Two weeks vacation in a beautiful Vancouver apartment in exchange for a fortnight in an Algarve villa – sound like a fair swap? The two-bedroom penthouse would have cost around $3000 for the stay with AirBnB. And the pretty villa in Praia da Luz with a sea view and pool would have been a similar rental value.
In this case however, no money changed hands. The holidaymakers just had to fork out for airfares and transfers. Based on trust from various Zoom meetings and insurance through the HomeExchange.com site, the two sets of homeowners felt secure in lending their own abodes to each other. Nothing went wrong, minor breakages were fixed at each end, the properties were left clean, and the two couples are anticipating swapping again in the future. Both have already set up different swaps through the site, intending never to pay for vacation accommodation again.
According to Yasmin Parker, when you join a home exchange network, the world opens up to you. She and her husband Richard have been swapping their Spanish apartment for 18 months, travelling in the UK, Switzerland, around Portugal, and enjoying a two-month jolly in California and Utah.
With the experience of eight successful swaps so far, Parker says they have all gone smoothly with many added benefits. “We have become great friends with at least three people and have even holidayed and stayed with them at separate times,” she explains. “There have been no issues whatsoever during our swaps. The worst may have been a broken glass.” Various Algarve exchanges led the couple to Praia da Luz, where they also joined the Ocean Padel Club Luz, accumulating friendships and a vibrant social group.
The Parkers’ swapping home is a two-bedroom marina apartment in Sotogrande, Spain. They point out that if you have a larger home but don’t want big groups there, you can close off rooms, store belongings, and swap it as a smaller place: “If you’re just a couple and want to exchange with another like-minded couple, you can offer them your living space and just the bedrooms and bathrooms they actually need.” Equally, families can connect with similar size families through the site and do reciprocal swaps. Pets and car swaps can also be negotiated.
With airfares rocketing and all transportation costs rising, more people are turning to home exchange sites to save money on travel accommodation for anything from one night upwards. Now in its 31st year, HomeExchange.com recorded a 33 per cent increase in overnights in 2022 (compared to 2019 figures), topping 100,000 members from 130 countries, clinching one exchange every two minutes.
The beauty of today’s variety of home exchange sites is the flexibility and ease of use that technology allows. As well as the obvious, straightforward reciprocal simultaneous swapping, there are options with HomeExchange.com for non-simultaneous exchanges and also one-way deals involving Guest Points (GPs). These are a kind of “currency” which starts with complementary GPs awarded on signing up. There is a GP value per night assigned to each property, depending on size, facilities and location, which then determines how much is “earned” when someone stays there. “Further GPs can be earned every time the homeowner recommends someone else or does a one-way deal,” Parker explains. “It’s usually someone with a second home, travels for work, has the ability to stay elsewhere, has a home with separate spaces so they can be there at the same time, or is away on another GP swap. You gain value out of your house every time you’re not there.” GPs gradually accumulate in the “bank” until the homeowner is ready to “spend” them on accommodation anywhere in the world from the site. The only fee involved is an annual payment to HomeExchange on completion of the first contract of each year.
With so many second homes sitting empty around the Algarve, this could be an attractive alternative to the rigours of renting.
The Parker’s two-bedroom marina home in Sotogrande www.homeexchange.com/homes/view/1850046