Is Home Swapping Right for You?

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iStock_000026062262SmallMore people are choosing the option of home swapping these days as an alternative to the traditional vacation ritual of booking a hotel, according to one of the firms that arranges these short-term relationships.

Los Angeles-based HomeExchange say they’ve experienced a 13% jump in summer travel for 2013 vs. 2012, and are on track to post 16% year-end annual growth. The company predicts their members will complete 75,000 home exchanges by the end of 2013. They completed 70,000 last year.

Swapping your home with another lucky family is simple enough, in theory: You offer your home on the website and look for members of the home exchange service’s community who have a compatible home in the area you wish to say. If you want to travel to, say, Brazil this fall you look for a family from Brazil who wants to stay in your neck of the woods at the same time you want to be in Brazil. Then you simply swap houses.

That type of swap is known in the trade as a “simultaneous exchange.” You can also do a non-simultaneous swap by staying at another member’s vacation home. Or you can arrange to stay with the family in residence in what’s called a “hospitality exchange”. There are even options for renters, (though if you’re a renter interested in swapping you might want to check with your landlord first).

While this is all simple enough, (again, in theory), there are risks to doing this sort of thing in practice. Companies like HomeExchange, HomeLink, Intervac (the more established firms) Love Home Swap, Knox and CasaHop (all relative newcomers) claim to lessen these risks by creating accountability and oversight through their services. Members swap with other members, and are held accountable by the larger community.

More and more people seem to like the concept. cites an independent International survey of 47,000 that illustrates the types of swaps and trips their members are taking. According to the survey 42.1% of members participated in home exchanges that lasted 14 – 30 days. An additional 3.9% said they stayed for more than a month.

These services do cost some money, though. On the cheaper side there is a $39 HomeLink membership that only applies to US exchanges. International Vacation Home Exchange, on the other hand, will set you back $159 per year. Intervac offers monthly memberships starting at $8.33.

Maybe you’ve thought about swapping but were afraid that people might think you were weird for doing it. Fear not; you are in good company. If you really want to enjoy all the comforts of (someone else’s) home on your next vacation, maybe you should consider giving home swapping a shot. Just be sure to tell your swapping partners to clean up after themselves and lock the doors on their way out.

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