January 21, 2018

5 Unexpected Benefits of a Home Exchange

Our Home Swap in Douglas, County Cork

Our Home Swap in Douglas, County Cork

We’ve been in Ireland for 10 days now as part of a three-week home exchange. We’re staying just outside Cork in a fantastic house we found on HomeExchange.com. It’s been an amazing experience so far and while I anticipated the obvious benefits, like cost savings and extra space for the eight of us (including my in-laws), there are a number of benefits I didn’t expect. Take a look:

1. Screen-Free Time
Well, there are only four television channels, but I’ve been amazed that none of the kids have groused about not being able to watch television. In fact, every day they play outside on the backyard playground or play with the dollhouse upstairs. It’s been lovely to see that their first inclination is not to plant themselves in front of the television each morning.

View from the Ballycotton Cliff Walk

View from the Ballycotton Cliff Walk

2. Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences
Since arriving a week and a half ago, we’ve certainly done some top tourist activities, like the Ring of Kerry bus tour and kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, but we’ve also done things like a cliff walk in Ballycotton and visit to a farmers market in Midleton. Both have been highlights of our trip and neither were mentioned in any guidebooks. In fact, both were suggested by a neighbor down the street.

3. Getting to Know What Locals Like 
Since we’re here for three weeks, we’re not at a go-go-go pace to see all of the top sights in Ireland. We spend more time asking questions and talking to the locals. At the farmers market, we spent a good amount of time learning about new foods, like the most popular jams in Ireland. I also enjoy asking about different words and phrases (e.g., “half nine” means 9:30), and even where to find DVD rentals.

Making S'mores in Our Backyard

Making S’mores in Our Backyard

4. Neighborly Get-Togethers
Speaking of neighbors, our second day here, Anne Marie, a close friend of the homeowner, stopped over to say hello. We’ve since seen her a number of times over the last 10 days. My kids and I even spent the afternoon in her garden. Anne Marie and I drank coffee and ate scones while the kids bounced on the trampoline (the kids got to eat scones too!). Her daughter came back tonight to make s’mores with us!.

5. Playmates for the Kids
As I noted above, we’ve met our neighbor, Anne Marie, who has a child the same age as my oldest daughter. Our kids have now played in each other’s backyards several times and have had a fantastic time. All of the kids get along so well and look forward to seeing each other in the afternoons since we usually sightsee in the mornings and relax at home in the afternoons.

Have you ever done a home swap? I’d love to hear about your experiences too. Drop me a note or leave me a comment below.


  1. I love unexpected benefits like these. Especially the neighbors/playmates for the kids – and no TV. I think that one may have to top the list. =)

  2. I am currently on my 52nd home exchange since 1990, in Toulouse, France. 2 more exchanges follow in Europe in Bordeaux and then Salamanca. I already have exchanges for July-Aug. in Poland for 2014.

    I congratulate you on your good luck with homeexchange.com. Most experienced people find the site totally frustrating. Ed Kushins is great at PR but he really doesn’t teach his people how to do it. It is clear his main goal is making money (fair enough), but, if you want a credible site, people have to actually get deals from it. It is not just me. I know a number of people who have tried the site and dumped it because people just don’t answer email. Recently I had an email from someone in Australia asking me for a swap through Homelink (I am trying to get one on the Great Barrier Reef for 2015). While I did not take the deal because I’ve been to the person’s location, we started talking. Person signed up for homeexchange.com and then had all the problems I did and said she would not renew.

    Homelink & Intervac are where most of the really experienced people are. Experienced people are serious and love to deal with one another. There are no extended conversations about nothing before the person informs you of his rental rates. There is either a deal or no deal–and they can go down in 30 seconds.

    My next deal after this summer’s series is one in Costa Rica. I live in Washington, DC, so location is not the problem. I think many of the new sites actively mislead people about how home exchange is easy, you will get that chateau/home with a pool that always seems to be featured on their home pages, etc. In fact there are difficulties with home exchange which all of the websites tend to ignore.

    For further information, you can start here: http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/how-to-do-a-home-exchange.html and here: http://altecockertravels.weebly.com/how-to-do-a-home-exchange.html

    One problem specifically with homeexchange.com is that there are too many Americans and French relative to others. If you live other than in the US or France your odds may be better, but, again, my correspondent from Australia said she was not renewing.

    As I do point out in my pieces (and I am AlteCocker), however, whichever site works for you is good for you. I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea. For deal rate, you cannot beat Intervac & Homelink.

    My Costa Rica deal is through Homelink. My Toulouse, France, deal (where I am now as I post this) is from Intervac. Bordeaux (Homelink hospitality exchange) and Salamanca (Intervac) will follow. Homelink is stronger down under (all my Australian/NZ deals have come from them except for one hospitality stay from Intervac) and within North America. Intervac is stronger in Europe. Both of my deals in Poland for July-Aug. 2014 come from Intervac.

    And those are my views. I have not joined any of the gazillion new home exchange services trying to join the party and split up the market into teeny slices because it would cost too much money to do so, but I would assume that any new home exchange service with a huge number of inexperienced members and imbalances resulting from where the service has been heavily promoted would have the same problems for me as I experienced on homeexchange.com

    By the way, I have never been to Ireland in my soon to be 54 home exchanges. Offers from there generally come in after I have committed elsewhere. Still trying.

    And I found your piece to be accurate and helpful.

  3. Eva Byrne says:

    Glad to hear you’re having such a good time in Ireland, Erin, you’ve managed to pick the best summer we’ve had in ages! And great to hear your comments on existing and new home exchange websites, Lauren, having just set up one just for architects. I have a very clear aim of creating an engaged and committed community of peer to peer home exchangers, the articles you refer to are really useful for letting people know the realities of home exchange.

  4. Barbara Anderson says:

    My fiancee and I are currently on a month-long home exchange to Denmark through HomeForExchange.com. It is amazing here and I’m so happy to have this opportunity to stay in a lovely Danish neighborhood as opposed to a pricey, cramped tourist hotel. I wondered if you had arranged your exchange through HomeExchange.com before or after their website transition in July? I have been a HomeExchange customer for the last 3 years, but I’m not planning to renew my membership when it expires mostly due to the terrible new website and the poor treatment I have received from their customer service. I’ve had fair luck for 3 years with HomeExchange, but have experienced some of the same issues as described by Lauren Khan (AlteCocker). It seems There are a lot of inexperienced people using that website (all trying to get an NYC penthouse with private pool) as well as people running VRBO-type ads, and this, combined with the awful new website have driven me away. Ed Kushins is very good at marketing the home exchange concept, however his marketing pitch and website instructions do not realistically illustrate the difficulties in finding an exchange partner or the problems that can (and do) occur.

    Thanks to Lauren’s recommendation, I’m probably going to join Intervac when we get back to the US. I will also keep my HomeForExchange.com membership as I like to be on two websites since my city (San Antonio) is not usually the first city people search for when planning a visit to the US.

    While we don’t have children ourselves, I think home exchange is a wonderful way to give children a cultural immersion experience. Have a wonderful time in the beautiful country of Ireland!

  5. I am always interested in those who have had the same issues with homeexchange.com. My take on that site is that Ed Kushins, who owns it, is a PR maven, but he just collects his money and has no interest in teaching people how to do home exchanges. The remark about a penthouse in NYC with a pool is spot on–and for Europeans too.

    For 2014 I had some Polish people commit to my home in Washington, DC, and then back out because they really wanted New York City (Manhattan adjacent to Central Park, no doubt) and were not going to come to the United States “just to see Washington”. They wanted me to wait for them to find an exchange in New York. I dumped them over the side and found another family.

    Being realistic is the first part of being successful. What I tell people is to be glad of what you get and enjoy it. My house in Toulouse turned out to be awful. If you want the details, you can go on my website. But, the home hospitality I had in Bordeaux on my recent trip was wonderful–as was my home exchange teeny apartment in Salamanca, Spain.

    I think, Barbara, you will be very successful on Intervac. It has a lot of European members relative to US members. I have 3 home exchanges set for Europe next summer: Bielsko-Biala, Poland; Krakow, Poland; and Frankfurt, Germany. The first 2 are from Intervac, the last from Homelink. If you ever want to go to Australia, I would join Homelink. Intervac has very few members there and Homelink has a huge presence. I have heard good things from a few people about HomeForExchange.com, by the way. Guardian Home Exchange is a service I might investigate if I wanted to go to the UK. They have tons of UK members and very few Americans.

    There is entirely too much hype on home exchange websites. They want you to think that all you have to do is ask and everyone will be delighted to exchange with you. It doesn’t work that way. You have to do a lot of work most of the time–and, for me, when I do a multiple home exchange trip, there is a lot of work on the logistics getting from place to place.

    I am looking forward to my trip to Costa Rica in November. Home exchange #55 here I come! I have my ticket and am working on in country logistics. Further information can be found on my website which seems to have finally taken off.

    By the way, Barbara, San Antonio is a wonderful city. I’ve never home exchanged there, but I did one exchange in Wimberly, Texas, years ago and did a day trip to see the Alamo and Riverwalk. I got that one by answering a question online on the old AOL travel site (so you know how long ago that was).

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