House Swapping: Save on Your Next Vacation by Trading Your Home

Two women hold hands as they lounge on chairs outside of a house.
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It’s a bit of a fantasy — swap your home with a stranger for a vacation in a desired location. They stay at your house and you at theirs, and there’s no money exchanged. And hey, maybe you’ll meet your true love in your dream destination, like in the movies.

While no one can guarantee the true love part, trading places is easier and more secure than you might realize. Plus you save money on lodging — and maybe even a car rental.

Home exchange or house swapping networks have taken a lot of the risk out of these transactions.

Here’s a look at how house swapping works.

What is House Swapping?

The concept is simple: Trade your house to stay in someone else’s home. From that point, there are multiple ways you can do a home exchange. Your host may allow you to use their car, or ask that you care for their animals. Or neither. Maybe you get to stretch out on a two week vacation, or you’ve got a long weekend. There’s a lot of flexibility in house swapping. And benefits, too.

House Swapping: Common Terminology

It’s helpful to know these terms used in home swaps.

Mutual or simultaneous exchange: When members directly swap houses.

Non-synchronous or non-reciprocal exchange: When people don’t directly swap homes.

Member’s home: This refers to a second home, a vacation property, a condo, apartment, or house

I Want to Swap My House. How Do I Get My Home Ready?

The first step of house swapping is an honest self evaluation. Will you be comfortable having strangers in your home without you there? Would you trust someone to take care of your home, pets, plants, property and privacy? It helps knowing that they have to equally trust you.

Pro Tip

House swapping networks do have reviews for homes and guests, so make sure you review those before agreeing to a swap.

Then, check your homeowners insurance policies to make sure you are covered. If you are including your vehicles in the swap, check your auto insurance policies too. Condo and apartment dwellers should check to see if there are any restrictions as well.

Once you feel confident about allowing people in, ask yourself whether or not your home is ready for swapping.

As a host, it is important that your house is clean, but does everything work? That list should include appliances, heating/cooling, windows, doors, television, wifi, etc. The website Home Exchange has an excellent checklist for preparing your home.

You’ll also want to put your home’s best foot forward by taking lots of good pictures. It’s helpful to have friends look at them and pick which ones are best. Upload the information to the website and you are ready to discover new places for your next vacation.

House swapping not your thing, but you still want to save on travel? Here’s our guide to alternative travel.

Ready to House Swap? Consider These Home Exchange Websites

There are several home exchange websites you can choose from. Each has an annual membership fee, though some start with free trials. And all of the sites have filters to help you with your search, including ones for accommodating people with special needs.

When you sign up for a home exchange network, you create a listing for yourself and your home. You’re asked for personal information and preferences, and then you upload pictures of your home, with a description. List the number of guest rooms and general information about the property. Then create a document with tips about local things to do and resources. Make sure you include information so guests can access wifi, cable, etc.

Here’s a look at several home exchange organizations, so you will know which one is right for you.

General Home Exchange Networks

Intervac Home Exchange

One of the original home exchange networks, started in 1953 by Swiss teachers who had lots of vacation time but not as much money, cultural exchange is a vital goal. You list your home to participate.

There is a free 21-day trial. After that, the membership fee is $115 a year or $190 for two years.

Home Exchange

Home Exchange says it has 100,000 homes in 133 countries. They also use guest points, which makes a non-synchronous house exchange possible. Guest points are earned by hosting, so you do need to list home to participate.

It costs $220 for the first year, and you get a second year free if you don’t get an exchange in the first.


HomeLink was also started in 1953 by a teacher in New York City as a vacation exchange club and it really grew in the 1960s. Members have unlimited exchanges and can list multiple homes.

There is a free 30-day trial. After that, membership costs $115 for one year, $195 for two years or $276 for years. Here’s a good checklist from them about getting your house ready for a swap.

Love Home Swap

Love Home Swap facilitates classic home exchanges, and also uses a point system. Home owners set a points per night value for their home, which is how members earn points for swapping. Love Home Swap also allows members to ‘borrow’ points against future swaps, allowing them to stay in any location if they are not doing a classic house exchange.

There is a free 14-day trial and membership costs $156-180 a year.

Home Sweet Home

Based in the United Kingdom, Home Sweet Home lists properties across the world. It’s a very simple, low-key website. Among the listings are a mountain farm home in Utah, a home in a fishing village in Spain and a vicarage in Denmark. 

It costs about $62 (£50) to join.

Going on vacation? Don't forget to check out our roundup of the best travel credit cards.

Specialty Home Exchange Networks

We listed five sites for a general house swap, but there are some specialty sites that you might be interested in.

People Like Us

PLU has a strong focus on creating community among like minded travelers, so other members become more like trusted housesitters and friends. (Plus, it uses globes as their point system, which is kind of charming.)

The annual membership fee is $95.


Switchome is a free home swapping site, operating mainly in Europe.

Third Home

Third Home is a luxury home exchange website, with listings for vacation homes around the world. Third Home reports that the average home value is $2.4 million.

The annual fee is $295, and stays cost between $495 and $1,395.

Aussie House Swap

Aussie House Swap states it is the largest home exchange community in Australia. Its website features a page of inspirations, helping connect users with properties near attractions they could be interested in. For instance, here’s a look at properties foodies and winos may enjoy.

There are 6-, 12-, and 24-month membership plans, ranging from $54 to $120.

The Pros and Cons of House Swapping

House swapping has its pros and cons. Here’s a look at a few of them.

  • Swapping houses can save you money on lodging.
  • Cultural exchange. Living like a local lets you explore your destination differently than staying in a hotel or resort.
  • Hosts can help you discover local treasures you may not have experienced otherwise.

  • You could visit somewhere with your family and discover a listing has been misrepresented.
  • You may need to spend money to fix up your home for a swap.
  • Guests staying in your home could be problematic.

House Swapping Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much does it cost to do a house swap?

Swapping is usually free, but there is a fee to join most networks.

How long can you trade for?

There is no set length; each trip is based on availability.

How often can you do exchanges?

Most companies do not put a limit on the number of exchanges you can do.

Can you stay in someone's home without offering yours?

Well, it is called home exchange. Many of the sites let you use points to stay in someone's home without swapping, but you do have to list a home. There are a lot of alternative ways to travel, too. You can sign up to be a house sitter, or volunteer in exchange for room and board. 

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.