5 popular home swapping and sharing websites

Thanks to the ‘sharing economy’ boom, we can share everything from food to clothes to car rides. And, just like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, we can now also share our homes through a wide variety of house swapping and house sharing websites.

Is house swapping or sharing for me?

House swapping is based on the idea, ‘I stay in your home while you stay in mine’. So, if you’re not too keen on a stranger sleeping in your bed, watching your TV and generally touching your stuff, then it might not be for you. 

That being said, how much you swap with another person will be your decision. Some home swappers may choose to exchange cars, boats and even pets, while others may stick to a classic home exchange. 

Home sharing also taps into the concept of communal travelling. It generally involves a host renting out their property or room and has been popularised by online platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz. 

Louisa van Deurzen decided to list her Sunshine Coast home on Airbnb four years ago. As a pensioner, Louisa said sharing her home has allowed her to earn extra money while continuing to live at her current property. 

“It was a matter of either downsizing to a smaller unit or renting out a room and being able to stay in this beautiful bit of paradise,” she told Canstar. 

Louisa continues to live at the property and has modified the downstairs area to be a self-contained apartment with a separate entrance as well as a kitchen and sitting area. However, she says the experience is still a personal one. 

“My home is not a hotel,” Louisa said. “It’s my home and [the guests] are part of it. I do put a very personal touch to it.”

Popular home swapping and sharing websites

For travellers looking to immerse themselves in a different city, live like a local and potentially save a bit of money, house swapping or sharing could be worth considering. Below, we round up – in no particular order – some of the more popular websites that caught our eye. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we’re not making a recommendation about these platforms. As always, it’s important to do your own research before deciding if any of these kinds of services are suitable for you.

1. HomeExchange

How beautiful is Leonardo's private rooftop in Mexico?! 😍😍😍 It seems like there is something new in every nook and…

Posted by HomeExchange on Monday, 12 August 2019

Featured in the 2006 film The Holiday, HomeExchange describes itself as the world’s largest house swap community, with 400,000 homes in over 187 countries. You can choose to do a ‘Classic Exchange’, where you and another member swap homes at the same or different times, or an ‘Exchange with GuestPoints’, where you receive points when a member stays in your home which you can then use to stay at a different member’s home. HomeExchange says it covers hosts for property damages up to £1 million. In the event of host cancellation, HomeExchange says it will compensate travellers up to €700 per week if it cannot find suitable replacement accommodation.

How much does it cost? It’s free to register as a member and you don’t pay your home exchange partner to stay at their home (and vice versa). However, HomeExchange charges either $15 per night you stay at another member’s home or you can pay a $210 annual subscription fee for unlimited travel for 12 months.

2. Love Home Swap

Love Home Swap allows you to swap worldwide with thousands of other members. The site also says it offers a variety of alternative accommodation options, like houseboats, campervans and even yurts. Like HomeExchange, Love Home Swap allows you to choose between a ‘Classic Swap’ and ‘Points Swap’. Love Home Swap says it is the host’s responsibility to hold home and contents insurance. It recommends hosts speak to their home insurer and take out any extra cover if needed.  

How much does it cost? Love Home Swap offers users a free 14-day trial, after which it charges users a monthly subscription fee (billed annually). Currently, subscriptions range from $14 to $44 per month.

3. Aussie House Swap

Care for a holiday with free accommodation on the Sunshine Coast? We've got you covered with heaps of listings available…

Posted by Aussie House Swap on Friday, 16 August 2019

If you’re looking to travel domestically, Aussie House Swap says it is the largest house swap site in Australia. In addition to a classic home swap, you can also arrange to swap your car and organise to have your pets cared for by your swap partner. Hosts are responsible for taking out their own home and vehicle insurance and making sure it covers third parties. 

How much does it cost? It’s free to browse home listings, but you’ll need to pay a membership fee if you want to contact a member and arrange a swap. At the time of writing, membership ranges from $5 to $9 per month. 

4. Homestay

Best Breakfast view with our new host Kristopher in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeirohttps://www.homestay.com/h/s/174657

Posted by Homestay.com on Thursday, 22 November 2018

Prefer to stay with a local rather than swap houses with them? Homestay says it allows users to access over 33,000 homes in more than 160 countries. Hosts can rent out their spare room to international students as well as tourists and professionals. 

How much does it cost? For travellers, Homestay says the average price for a room per night is $31 globally – making it a potentially cheaper option compared to many alternatives such as hotels. On top of the price of the accommodation, travellers must pay a 15% booking fee and, at the host’s discretion, may have to pay additional fees for meals, laundry service and towels. Hosts receive the price of the stay directly from the traveller upon arrival and can specify how they would like to be paid, for example in cash or by bank transfer.

5. Airbnb

One of the earliest drivers of the sharing economy, Airbnb is an online platform that allows users to rent out their home, spare room or unique accommodation to travellers. Airbnb also offers ‘experiences’ like food tours, nature hikes and culture tours, which it says are led by local experts. Airbnb says its Host Protection Insurance covers hosts up to US $1 million for property damage and up to US $1 million for accidents. 

How much does it cost? On top of the price of the stay, travellers will typically pay a 13% service fee, plus a cleaning fee and additional guest fee if applicable. Airbnb hosts typically pay a 3% service fee that is calculated from the booking subtotal. 

Factors to be aware of when house swapping or sharing

If you’re considering house swapping or sharing, it’s important to do your own research first to decide whether it’s the right option for you. It’s a good idea to be aware of factors such as:

If you’re a guest

  • Property verification: While many home swapping and sharing companies use address and identity verification to check hosts, they typically do not personally visit the properties before listing them. Therefore, it’s important to do some research, for example by reading the reviews and inspecting the photos of the property before you decide to book. 
  • Personal safety: Your personal safety is paramount. Particularly if doing a home share, make sure you read reviews from previous guests and communicate with the host before travelling. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable, it may be best not to do it. 

If you’re a host

  • Property damage and theft: In many cases, platforms will offer a certain amount of insurance cover to hosts for property damage and theft. Read the platform’s terms and conditions so you know what and how much you’ll be covered for. If you have particularly valuable items on your property, you may want to move them to a secure location just in case.
  • Insurance: Home swappers should also consider speaking to their home insurer (and car insurer if exchanging vehicles) to see if they will still be covered. 
  • Safety: Remember, you’re inviting someone into your home, so make sure you are comfortable with them. It’s a good idea to read your guest’s profile and prior reviews and to make sure they have verified their identity.
  • Regulations: Be aware of any short-term letting regulations that may apply where you live. For example, last year the NSW Government announced plans to cap the number of days per year that hosts can use their home for short-term holiday lets.

Main image source: HomeExchange 

Share this article