Please note: this article is in NO way a sponsored post. In my pursuit of world travel for my family, I have sought out the most cost-effective way to do so. For my family, house swapping has played a vital role. This process may or may not work for you, but I do hope that it gives you some ideas or inspires you to get out there also!
2019 UPDATE: in 2018 Home Exchange merged with Guest to Guest, without notifying the members of an upcoming merger. With the merger, HE promised their members a new streamlined way of house swapping, an increased database of homes and replaced the hot air balloons with points.
Months have now gone by and it appears that the members are still very much upset with this change, many moving to other house swapping sites (more on this later!).
Personally, I lost almost every single message sent and all contacts as well as having to re-list my home again.
What I am most upset about, however, is this removal of balloons for points. As I am sure you know, balloons were how we would travel (almost exclusively) and bringing in points (on a nightly basis) has changed the whole process, and in my opinion, for the worse.
Before, a balloon could mean anything from a few days, to a few months. It was up to the exchangers to decide the value, and most importantly, it was based on a relationship of trust and consideration. (House Swappers are the best people out there, for reals.)
By placing a value on the home, and more importantly, on each night, it has changed the overall atmosphere.
Gone are the days where we exchanged with good intentions. Now it resembles more of an Airbnb experience – which I personally do not like one bit.
The relationships have changed, and they have gone from the “what can I do FOR YOU” mentatlity to “what can I get FROM YOU”. It’s straight up sad to see how so much has changed in so little time.
Currently, I have paid for a membership with Home Exchange that does not expire for another year or so. During this time, I will continue to use the platform, hoping that these changes do not last forever, but once my membership has expired, I do not expect to renew if the platform stays the way that it is now – which is pretty dissapointing since it has been a major part of the way that we travel.
Stay tuned for updates!
<< Original Post November 2017 >>
This year we signed up for a trial period of Home Exchange to give it a go. I must admit, in the beginning it does seem a little too good to be true. Travel all you want for the low price of $150?
I knew I had to test the system!
I listed my home with some decent photos and tried to sell the idea of coming to Canada. Not just Canada; Sarnia. Sure everyone wants to come to Canada, but Sarnia? Maybe not so much.
Thankfully, we live on a fresh water lake within a few hours drive from Toronto, Niagara Falls and several beautiful Ontario attractions, so I figured I had a chance.
Home Exchange offers three ways of exchange; simultaneous, non-simultaneous and non reciprocal.
Simultaneous is exactly how it sounds. You live in someone’s house while they live in yours at the same time.
Non-Simultaneous is when you stay in that same person’s home and they come to yours, but at different times. For example, most people don’t want to travel to Canada during the winter – while I would prefer not to travel to the Caribbean during Hurricane season. You swap high season for high season, which is often during opposite times of the year.
Non-Reciprocal is when you stay at someone’s home, or them in yours, and you do not reciprocate the stay. Home Exchange offers a “Hot Air Balloon” for every time that you open up your home for a non-reciprocal stay. You can then use that Hot Air Balloon to travel to the destination of your choice.
For example, we offered our home up to a family from Ireland for two weeks. We then used that Balloon to travel to Roatan, Honduras. Home Exchange uses the Hot Air Balloons as a form of currency in a way.
The hot air balloon program is what sold me on Home Exchange. The odds of finding someone who wanted to come to Sarnia who would be interested in making a direct exchange was slim, but I had a feeling I could conjure up a few balloons.
Within a few weeks I had several people bite on the idea of a balloon and before I knew it I had 3 balloons. We could have accumulated a few more, but at the time we had also opened our home up on Airbnb and was feeling as though we would never be in our home again, so we declined a few.
About a month later we found a flight deal direct from Toronto to Great Exuma for $150 a person return and reached out to the fellow Home Exchangers in the area. To our surprise, we had a bite and we were on our way to the beautiful Bahamas for a fraction of the price.
After coming home we sought out another exchange, trust me you will become addicted to the site.
We set our sights on Roatan for my husband and I’s 10 year wedding anniversary. Once again we had a bite. The timing worked out and we landed ourselves an ocean front condo in the prestigious West Bay WITH a car.
Already for 2018, we have beautiful homes lined up in Ireland and Scotland with no signs of slowing down – for free I may add.
Sometimes you win and other times you don’t. Thankfully Home Exchange has the largest platform of users so chances are you will have no troubles landing yourself free accommodation. With each swap we have met some really amazing people, I would have to say that is almost the best part about swapping. We received so many insider tips on where to eat, where to go, and what to do. It really adds to the enjoyment of travelling – you are truly living like a local!
Home Exchange also offers you a guarantee that if you do not confirm an exchange in your first year – they will give you the second year for free! So what are you waiting for?
Have you tried a House Swapping platform? Did it work for you?