Home exchange

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Home exchange, also known as house swapping, is a type of hospitality service in which two parties agree to offer each other homestays (lodging in each other's homes) for a set period of time. Since no monetary exchange takes place, it is a form of barter, collaborative consumption, and sharing. Home exchange can cover any type of dwelling including apartments, houses, holiday cottages, boats, or recreational vehicles. It can include an exchange of the entire home or just a room. The length of the swap can vary from a weekend to a year or more. The swap can be simultaneous or non simultaneous.

Like all homestays, home exchanges offer several advantages over hotel lodging, including the opportunities to save money and experience everyday life in another country.[1][2][3]


Organized home exchange originated in 1953 with the creation of Intervac International by a group of European teachers with plenty of vacation time looking for economic means to travel internationally.[4] That same year, teacher David Ostroff created a home exchange network called "Vacation Exchange Club" (now HomeLink) in New York City.[5]

Originally, home exchange networks printed a yearly catalog of homes and charged members a yearly fee.[6]

In the 1990s, the proliferation of the internet greatly increased the accessibility of home exchange, providing users with easier communication, information, and a much larger pool of homes from which to choose.[7]

Ed Kushins started what is now HomeExchange.com after a 1992 home exchange experience in Washington D.C. In 1995, he moved the business online.[6][8]


In 1999, home exchange was estimated to be growing at 15-20% per year.[9] In 2010, home exchange networks were continuing to experience rapid growth.[10]

Summer is traditionally the peak season for house swapping, as families travel during summer vacations.[2]

Participant demographics[edit]

Participants tend to be educated and well-traveled. Participants tend to be active, conscientious and culturally curious travelers. Home exchanges are also popular with teachers during school holidays, particularly during the summer.[11] Home exchanges are also used by seniors, who have more time to travel.[12]

A 2008 survey conducted by homeexchangeguru.com shows that 92% have attended university, and more than 60% have done post graduate work.[13] Of participants, 52% travel with children or consist of groups of three or more, while 48% travel without children or in groups of two or less.[13]

A 2013 study by the University of Bergamo shows a wide cross-section of the public is represented, with 28.3% aged 45–54, 18.7% 65+ and only 5.9% under age 34.[14] The study showed that 84.3% of respondents seek out museums and the great outdoors, 67% value environmentally-friendly tourism, and 98% express interest in cultural heritage. Fair trade food (63%) and organic food (73%) are also important.[14] The study notes the strong degree of trust necessary in collaborative consumption, with 75% agreeing that most people are trustworthy. 93% are satisfied with their experience, with 81% having swapped homes more than once.[14]


Guidebook legend Arthur Frommer calls home exchange "the single most sensible, logical and intelligent method of vacationing."[15]

Shelley Miller, who had completed 12 home exchanges, wrote in The Huffington Post: "We experience the region like residents: We eat in a kitchen, gather around the fireplace in the living room and ride through the community on bicycles from the garage. We're part of a neighborhood not a business district."[16]

How it works[edit]

See also How to Exchange Your Home for Free Vacation Accommodation, a how-to article from wikiHow

1. Signing up. The user signs up with a service providing a network of members with homes, as well as the online tools needed to execute the exchange (See list below). It is advantageous to sign up with several home exchange services. The cost to sign up ranges from free to US$500 per year, with most costing around $100 per year. Before you join, you should make sure that the service has many listings in the cities that you want to visit.[17]

2. Creating a listing. Members create their own listings, consisting of a profile and a home description. Emphasis is put on providing as much information as possible, including neighborhood highlights and photos, to attract members who are looking for what the home has to offer. It is recommended to create a listing well in advance of the proposed home exchange dates.

3. Searching. The search tools on many sites allow members to filter searches by destination, date, number of rooms and number of travelers. Additional criteria might include home amenities and local attractions. Reverse search tools, which allow users to search for members interested in visiting their specific area, are the most effective way of finding a match.

4. Receiving and sending inquiries. Most sites allow members to exchange messages without revealing any personal details until they are ready to do so. Members also receive inquiries from other members with homes in their stated destinations. Look for members that have high response rates.

5. Getting acquainted. Members get to know each other through the many emails and phone calls while negotiating the exchange. Nobody exchanges homes with a complete stranger

6. Preparing for the exchange. Clean and tidy your home before your exchange. Fix items such as leaky faucets. Provide information on using your appliances, local information (e.g. hospital, restaurants, grocery stores, transportation), and contact numbers (e.g. family member or friends, dentist, car garage).

7. Etiquette during the exchange. Once a member is in their exchange home, it is understood that they treat it with the same respect they expect for their own home. Many specific house rules will have been previously arranged between the parties, and the rest is common sense. Use of items such as cars, boats, recreational vehicles or sports equipment will be addressed in the exchange agreement. Other amentities to be addressed include access to washing machines, books, music, the internet, toys for the kids, and the general comforts that come with home living. Some agreements will require chores such as pet or plant care.


Home exchange was the subject of the 2006 romantic comedy, "The Holiday," directed by Nancy Meyers, in which a home swap between Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz leads to romance with Jack Black and Jude Law.[18]

Permanent home exchange[edit]

During the 2007-2008 financial crisis, which included a slump in the housing market, house swapping evolved to help buyers and sellers find a more permanent match. As with more traditional house swapping, home owners were introduced to each other via the internet.[19][20][21][22]

Mutual exchange[edit]

There are also mechanisms for tenants of public housing to swap their homes. For example, UK law allows a system of mutual exchanges that have seen up to six homes swapped in one coordinated move.[23][24]

Use in Ethnic Conflicts[edit]

In war-torn areas, home exchange can be used as a method of avoiding violence. A member of an endangered ethnic minority in one neighborhood swaps homes with a friend who is a member of a different ethnic group who is an endangered minority in their own neighborhood. The goal is that each minority resident ends up in a neighborhood where their ethnicity is in the majority.[25]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Kimberly L. Jackson (2008-03-01). "On Holiday with Vacation Home Exchange". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  2. ^ a b Rosenbloom, Stephanie (2006-06-29). "At Home in the World". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  3. ^ Lloyd, Carol (2003-11-18). "Life Swapping". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  4. ^ Facts About Intervac
  5. ^ HomeLink
  6. ^ a b Kushins, Ed (July 14, 2012). "Prepared in the Pacific". New York Times. 
  7. ^ Thomas, Andrew (2004-10-10). "Your New Home From Home". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  8. ^ Martín, Hugo (April 29, 2012). "Ed Kushins' home exchange firm began as a hobby". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ Russo, Francine (November 8, 1999). "House Swapping". Time Magazine. 
  10. ^ Trejos, Nancy (June 13, 2010). "Some travelers choose strangers' houses over hotels". Washington Post. 
  11. ^ Woulfe, Nuala (June 8, 2015). "House swapping - Stepping into somebody's else's life". Irish Examiner. 
  12. ^ "Seniors find creative ways to travel cheaply". Dallas News. September 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Mensinger, John (September 25, 2008). The Homeexchangeguru.com Guide to Trading Your home. Createspace Independent Pub. 
  14. ^ a b c "My House Is Yours" (PDF). University of Bergamo. May–June 2013. 
  15. ^ Kahler, Mark. "Book Review: Ask Arthur Frommer". About.com. 
  16. ^ Miller, Shelley (April 27, 2012). "A Virtually Free Vacation Can Be Yours When You Home Swap And Use Air Miles". Huffington Post. 
  17. ^ Miller, Shelley (February 7, 2013). "8 Easy Ways to Choose a Home Swap Club and Enjoy a Dream Vacation for Half the Price". Huffington Post. 
  18. ^ HomeExchange.com seen in the movie "THE HOLIDAY"
  19. ^ Levitz, Jennifer (February 8, 2008). "Slow Market Prompts Some People to Try House Swapping". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2008. 
  20. ^ "How to permanently trade your home for another property - FAQs". Zillow. June 6, 2008. 
  21. ^ Farnsworth, Amy (March 23, 2009). "Can't sell your house in this market? Trade it". Christian Science Monitor. 
  22. ^ Cavaglieri, Chiara (March 21, 2009). "When there's no way out, try a home swap". The Independent. 
  23. ^ "Swapping your council or housing association home". DirectGov. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "6-way swap brings Mandy closer to family". 31 August 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  25. ^ Castaneda, Antonio (July 28, 2006). "Iraqis House-Swapping to Escape Violence". Washington Post. Retrieved July 28, 2006.