About Home Exchange

An Introduction to Home Exchange and this Website
Home Exchange Described

A home exchange occurs when one family trades the use of their home for the use of the home of the other family. Usually this is for a vacation but it might also be for a sabbatical, temporary work assignment, or special event. Our family has successfully completed twelve home exchanges. We think it is a great way to vacation and learn more about other countries and cultures.


There are many different types of home exchanges. Exchanges can be between singles, couples or between families with children. They can be in the same country or another continent. They can be for a year or a weekend though a few weeks is more normal. They can involve your principal residence or a second home. They are usually arranged with people you have not known before and occasionally with folks belonging to an organization established for another purpose such as the Rotary Club. Home Exchanges are arranged by listing your place with a home exchange agency. Customers of these agencies review home listings on the Internet and use e-mail to propose and discuss possible exchanges.

All of our home exchanges have been with families in Europe with children. We live in California. Our exchanges run from two to five weeks. Our exchange experiences may not fit your preferences or situation but hopefully the information will still be helpful. We will talk often about families as opposed to singles or couples. Trading as a couple or individual is easier than trading as a family and you have more options. You don’t have to worry about school holidays, video games, or random acts of careless destruction.

We will focus on international exchanges as these are what we know and we think they are more challenging and involve more issues. An exchange in your own country is easier to arrange and manage. Exchanges within countries are common.

One of our motivations for home exchange is that my wife is British and has family in England. We can exchange in Europe and work in a visit to her parents and her brother’s family. It is a way for our children to get in touch with their European side. After 11 months of plentiful sunshine, sharing the road with mammoth SUV’s, and constant exposure to President Bush or Governor Schwarzenegger in the newspapers, radio, and television, we need a break. We want our fish and chips or raw herring. We appreciate a certain amount of bad weather. The green European countryside and old buildings are a contrast from the golden brown landscapes of modern California. We can watch a soccer match on television instead of baseball, which for us is more of a sedative than a sporting event.

Home Exchanges have many advantages and benefits. The most obvious is economic. You get a home and often a car (assuming you aren’t driving to the exchange.) The economic value of this is between $750 to $2000 (or more) per week. This is based on the alternative of renting a car and a home on a weekly basis. If you home exchanged instead of staying in a hotel the savings would even be greater.

A home you exchange for will normally be much better equipped and furnished than all but the most luxurious rental homes. It may have toys and bicycles for the children. It should have computer and video games for the kids, much to the annoyance of my wife who would like our children to take a break from video addiction.

It will also be more interesting as the art, furniture, books, and design will reflect others’ sincere interests as opposed to cheap and cheerful or a bland lowest common denominator. One of our homes had game trophies in profusion, a zebra skin rug, stools made from elephant’s feet, and Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn Monroe in psychedelic colors. The children felt it was a bit odd but they got used to it, and for once I didn’t mind being short since I could avoid bumping the water buffalo head when using the stairs.

The other key property item in a home exchange is the car. We have always gotten a medium to large car, but that is to be expected since we are trading with families who have at least two and sometimes more kids. The car, because it is a secondary consideration to the house, may or may not be better than what you could rent, but it will probably be cheaper. This is because each mile put on a car decreases its value. You are trading the use of your car and the more the other family uses it the more it costs you.

Some folks may not be able to provide you with a car because they don’t own one, their car is unreliable, there are insurance problems, it is too good for you, or is a company car that can’t be used by others. You can always rent a car or go without if you think a car is unnecessary or a liability, such as in a large city. If you are concerned about too much use of your car you and your partners can agree to a mileage limit with an agreed payment for each excess mile. Or you can avoid trading cars.

Home exchanges allow middle class families to take a great vacation every year because they are affordable. The only mandatory extra costs are those to get you from your home to the other family’s place.


Another advantage to home exchange is that the families you are exchanging with are experts in their region. They can and should provide information that will increase your cultural understanding and enjoyment of the place you are visiting. They will have tourist brochures and maps for your use. They will tell you about obscure village celebrations, musical concerts, pottery classes or whatever. They will recommend their favorite pub, restaurant, or picnic spot. They can tell you what to see and what to avoid.

We always ask the folks we are trading with to provide us with introductions to families in the region with kids and/or interests the same as ours. These kind people will take us out to dinner, take us on a bicycle ride, invite us to their summer cabin, etc. They will also provide information and local color on their region and country. Armed with this kind of support and information a home exchange vacation is usually much deeper and more satisfying than a traditional trip.

With a home exchange you have an opportunity for cultural immersion though you don’t have to take it. A home exchange can be a transaction or it can be transformative. After three weeks or a month in a home in a particular country I begin to feel and in some ways act like a local. I don’t want to return home.

If you have special interests they can be indulged. I love to bicycle. The families we trade with provide information such as bicycle maps and friends that will take us out on a ride. I love to drink wine. Our hosts will provide introductions to their oenophile friends and compile a list of the best local shops and tasting opportunities. A friend on a home exchange in England was able to play on the local soccer team and send his son to a soccer camp run by Manchester United. He was also given tickets to a soccer match between Celtic and Rangers in Scotland. It was one of the most moving religious experiences of his life.

Another advantage is friendship. We meet local families during our home exchanges that are outstanding. We have kept up with many of these folks over the years. They include the legal counsel for a large supermarket chain, the chief health officer of the region, a travel writer, a married couple who work for competing banks, and the chief of economic development for the county. I would be happy to meet people of this quality in any circumstances and it is a special pleasure when traveling abroad.

The family you exchange with may become lifelong friends. We remain in touch with most of these families and have seen five of them subsequent to our exchanges. We have youth exchanged with two of these families. There is a unique bond that develops when you live in someone’s house and they live in yours. We have also enjoyed discovering how similar (and sometimes different) our lives are to those of the families with whom we exchange.

There are different kinds of exchanges. In the usual home exchange, you use the family’s home while they use yours. A variation is called the hospitality exchange. Family A visits Family B at their home while they are there. They entertain each other and at a later date Family B visits Family A. A hospitality exchange will often be short and/or the guest will absent themselves for days at a time to give the host a break from the overwhelming pleasure of their company. There are documented cases of retired couples managing to assemble a chain of several consecutive hospitality and/or normal home exchanges as they explore an entire continent for a few months.


If you have a second home you can trade it instead of your main residence. For people who are nervous about home exchange, trading their second home may be easier than trading a principal residence. Another advantage of a second home is that it can be used in a non-simultaneous exchange: Family A can visit while Family B is still at home. Family B can use the home from Family A at a later date. According to an analysis of three leading home exchange agencies, 20% of home exchange listings are for a second home.

The home exchange system should not be oversold. There is no guarantee that you will find an exchange in a place that interests you. Your ability to secure an exchange in a particular place is a function of the supply and demand, the strength of your offer, and the time and effort you put into the process. However, most folks, assuming they have a decent property and are flexible as to destination and dates, should be able to find a home exchange if they put enough time into the search.

A Statistical Look at Home Exchange

At the moment home exchange is strongest in North America, Western Europe, and Australia/New Zealand/South Africa. The opportunities for home exchange outside these areas are limited.


An analysis of 39,635 home exchange listings in the fall of 2006 showed that the USA accounted for 28%, France 14%, Canada, UK, and Australia 9% each, the Benelux Countries 6%, the Nordic Countries 5%, Italy and Spain, each 4%, Germany 3%, Switzerland/Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, each 2%. All European countries not listed, 1% in total. The rest of the world, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa, and the Mid-East, account in total for 4% of listings.

Within the United States 31% of listings are in California, 12% in Florida, 8% in New York, 5% each in Massachusetts and Colorado, and 4% in Washington.

The analysis of home exchange listings showed that 52% of families seeking exchanges traveled with children or consisted of a group of 3 or more, while 48% were without children or in groups of 2 or less. Some folks without children will trade with families with children. 67% of all listings said that children were welcome.

56% of those listing offered a car for exchange. 68% would not consider exchanging with a family that smoked. 41% would not want pets on an exchange.

Home exchange is a middle class phenomenon though there are wealthy people that appreciate it as an economical and high quality vacation system. There are modest flats on offer and castles and estates, with affluent middle class homes and apartments being the majority of offerings. 16% can offer you a private pool. 46% of those listed have exchanged before.

Most home exchange residences are of a decent size. 85% will accommodate 4 people or more, 60% will hold at least 5, 46% will hold 6, 20% will hold 7, and 14% 8 or more.

The folks that participate in home exchange tend to be educated and well traveled. A survey (more information on it follows) showed that 92% of respondents had attended University; over 60% of these had also done post graduate work. The professions of the people we have traded with include lawyer, veterinarian, executive, teacher, accountant, school principal, business owner, nurse, dentist, non-profit management, and government administration.

Anecdotal evidence and a 2006 survey by Homeexchange.com suggest exchangers are satisfied with their experiences and that serious problems are rare. The Homeexchange.com survey cannot be considered scientific as results are limited to a the small sample that chose to respond.

Home exchangers found that the homes they traded for were described accurately. 15% of survey respondents said the home was better than described. 42% said it was as described. 35% said mostly as described. Only half of 1% felt it was inaccurately described.

67% of respondents said that the homes they traded for were extremely neat and well prepared. 25% said they were somewhat neat and well prepared. Only 1% said the homes were not very neat or well prepared, with an additional half of 1% saying they were unacceptable.

67% returned home to find their place had received excellent care from their exchange partners. 32% said the care was good to very good. Only 1% responded OK with nobody choosing unacceptable.

15% of respondents were so happy with the place they used on a home exchange that they exchanged for it a second time.

99% of survey respondents said they would recommend the home exchange concept to a friend.

Two of the respondents with a large number of exchanges reported that 1 of every 15 exchanges had a problem serious enough to cause the exchange to be considered a negative experience. Perhaps part of the problem was that both these families had so many positive experiences with home exchange that at some point they failed to do sufficient research and negotiation to verify the quality of their home exchange partners and just got unlucky.

Another Expert View on Home Exchange

One exchanger who has documented her experience is Nicole Feist. She has a blog called Home Exchange Travels. I think she has had two disagreeable results in over 30 exchanges. You can read about them at www.homeexchanger.blogspot.com. My take on her negative experiences was that she might have avoided them with more research, information and/or communication. Nicole does her home exchanges in a different way than my family. This means if you read her blog you will get other views on home exchange than you will find here. She is an expert on home exchange topics that I have no experience with including urban cats, weekend exchanges, and traveling with elderly relatives and small children. You may find her advice superior or more relevant than our ideas.

Home Exchange and the Internet

In the old days home exchange agencies published directories of the member’s homes and people would look at the listings and make contact by fax, phone, or letter. There are still home exchange agencies that publish directories but the Internet is the fastest, cheapest, and most effective way to find, initiate, and negotiate a possible home exchange. In the old days you might start looking for an exchange a year in advance. It took a lot of time. These days communications are quick, an exchange can be done with less lead time, and the amount of work is less.

The Internet has revolutionized home exchange. Those interested can list their home with a home exchange agency on the Internet and can look at listings of others. Negotiations can be handled via e-mail quickly and cheaply. It is common for photos to be exchanged via e-mail or even floor plans of the house.

A more subtle reason the Internet has changed home exchange has to do with research. In the old days you might not know the neighborhood of that home in Poitiers or even what sort of city it was. You could go to the library or buy a travel guide, but that is expensive and time consuming and the information might be dated. Now you can research a city or region on the Internet and retrieve photos, event listings, tourist attractions, etc. You can look at detailed maps, in some cases showing exactly where the property is located. You may be able to get satellite photos of the home and its neighborhood. Our family has had wonderful home exchange vacations in obscure places we had never heard of before we received an e-mail inquiry or saw the home listed. The Internet allowed us to research these areas and discover their quality and attractions so we could feel confident in visiting them on a home exchange.

Summary of the Home Exchange Process

You need to decide if home exchange is right for your family. There are advantages and disadvantages. Home exchangers have to be trusting, flexible, and willing to invest time in the process. You may be concerned about whether or not your home will be of interest to people living where you want to go. This can be an issue but since the cost of trying to find a home exchange is between nothing and a few hundred dollars it is easier to give it a try rather than overanalyze it.

Assuming you have made a decision to look for a home exchange you should list your home on one or more home exchange agencies. This website provides advice on how to prepare your listing. It also discusses how to review the listings to find what you are looking for and how to write an e-mail of preliminary interest. There are techniques for researching possible destinations. For a detailed survey and data base on home exchange agencies visit our friends at www.knowyourtrade.com.

Once you have found a potential home exchange partner you will have a negotiation with them. A home exchange is a serious transaction and full understanding and communication are important. You need to make sure your home exchange partners are trustworthy, capable, and committed. You want to make sure the home, place, family, and other aspects of the exchange will meet your expectations. You want to convince those with whom you would like to trade to go for it.

Once you have agreed to an exchange there are details to be negotiated, arrangements to be made, and preparations to your home including cleaning, organizing, and fixing of problems. Our philosophy is to be generous and thoughtful towards the family that will be living in our home. This sets a positive tone and may result in a competition where they try to be kinder to you than you are to them. This is a win-win game.

The actual exchange is often easier than the preparations. Minor and occasionally more serious problems will occur and you need to have the patience to resolve them and not let them ruin your vacation.

These above issues are discussed in this website under About Home Exchange.
One section is entitled Things and Concepts related to Home Exchange. Included under ‘things’ are telephone systems, bicycles, cars, and video systems, among others. Concepts include driving, multiple home exchanges, maybe next year, and many others.

Another section is A Country Guide to Home Exchange. This reviews those specific countries where home exchange is common. We provide facts relating to exchange in those countries. We recommend specific agencies for obtaining exchanges in those countries. And I offer country specific random useful and/or entertaining information that you may find useless and boring.

There is a section on home exchange agencies. There is an analysis of the industry and suggestions as to what to look for in choosing an agency. The leading four agencies are reviewed and a few others are mentioned.

Tales from the Crypt provides cautionary stories on a few of our twelve home exchanges. These stories are meant to be entertaining and educational but may be neither. They also show how the process works in specific exchanges. The names have mostly been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. There is also an essay on the actual process for finding and negotiating two home exchanges. If you would like to read more of these essays please buy our book, The Homeexchangeguru.com Guide to Trading Your Home, available on www.amazon.com.

This website is based on extensive research, our experiences, and those of our friends. Although the website cannot claim to cover all home exchange ideas and topics, we have made every attempt to be as thorough as possible. Please send any complaints and suggestions. I have been married for twenty four years and have three children so am accustomed to constant correction and criticism. You can reach me by e-mail.