Curious About Home Exchanges? Here's What You Need To Know

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If you've seen "The Holiday," you're probably familiar with the idea of a home exchange. Cheaper than traveling in hotels or traditional vacation rentals, a house swap offers the chance to make a trip across the country — or the world — feel a lot more affordable. (It also offers you the chance to fall in love with Jack Black.) But how do home exchanges work? What do they cost? Here's what you need to know for your next house swap vacation.

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How Does a Home Exchange Work?

The way a home exchange works is pretty simple. For many of the larger home exchange network services, you can swap houses in two ways. The main option involves one host trading their own home for another host's home, either staying in each other's houses concurrently or at specific agreed-upon dates. 

However, if you want to stay in somebody's home but they don't want to stay in yours, there's a second option. By lending your home, the other host will accrue points that they can use to book a vacation in a different swapper's house at another time of their choosing. 

Related: Things You're Doing Wrong When Planning a Vacation

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Where Can I Book a Home Exchange?

While home exchange services offer local options, many of them also offer global home swap opportunities. By creating a profile with one of these services, you gain access to their network. HomeExchange is one of the top services, with over 100,000 active users. Holiday Swap is another, boasting one million users.

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What Are the Benefits of a Home Exchange?

Before it turned into the gentrification supernova that it is, Airbnb offered a way to really travel like a local. Home exchanges offer similar benefits, allowing guests to immerse themselves in a neighborhood instead of staying at a tourist-driven hotel. It also cuts down on lodging costs: While guests have to pay the home swap company's membership fees, vacation rental costs are eliminated. Sometimes home exchange hosts agree to swap cars as well, which means they won't have to pay car rental fees.

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How Much Does a Home Exchange Cost?

Home exchange pricing is different depending on the service you're using or types of homes you're looking for, but many of the major services operate on a subscription system. Love Home Swap, for instance, has a tiered system ranging from $11 to $15 per month (with benefits, like the ability to list multiple homes), while HomeExchange costs $175 per year and offers unlimited swaps. For many users, the subscription fees are well worth it: Love Home Swap says its members save an average of up to $2,500 for a one-week stay.

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Who Benefits From Home Exchanges?

House swapping is a great call for just about anybody. Are you a family looking to spend Christmas in Iceland? Are you a recent college graduate who just inherited a spooky mansion from your grandfather and feel too creeped out to sleep there, so you want to switch with a nice couple from Mexico City? There are dozens of reasons to use a service like this, so next time you're traveling, consider taking a load off your budget. Just be sure to follow some common tips: Agree to specific details before swapping homes, lock up valuables before you leave, and respect other people's properties. It's always a good idea to get to know your hosts through a video call as well.