About Home Exchange

Home exchange agencies
Introduction to Home Exchange Agencies

This is a difficult topic because home exchange agencies are constantly changing. The better agencies are constantly improving features and adding new members. New entrants, some with interesting ideas, and attractive prices (such as free) pop up frequently.

A problem is that I have actual exchange experience with only a few of the agencies. Another issue is that the best home exchange agency for you will depend upon the way you exchange and your preferences.

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I prefer agencies with many members, lots of information and features, and experienced members. We look for lots of members in Europe wanting to go to California. We prefer larger homes since we are a family of five.

You may prefer a smaller agency where the owner can give personal service. You might want a smaller number of members. You may prefer simplicity over a full set of features. You may be willing to put up with slight deficiencies because the agency concerned is free or low cost.

I have good relations with many owners of home exchange agencies, particularly the folks at Homeexchange.com, but also with Homeforexchange.com and Jewett Street. Please keep this in mind—I may be biased in favor of these agencies.

This topic looks at home exchange agencies in general, first with a general discussion about the business, and then with information and opinions on the four largest agencies. (Specific figures as regards number of members are as of January 2008, as reported by www.knowyourtrade.com.) We also have brief descriptions of other agencies you might wish to consider. Most of these agencies work in the same way. You pay a fee to become a member and list your home on their website. Only members are allowed to contact other members to propose a home exchange; visitors, however, can look at the listings (without the contact information) to get an idea of what is available.

The largest four agencies, in order of number of members, are Homeexchange.com (www.homeexchange.com), Homelink (homelink.org), Homeforexchange.com (www.homeforexchange.com), and Intervac (www.intervac.com).

The website www.knowyourtrade.com has analyzed all the home exchange agencies they could find. They have done an excellent job, and I would recommend visiting them for more information on this subject. You can search their database by various criteria including number of members, cost, and number of members in the ten leading home exchange country destinations. They are constantly updating and improving their information.

The industry is changing quickly and the specific information given here is already out of date.

The Home Exchange Business

There are many companies, organizations, or individuals in the business of facilitating home exchange, usually by operating an Internet-based listing agency. These are small businesses. New players enter the business frequently. Some have interesting ideas; a few will thrive, most will go out of business or survive as smaller and less efficient competitors.

All Home Exchange businesses have an interest in taking your money both for the immediate cash flow and because they know that the more listings they have the more choices they offer their customers. The nature of this particular business is that there are fixed costs and overheads and low variable costs. Each new customer is almost pure profit. There is a tendency for agencies to exaggerate the benefits of the home exchange system while minimizing discussion of negative aspects, which is one of the reasons I have created this website.

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New home exchange businesses often attract customers by offering their services for free. This is a good deal economically but there are disadvantages. The free sites have fewer members and are usually more difficult to use and/or have fewer features. One can argue that their members are less committed because they pay nothing to participate. These free agencies may maintain listings that are out of date. It is harder to find a good exchange on these sites than with the industry leaders. On the other hand new agencies may present new ideas, features, and website technologies that help you find a home exchange.

In my opinion the four largest home exchange agencies have proven records and are easy to use. They have thousands of experienced home exchange members. Each is reviewed in detail. I have also briefly reviewed a few other worthy agencies.

Criteria for Choosing a Home Exchange Agency

The following are the most important considerations when choosing a home exchange service.

Number, Location, and Attributes of the Members

The number, location, and attributes of the members are crucial because with members-only services these are the only folks who are eligible to trade with you. Members-only sites are like a club. More members mean more choices. However, since you can only trade your home within the club it is important that you like the choices available and that your offer is attractive and competitive in the opinion of the other club members with whom you will trade. A large club means more choices but also more members competing for the best opportunities. The location of members is also important as are the places with which they are looking to exchange. Each service has its own geographic mix of members. You want the membership to be the kinds of families you would like to trade with in the places you would like to visit. If you are satisfied this is the case, then more members is better than fewer members because you have more choices.

Many agencies have a disproportionate number of members from particular countries. If you want to go to these countries that agency is for you. If you are from that country and wish to go elsewhere it can be negative. For example, Intervac has most of the listings in Sweden. This is positive if you are outside the country and want to go there. But if you are Swedish and looking for an exchange in another nation you would have fewer of your countrymen to compete with if you sign up with Homexchange.com, Homelink, or Homeforexchange.com.

Likewise there are home exchange agencies that have few listings in particular countries. If you are from one of these underrepresented countries this could be a good agency for you, if there are lots of listings where you want to go. For example, Intervac has few of its listings in Australia, whereas the other large agencies have many Aussie members. Intervac makes sense if you are Australian and want to go outside the country. For example, there might only be 3 Australian Intervac members wanting to go to the USA, while there are 70 USA Intervac numbers looking for an exchange in Australia. As an Australian this is a favorable ratio (in this hypothetical example.)

Our Country guide to Home Exchange discusses home exchange agencies for particular home exchange countries.

Listing Format. An ideal listing format allows for a comprehensive description of all aspects of the home exchange offer including the home, its surroundings, the region, the family, amenities or extras, and the destination choices and dates. The ability to easily post many high quality photos is necessary. Many home exchange agencies fail in one or more ways to have a complete and informative listing format.

Search Function. The best agencies allow you to search their listings by diverse criteria. You can search for families that want to go to your country, in countries that you want to visit, and can even specify that you need a place that will accommodate at least four, five, or more. You can also specify features that you must have such as a car and you can eliminate listings with nuisances such as smokers, pets, and/or children. You can also search the most recent listings that are the most up to date. This allows you to come up quickly with the listings of greatest interest and potential.

Search results are presented in a summary format. The ideal summary has key details such as location, capacity, number traveling, and a small photo so you can quickly decide which listings to review in full.

A capable search function is valuable because it allows you to find the listings of interest and can save massive amounts of time. Of equal importance it allows the other members to find your listing. A good search function is critical for agencies with several thousand listings.

History and Reputation

An agency that has been in business many years is more reliable than a new competitor. Its members tend to be more experienced in home exchange. The best agencies have become successful by their reliability and reputation.

Customer Service

Some agencies do a better job than others of taking care of their customers. Smaller agencies or those with representatives in many countries may be able to offer more personalized service than others.


There is tremendous variety in cost; some home exchange agencies are free, while the industry leaders cost between $50 and $200 per year. There are luxury home exchange agencies that are $500 per year. One way of looking at this is that the value offered by home exchange is so great that $200 is minimal. Others might think it is wasteful to spend anything when you can find home exchanges for free.

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Some agencies offer a lifetime membership which will probably end up being the lifetime of the company instead of your lifetime.


Home exchange agencies vary in their ability and/or interest in protecting the privacy of their customers. Some agencies will publish names, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and/or physical addresses of those listing their home for exchange. Other agencies protect this information and arrange for e-mails of interest to be sent through the agency to the listing family. A few operate message centers within their websites that allow e-mail addresses to remain private.

Statistics and Members' Tools

The better agencies offer useful members' tools and statistics. A beneficial feature is the ability to browse listings and save or shortlist the exchange offers that might be of interest. Some agencies will keep track of those folks you have e-mailed or those that have e-mailed you regarding a home exchange.

Statistics can be helpful. Some agencies will let you know the number of times your listing has been viewed and one will tell you the country the view came from.

Presentation, Interface, and Style

If you visit several home exchange websites you will notice differences of style, presentation, and visual quality. The leading agencies are constantly improving everything they do but others are stuck in the past with sub-optimal features and/or presentation. A modern look is easy on the eyes and is also a sign that the home exchange agency is well managed and up to date.

Detailed Analysis of Specific Home Exchange Agencies

The information is based on research done over the Internet in January 2008. The numbers given are based on public information available to anyone visiting the websites of the agencies shown or www.knowyourtrade.com. The specific information given below is subject to change as these agencies are constantly changing and improving the way they do business.


Homeexchange.com has the advantage of having been designed from the ground up to use the Internet. They are a private company based in California. They have bought many other home exchange agencies and have constantly improved their quality. We have found five exchanges with them, all of which we rated very good to outstanding. In my opinion they are overall the strongest and best home exchange agency. Their recent record of growth, innovation, and improvement is impressive. I am friends with one of the owners, who has helped me with this book, which you should keep in mind as you read this information.

They offer hospitality exchange, long term exchange, and rental listings as well as home exchange.

They charge $100 a year to be a listing member, but if you only want to browse the listings to contact those members (without listing yourself) you pay $50 per year. If you are committed to frequent home exchanges they offer two years for $140. They also will give you a second year free if you tell them you were not successful in finding an exchange during your first year of listing with them.

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I have been a member of this agency for over six years and have been impressed with the constant improvements they have made. They have the best listing format in the business. It encourages their customers to provide all relevant information via a combination of check lists and essays. Their free form format allows for long, detailed, and occasionally boring expositions on the offers available. A large number of high quality photos may be included in the listing and are easy to upload, caption, or change.

Their summary listing format clearly provides key information such as how many the home will accommodate, the number of previous exchanges, whether children are included, and the size of the exchange party as well as time and destination preferences. They have a small photo on the summary listing.

They have a precise and useful detailed search tool that allows you to look for offers in a particular country, city, and state/province. You can also look for members who want to exchange with your country, city, or state/province; this is known as a reverse search. You can specify that the property must accommodate a certain number of people and have a certain number of bedrooms. You can indicate a date range for the exchange. There is a key word search.

You can specify experienced exchangers, second homes, or look only for hospitality exchanges. You can look for homes in the mountains or by the sea and require that certain activities be available such as golf or fishing. You can avoid smokers and can require luxuries such as a swimming pool, motor boat, or private tennis court.

Only two key points are missing. You can look for offers that say kids are either ok or they aren't, but you can't look for families traveling with children. You also can't look for a group of a particular number of people.

They protect the privacy of their customers. When a potential home exchanger wants to contact you they send an e-mail to the agency which then forwards it to you. Your last name, e-mail address, telephone, and home address are kept confidential. The disadvantage to this is when you review a listing you don't know exactly where the home is located.

Homeexchange.com provides you with the number of hits your listing receives. Our listing has been visited over 6500 times, for example. As a listing member on the agency they have useful tools such as the last 200 listings, a feature where you can save listings of interest and make notes on them, and a mass mailing feature where up to 25 listings can be contacted with one note. After you have mailed a listing using this feature you can keep records on your correspondence with them.

They claim over 18,000 home exchange listings. According to www.knowyourtrade.com they have 6,560 members in the US, more than twice the number of any other agency. They have the most listings in Canada, Mexico, France, and Italy. They have the second most listings in Australia/New Zealand and Spain. They are in third place in the UK.

Homeexchange.com has a beautiful Internet site that is constantly being upgraded and improved.

To summarize the advantages of Homeexchange.com: they have a great Internet site, comprehensive listing format, reasonable price, excellent search tools, and thousands of members throughout the world. They are your best choice for exchanges to North America and France.


Homelink has a long history, thousands of loyal members, and staff on the ground in many different countries. We have found three exchanges with them and can testify to their quality and performance. They have approximately 13,000 members, which makes them the second largest agency. As a family in California, we have had particularly good luck with them attracting great offers from a variety of countries in Europe.

They have been around since the 1950s and claim to have invented the concept of a home exchange organization. They have websites in twenty-five different countries. If you have a problem during your home exchange they promise that their local staff can provide advice and support.

They offer published directories, usually at an extra charge. Because their systems were designed to be compatible with printed Directories they are not optimized for Internet use. This is their single greatest weakness. (For a detailed rant on Directories, and why you shouldn't be using them please see Directories in Things and concepts related to home exchange)

They offer a wide choice of exchange or similar options including hospitality exchange, weekend exchange, long term exchange, youth exchange, rentals, and house sitting offered or wanted.

This agency is among the most expensive because they have a worldwide organization and a good reputation. The cost depends on your country of residence and whether or not you want a printed directory of listings. For example, with Homelink in Britain you will pay 115 pounds per year. You will get a directory whether you want one or not. Homelink in Canada, without a directory is $CDN 130. The US is $110 for a web only membership while France is 115 Euros for web only. You will need to do your own cost comparisons based on your country of residence.

The listing format suffers from the fact it was designed to be directory compatible. To list your home properly you will end up doing two related listings, one for their directory, the other for the Internet database. They have a system of check-off boxes for house and area features. In the past they only allowed one small low resolution photo. Now members can post more photos (the limit varies by national affiliate) that are bigger in size and quality. Unfortunately only some of the members have taken advantage of this feature. Likewise only a short essay will appear in their directory, but you can offer a long essay for the Internet listing. Many members fail to take this extra step to fully describe their home.

Each Homelink national affiliate has slightly different rules and policies. The web sites vary in quality and features. For example, Homelink UK listings show the approximate location on streetmap.co.uk.

Their search engine is outstanding as you can simultaneously look for people in the country of interest who want to go to your country on a particular date and/or for a particular time, and you can specify key factors such as car necessary, children welcome or not, and the number of persons the home must accommodate. You can search by region in popular countries. You can limit the search to those properties that claim particular features such as extensive grounds, friendly neighbors, or a dishwasher.

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Homelink allows you to search seven-day and forty-eight-hour hot lists. These include new and recently changed listings. Members can choose to put their home on the hot lists at anytime. That means members can review these listings and know that they represent available properties. (An exception is when a member has changed their listing to note that they have an exchange and are no longer looking; this will cause it to appear on the hot lists.)

The summary results show most of the information you want except there is no photo, and information on the number traveling is limited to a symbol showing with kids or without.

They protect the privacy of your e-mail address by having an in-site messaging system. However any member can view your last name, telephone number, and address. The positive aspect of this is you can Google the name of prospective home exchange partners and can figure out the exact location of their home.

Homelink, according to www.knowyourtrade.com, is the number one agency in Germany and Ireland, and is number two in Italy, the UK, and the USA. They are strong in Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Norway. They are a great choice if you want to go to Europe.


This is a relatively new members-only website. They claim over 10,000 members. They are owned by Ans Lammers, a lady from the Netherlands. They have become the third largest home exchange agency, an impressive achievement for a newcomer. (I may be biased towards this agency as they helped me with this book). This site has been designed to be simple and easy to use and as a result doesn't offer certain features.

The listing format does not encourage a full explanation of all key details. There is no check-off box for experienced exchangers. You are limited to three specific destinations and can add that you are willing to go anywhere or anywhere sunny and warm. You can list a continent such as Europe or North America as one of your destination preferences.

They have an interesting geographic feature on their website: once you have chosen a country the listings are presented by state, province, etc., or as in France, Departement. When you click on a listing they present a general map of the country with a red arrow pointing to the approximate location of the listing. There is a key word search.

Another simplification is the advanced search engine that lacks the choices and precision of Homelink and Homeexchange.com. It does have a feature allowing you to review listings by the size of the exchange group. You can also require that the home have a certain number of bedrooms. You can do a reverse search of the listings for people who want to come to your country but not your continent. You can eliminate smokers.

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The pricing of this agency has been subject to change. Today eighteen months costs $59.

When you visit the site you are shown over 5000 listings with the headline People who may be interested to come to your country. This is the list of folks who have said they would consider going anywhere. You can save listings of interest. Privacy is protected as e-mails to members go through the agency to the recipient.

According to knowyourtrade.com, they are the #1 agency for Australia/New Zealand.

The site is modern and attractive and improvements have been constant. By offering more attractive pricing, simplicity, and by being an effective marketer they have expanded the number of families considering home exchange. The downside of this is that their members are less experienced home exchangers as a group than those of the other three leading agencies. If you favor ease of use and simplicity versus a full set of features and like their lower price, you may prefer this home exchange agency.


Intervac is similar to Homelink, though it has fewer international members. They have a long history and staff on the ground in several countries. We have found one exchange with them and they are well regarded in the industry.

They share most of Homelink's pluses and minuses though they no longer offer a directory. I had criticized Intervac because their listing format did not allow the member to write a long essay on their home exchange offering. Alert reader Kate, who is an Intervac member, tells me that long essays are possible, but you can only see them if you are logged on as a member.

Intervac's search engine is efficient, though it offers fewer detailed choices than the search engine of Homelink. Their search results are presented in an attractive list with a photo.

Intervac USA has a USA-only home exchange option. Intervac France has a France-only home exchange option. These parts of the business are not considered in this review.

Intervac pricing varies by country. The cost in the US and Canada is $95, in the UK it is 75 pounds. In France it is 100 euros.

Intervac is your best choice if you want to go to Sweden or Finland.

Other Agencies

I have chosen the agencies below for brief comments. They are chosen because I believe they have a good reputation or are interesting newcomers. The ranking information shown is from www.knowyourtrade.com.


This site is attractive and allows non-members to contact listing members to propose an exchange. They are the ninth largest agency overall, the seventh largest in the USA.

First Home Exchange Alliance

Home Base Holidays
Green Theme International Home Exchange
Invented City

These three agencies work together as the First Home Exchange Alliance and share the same database of members. They have a good reputation and have been in business for many years. They have a large percentage of their members in the British Isles and are #6 in total listings for the UK. The owner of Home Base Holidays, Lois Sealey, writes on home exchange topics at http://homeexchangetravel.blogs.com. The blog tends to feature information of interest to her customers, which shows that she cares about them and provides personal attention and assistance. This focus from the owner towards individual members is likelier in a smaller agency.

1st Home Exchange

This is a new agency that has grown rapidly because of a free listing offer. They have a large percentage of their members in France and Quebec. They are #2 for members in France, and #6 for members in Canada, Ireland, and Australia/New Zealand. The site is easy to use and attractive. They are the eighth largest home exchange agency.


This is another new agency that has grown rapidly with a free listing offer. I find their attractive website slightly cumbersome to use. All inquiries go through a message center on the website. In six leading cities around the world they have representatives to visit members and provide a rating of their home. They are #5 in members in France and the United Kingdom. They are the sixth largest home exchange agency.

International Home Exchange Network (IHEN)

I think this was the first Internet based home exchange agency. This agency allows anybody to browse their listings and send an e-mail to a member to propose an exchange. Our first three home exchanges were arranged with them. I find their free form listing format sub-optimal. Many of their listings don’t have the information I am used to having before deciding whether or not to contact a member.

Jewett Street

This is a newer agency with a beautiful website. The owner Ursula Niesmann is attentive and hard working. I get the impression that she is able to focus on individual members and their needs. If you are willing to accept a smaller membership base this is an elegant and attractive option.

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