based on the number of nights of your stay, plus the level of booking protection you want: 

  • Basic – The minimum fee required to help run the Love Home Swap platform, no extras are included.
  • Saver – includes Swap Protection (in the event your host cancels the trip, Love Swap Home will find you alternative accommodations), travel support, and a 50-point bonus for future swaps
  • Plus – includes the perks of Saver plus free cancellation and 200 bonus swap points

These are the service fees for different lengths of stay and level of service: 

# of NightsBasicSaverPlus
1$69$89$149
2-3$79$99$159
4-5$89$109$169
6-7$99$119$179
8-9$109$129$189
10-11$119$139$199
12+$129$149$209

If you don’t have enough points for a swap you want, you can borrow them. For example, you can borrow up to 10,000 points instantly for as low as $62 (plus the service fee). You’ll have two years to earn the points back.

If you can’t repay your points within two years, you can pay down points by hosting points members in your home, or you can pay a fee to extend your payment deadline. You can also pay an exit fee starting at $159 per 50 points.

Trusted Housesitters

While Trusted Housesitters isn’t technically a home swap site, it is a way to get free accommodations if you’re willing to do a little bit of work while you travel. 

With a Trusted Housesitters membership, you can arrange for pet care or house sitting from verified, background-checked sitters, who stay in your home while you travel. Conversely, you can watch pets or homes for other travelers in exchange for free accommodations anywhere in the world.

There are three membership types if you need or want to provide pet or house sitting:

  • Owner – An owner membership is perfect if you travel frequently and need to find a reputable house and/or pet sitter. You can easily post listings and browse/hire pet and home sitters with just a few clicks. If you're looking for additional insurance, features, or travel perks, you can choose from upgraded plans.
  • Sitter – Sitter memberships are for individuals looking to pet and home sit in exchange for a free stay. All sitter membership packages include a free background check. Upgraded plans offer extra insurance, tech support, and travel benefits.
  • Combined – Combined memberships offer the benefits of owner and sitter membership options. You can get free stays by home sitting while you travel, and hire people to care for your pets and home while you're away.

These are the costs for each membership type:

  • Basic Sitter or Owner ($129/year)
  • Standard Sitter or Owner ($199/year) 
  • Premium Sitter or Owner ($259/year)
  • Basic Combined Sitter/Owner ($189/year)
  • Standard Combined Sitter/Owner ($229/year)
  • Premium Combined Sitter/Owner ($319/year)

You can create a free account to view available house-sitting opportunities and to read profiles of available sitters. But to hire a sitter or take home/pet-sitting gigs, you must be a paid member.

Trusted Housesitters does not have a Better Business Bureau rating, but it does have 4.6/5 stars on Trustpilot. 

Check out our full Trusted Housesitters review and start looking for sits and sitters on Trusted Housesitters >>

Emma’s Home Exchange Review: How I got $10,919 in free travel

Several years ago, I fell in love with HomeExchange.com, a home swap platform that allows you to exchange homes with people all over the world.

One summer, I used the heck out of it — to the tune of more than $10k! That is more than $10,000 of free travel as a single mom.

First, my two kids and I exchanged our home — a decent-sized and sunny Queens two-bedroom apartment — for an art- and antique-filled 3,500-square-foot historic 5-bedroom, 3-bath house steps from the beaches of Charlevoix, Michigan for 10 days. Our hosts were a lovely older couple whose stash of toys (presumably for their grandchildren) in the cabinet under the staircase are still talked about by my kids. The huge, modern kitchen and adjoining pantry (with a second refrigerator) were stocked with every spice, utensil, condiment, pan and gadget you can fathom. My kids — used to sharing a room at home — opted to cozy up in a queen-sized bed in a room next to my mammoth master suite. Three full bedrooms went untouched.

Emma's Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Home Exchange house in Charlevoix, Michigan

When we arrived, I called one of the numbers my hosts had left — a woman in town who was also a writer and had visiting grandchildren the ages of Helena and Lucas. She immediately rode her bike across town, sat on our sunny deck and talked about work, love and heartbreak (she was a widow). She immediately offered to lend us her bike, which had attached a two-seater trailer, perfect sized for four little buns belonging to my kids. We were all thrilled.

Living room of Emma's Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Kitchen of Emma's Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Bedroom of Emma's Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Kids bedroom in Emma's Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.

We spent the next week and a half exploring the area, picking strawberries, eating fried seafood by the harbor, playing at the beach and joining my writer friend and her large family on a picnic at the lake. The next-door neighbors invited us by, and my daughter and theirs immediately huddled off to the corner to play as girls do. We ate burgers and hot dogs on the patio and after the kids went to bed, I sipped beer and watched movies in one of the two living rooms. We explored Charlevoix, the village a short walk from our house, with its award-winning public library, darling local shops, including a salt-water taffy store. One of the town's attractions is its collection of “mushroom houses” — quaint, slopey-roofed cottages, each unique and designed by the self-taught local architect Earl Young. Mornings, I packed the kids breakfasts in individual paper sacks, loaded them in the bike bucket, and pedaled around town hunting mushroom houses.

Emma's kids on beach near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..
Emma's kids on Lake Michigan beach in Charlevoix, Michigan
Mushroom house near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..
Mushroom house in Charlevoix, Michigan
Emma's kids in a bike bucket at Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan.
Bike riding in Charlevoix, Michigan

Day excursions included the Traverse City cherry festival, and exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes — one of the prized destinations in the whole country.

Sleeping Bear Dunes near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..
Sleeping Bear National Park dunes
Sleeping Bear National Park fountain near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..
Strawberry picking near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..
Emma's daughter strawberry picking near Home Exchange stay in Charlevoix, Michigan..

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I estimate that renting that gorgeous house would have cost $6,740, based on similar Airbnb rentals in that town for the July 4 week that we stayed. In all, it cost a few hundred dollars for extra gas to drive there, a few restaurant meals more than normal, several attraction admission fees, and a gift bottle of wine for our bike-lending new friend.

A week after we returned from what would be a 3-week road trip through Chicago, Milwaukee, and my home town of Sycamore, Ill., seeing friends and family along the way, my kids flew to Greece with their dad to visit family there, and I flew to Copenhagen where, again, I swapped homes.

This time I stayed in a bright, pretty one-bedroom apartment owned by a single woman who, like me, is a freelance creative person. Her home was full of a mix of vintage, antique and modern art and furnishings, her very modern kitchen equipped with excellent knives and beautiful Japanese pottery, and upon arrival, I was met by her lovely neighbor, who promptly showed me around the building and introduced me to my new friend: A pale-turquoise bike with a leather seat and wooden crate. We jumped on our bikes and headed to the local supermarket, where Cassandra showed me around and translated the variety of fish and explained the recycling system before we packed our purchases into our crates and cycled home.

Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
Emma's Copenhagen apartment
View from Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
Danish room with a view
Bedroom in Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
Bedroom in Copenhagen apartment
Kitchen in Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
Kitchen table in Copenhagen apartment

The next three weeks were full of dinners with new friends — some friend-of-friend-of-acquaintance introductions, others blog followers who invited me to dinner, and still others, interesting women I found online who graciously invited me to their homes for tea and homemade limoncello cake or to their towns to explore ancient castles and charming streets. Cassandra and I shared meals in our building's courtyard.

Dinner date near Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
New Copenhagen friends
New friends near Emma's Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
New Copenhagen friends

When I was not writing in my new, pretty home, I rode that bike around and around and around the small and beautiful city that is Denmark's capital. “The town is nearly all beautiful,” remarked my friend Thomas who visited for a few days from his home in Munich. Thomas has traveled to scores of countries. “Most cities have a few interesting neighborhoods, but all of Copenhagen is interesting,” he said.

Bicycle Emma rode near Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
One of my favorite experiences — biking around Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a water town, and it is a bike town. Everyone bikes, every place is accessible by two wheels, and everywhere you go, there is water — canals, harbors, inlets and lakes. The town is safe and it is rich and there is good food and good-looking people everywhere you look. One of Dane's favorite words translates to “cozy.” The restaurants, bars and cafes are small and cozy. Homes are modest, well designed and cozy. People like to have intelligent conversations at small tables and drink good wine and excellent coffee and eat simple, unpretentious, good food. And that is what I did for three weeks, and it was wonderful.

I could not have stayed in Europe for three weeks if I had to pay $4,179 — the Airbnb value of my apartment for those 21 days. Instead, I stayed for free thanks to HomeExchange.com, while my lovely exchange partner Ellen worked and explored from my apartment. We checked in with one another periodically, asking for recommendations for restaurant, or where to find the Woolite.

Emma dining near Home Exchange apartment in Copenhagen.
Dining in Copenhagen

Not gonna lie: I had an awesome time.

Staying in someone else's home through HomeExchange.com is an intimate experience. You get to know them without knowing them. So when I returned to New York a few hours before Ellen was scheduled to leave, I was happy not only to find our cat, a ginger named Gala, in top, happy form, and my plants healthier than ever, but to give my guest/host a lift to the airport. Even though we only chatted for the half-hour ride, I found her just as lovely as I expected her to be after living as her pseudo-double for nearly a month. We continue to be in touch today.

Lasting relationships are indeed a possible perk of travel. Of course, I can't write a post that doesn't have a little love and sex in it … so, just like I used HomeExchange.com as a dating site to find vacation accommodation, on one of my last days in Denmark I used an actual dating site to accommodate my need for a date. After a lovely evening and following day together, a special single Danish dad and I continue to know each other, and next week I am looking forward to a second visit to my New York City apartment — the type of visit that I do not advertise on HomeExchange.com.

Have you done a home swap? What was your experience? Share in the comments! 

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FAQs about house swapping and home exchanges

What types of people are good candidates for house swaps?

If you like the idea of saving money and don’t mind staying in someone’s home (and new friends staying in yours), this is a good option. The thing is, even though you start out not knowing each other, you can build a relationship with other home swap owners and gain new friends as you globetrot.

This is ideal for:

  • Single moms
  • Business owners
  • Digital nomads
  • Homeowners
  • Renters
  • Teachers

If you love to travel and have the time, but want to go to remote locales for less, home swaps are a great option.

What do you look for in a Home Exchange partner?

When you are looking for a home swap property, you want a Home Exchange partner who:

  • Communicates – Open and prompt communication goes a long way as you finalize details for your trip. You can connect with other owners in Home Exchange Facebook Groups, giving you a chance to learn more about the properties you wish to visit. 
  • Answers your questions – Hosts should be open to answer any questions you have so that you can have peace of mind before you travel.
  • Offers what you need – Check the amenities and house rules before you book a house swap. For example, if you plan to bring a pet, make sure your pet is allowed. 
  • Provides a detailed description – Read the description of the property to get a feel for what you can expect. Hosts that offer detailed information are often the same kind of people who will go the extra mile to make you feel welcome.

How do you choose a destination?

Search the Home Exchange database to view home swap destinations in the cities you want to visit. In turn, read the hosts preferred destinations to see if your area is on their list.

When you see a place you like, send an exchange request through the Home Exchange message system. From there, you can chat with the owner to see if it’s a good fit for your travel schedule for a Classic or GuestPoints exchange.

What are the pros of home swapping?

When you plan a vacation with a home swap service, you can:

  • Save money on your travel expenses
  • Travel to different countries for less
  • Make new friends and meet neighbors
  • Enjoy the comforts of a home
  • Experience amenities your home may not have, like a pool
  • Immerse yourself in the local experience

In addition, you can have the satisfaction of knowing a guest enjoyed your home. When you take time to make it welcoming for another family, by leaving personal notes and treats, you can give your guests the experience of a lifetime.

What are the cons of home swapping?

There are some drawbacks to home swapping, including:

  • Not being able to find a match for the dates and places you want
  • Having to relocate if you decide not to house swap with your guest
  • Knowing people will be using your personal items like linens, cookware, and dishes
  • Finding a place to lock up valuables
  • Coming home to damaged personal items

Do people still do home exchanges?

Yes! The popular home swap site, Love Home Swap reported a 282% increase of sign ups for the free trial in 2021 from their numbers in 2019. Home Exchange claims to have facilitated over 1 million swaps in 2020. It’s an increasingly popular vacation option.

Is the house swap simultaneous?

Yes, you have a choice of swapping at the same time. But, if that is not possible, you can use points to get more travel flexibility.

Can you do an apartment swap?

Yes, you can offer up your apartment for a swap and stay in apartments all over the globe.

What happens if your home gets damaged?

When you schedule a house swap, Home Exchange requires a $500 pre-authorized deposit to cover potential damages. Your card will only be charged up to that amount if damages occur.

If your home is damaged during an exchange, take pictures and discuss the damage with the member as well as the Home Exchange customer service team to reach a swift resolution.

Don’t have a credit card for your travel expenses? Download TravelFreely's free app and get recommendations on the best rewards credit cards. It’s a great way to find a credit card that can pay you back with perks like airline miles and rewards points you can redeem for cash or free hotel stays.

Bottom line: Is house swapping a good idea? 

House swapping has pros and cons, but overall it’s a great way to save money and have a more authentic travel experience if you are comfortable having someone stay in your home.

I recommend using a reputable home swapping community like Home Exchange or Love Home Swap to get started. Read carefully through profiles of potential swap partners to find a good match, and communicate with your swap partner ahead of time to make sure that all expectations are clear.

Start home swapping anywhere in the world on Home Exchange >>

By following these tips, you can maximize your chances of having a positive home-swapping experience, and you can cover other travel expenses with a travel rewards credit card.

How does a home swap work?

With a home swap, you can trade places with another homeowner during the same time period to avoid paying for a vacation rental.

What is HomeExchange.com?

HomeExchange.com, a home swap platform that allows you to exchange homes with people all over the world.

How does Home Exchange work?

HomeExchange works a bit like Match.com or OKCupid. Sign up, pay $150, then browse more than 400,000 homes in 187 countries. Each member posts images and descriptions of their home and neighborhood, a bit about themselves and family, and what they are looking for in exchange partners.

Is Home Exchange worth it?

Yes, for the price and travel options, it is worth trying. For about the cost of one night at a three-star hotel, you get access to unlimited home swaps at over 450,000 homes/apartments all over the world.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

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