I first started using Home Exchange for my two-month-long solo trip around Australia in 2018. It was a financial decision. But exchanging your home with someone else is much more an emotional and therefore life-altering experience. Don’t get it wrong – it’s not just about the money; it’s about the people.
Letting someone, even more – a stranger that you have never met in person, spend time in your most intimate space, is an act of bravery. Your home is where all your secrets rest, where you are yourself without the mask that sometimes you feel you need to wear in public. Your home can be a source of pride or a reason for desperation.
Because of that, too many people believe that their homes are not *good enough, big enough, luxurious enough, or at a desirable location*. Just repeat with me out load the words between the asterisks. Replace ‘location’ with ‘age’ and ‘luxurious’ with ‘sophisticated’ or ‘smart’. Isn’t it the same way we think of ourselves too often? But just like with people, what matters the most is the overall value, not the details. If your home is clean, comfortable enough and has a bit of personality, you will find people interested in it.
How does Home Exchange Work?
Home exchanging (or home swapping, as it is also known) is the act of staying simultaneously or not at each other’s homes. It used to be a free exchange. Now, it can be free if both parties will be staying at each other’s homes. If only one party is interested in the other’s party home, then they could pay with ‘balloons’. These balloons used to be earned by hosting other people. Now, since Home Exchange merged with Guest to Guest, you can buy these, and they are now called Guest Points. Which, in my view, invalidates the whole concept of home exchanging.
Home exchanging, before the company was joined by Guest to Guest, was all about communication, reaching an agreement, and mutual respect. Because money was not involved at all, we all felt like part of one big family and cared for each other. We also kept and keep in touch and sometimes visit each other more than one time. Our families become friends too. Now, sometimes it feels like it is the cheaper version of AirBnb.
Nevertheless, if you want an authentic experience, you still can have it. You just need to be pickier at whom you exchange with.
How to start with Home Exchange
You register as a member and set up your profile and the listing of your home. You pay your yearly fee and can start contacting people whose homes you are interested to exchange with.
Once you and the other host agree on dates, type of exchange (reciprocal or for points), you can plan your trip. During the preparation period, you will exchange many messages to communicate every detail. When you arrive at their place, you will have the home at your disposal. It is crucial that you treat it well and leave it in a good condition. Sometimes, there are plants to water or pets to care for, but these are clarified and agreed on before the exchange. Often, you are given contacts of their friends or family to get in touch in case of emergencies.
An important thing is that you create a House Manual for your home that you will send via email to your guests prior to their arrival. The manual should contain information about: how guests can reach the address; how to enter or where to get the key from; where the cleaning materials are stored, where to shop for groceries, how the technology in your home works; anything else that is relevant for your home and they might need to know about.
Also, add suggestions on restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and events.
Home Exchange Australia
With the prices of accommodation, food, and transport in Australia, I knew I couldn’t afford to pay for anything more than a bed in a hostel. And I hate hostels.
Once I’ve registered as a member on the Home Exchange website, I set my profile and listed my Bulgarian home. A small apartment with a central location in Sofia, perfect for exploring the city on foot. I also added my countryside home in case my future exchange partners are interested in going off the beaten path.
Australia has a great Home Exchange community, with many members that are open to sharing their homes and friendly towards foreigners.
Is Home Exchange safe?
As a solo female traveller, I never had a moment when I felt in danger or uncomfortable during a home exchange. Most of the time, you stay in people’s homes while they are not there. But my trip to Australia was different. It was the holidays period, and everyone was at home, so they hosted me. We were sharing the home, but I stayed just three to four days at a house. It can be a little bit awkward but if you are kind and respectful, everything will be fine.
So yes, Home Exchange is a very safe accommodation option for solo female travellers. If you are not ready to trust just my word – have a look at the two thousand plus reviews on Trust Pilot. And even better, read Helen’s Home Exchange story. We did reciprocal exchanges and keep in touch since.
Next, I sent requests to many living at the locations I was planning to visit during my two-month solo trip. I found hosts almost everywhere I needed to. My experience was of welcoming and curious to know more about my country Australians, ready to share their homes and even friends with me. They did not know much about Bulgaria and are naturally curious about Eastern Europe. I guess they did not know what to expect of me. It was the end of the year holidays time. As I was travelled solo, I stayed with them as there was enough space for us to share the home. That was a great opportunity to get to know my hosts, share stories and learn much about Australia.
So far, I have done 28 home exchanges, many of them on my own. My husband wasn’t a fan at first. He felt it will be strange to sleep in someone else’s bed. Now, he loves it as much as I do because of the comfort and safety, living like a local, and the human connection. You can never get that from a hotel room.
Is home exchange worth it?
Let’s make the math together. I pay 115 Euro (USD $134, AUD $188) per year for my membership. I’m not sure but it can be a bit more expensive for new members to join. Anyway, even if more, how many nights at a hotel or AirBnb can you pay with those 115 Euros? And then there is the nonnumerical value of the friendships that you will create, the chances to stay at authentic, sometimes unusual destinations, and the possibility to dive deeper and know better a place, a culture, a concept of living.
Home Exchange is the most trusted global home-sharing platform. It is now also the biggest, after merging and acquiring many other, smaller platforms. Currently, there are 450,000 homes in 187 countries listed on the website.
With your membership, you get unlimited exchanges and protection in case of property damages. But I had never had a problem with something damaged- either by me or someone staying at my home.
Another thing I adore about home exchange is that some of the homes are one of a kind, almost like little jewellery boxes that open rarely and for special guests.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, we stayed at a house whose whole interior, even the heaters, were antique. The bathrooms, light switches, the garden shed, everything was restored and spoke of another era, I can only assume it is the Victorian Era. In Manly, Sydney, the apartment overlooked the beach and had a three-side view. Similarly, the apartment in Brisbane was delightful with a river view and the night lights of CBD. While visiting Bendigo, Victoria, we stayed in a charming Art Deco house with a peaceful garden. During my first exchange in Dublin, Ireland, the house was within walking distance to everything.
When we arrived in Perth, we spent two weeks in a beautifully decorated townhouse. While visiting Noosa, Queensland, for a wedding, the house had a pool and an amazing tropical garden. In Albany, Western Australia, we stayed at a small organic farm and winery, the residential dog’s name is Merlot.
I can only imagine what other beautiful and unique homes we will experience in the future once we can travel again overseas.
My Home Exchange tips
Keep your communication with other members as clear as possible. Answer messages quickly as people need to organise their trips.
Present your home clean and orderly, always leave space for the guests’ belongings.
Leave a few food supplies in the fridge that will help them get started. Yogurt, bread, butter, jam, and fruits are enough for breakfast. If they are arriving late, things that they can snack on for dinner will be great.
Let your neighbours know that you will have home exchange guests. Often, they will be happy to be of assistance to your guests.
When you are the guest, always bring a small gift and a thank you card to leave for your hosts at your departure. Home Exchange is based on appreciation and trust, how you leave their home (clean and tidy) speaks volumes to the hosts about the way you treated their house.
You can send your adult children or even friends to exchange instead of you. I have done that. But you must be sure that they will treat those homes with respect and are clean and considerate.
Read the house manuals that hosts send you before you arrive at their home. Sometimes they are peculiarities that you need to know about, but it is easy to omit.
Can’t think of anything else right now but feel free to write in the comments section if you have questions.
Home Exchange made my dream to travel to Australia possible. Not only that but helped me create strong friendships that are enduring till today when I now live in the country. This concept of exchanging homes also gave me a platform to introduce my country and Bulgarian culture to foreigners that otherwise would probably never have the interest to know more about it.
Do you feel like joining? If this post was helpful for you and you are ready to join, use this code geri-404b8 to register. It will give me 250 guest points to use during my travels. Once you are an active member, you can also use your code to invite friends to the platform.