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Passionate experience junkie. Lover of the arts and architecture. Want to see and share the world, one village at a time.

Home Exchange vs. House Sitting: Which is Right for You?

Immersion travel while house sitting in remote Spain

Our “home” for two months on a Spanish mountainside.

House sitting is my passion and I enthusiastically embrace the role as its champion. There’s simply no better way to travel and truly learn about the world. House sitting suits each party – homeowners gain peace of mind knowing their home and pets are looked after and travelers have a free place to stay.

We’re a darn nice community of folks who care deeply about doing a good job of respecting property and gaining wonderful new friends.

Yada yada, you’ve heard me say it a million times, right?

Well, I have just discovered the world of home exchange by virtue of the fact that Conrad and I now have a home to exchange. Prior to May 2013 we were proud homeless vagabonds roaming around this lovely land. We felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to wander without worry of a mortgage.

house sitting travel

Sunny corner of our real home.

But with the unbelievably low interest rates and home prices still low, (but rising), we decided it was time to purchase something for our old age, when we want to “settle down.”

 

 

I had heard about home exchange from many sources, including my dad who tried it twice. And loads of travel bloggers expound its virtues.

Home exchange means that two homeowners agree to vacation at each other’s homes. One home could be in France and the other in Canada, or anywhere. Wherever people work out to exchange, they do it. Very similar to house sitting, except you swap.

House sitting in Europe

More travel is a very good thing

So since I’ve been looking into this fun discovery, I offer a comparison between Home Exchange, (HE) and House Sitting, (HS), for your consideration.

After posting my home’s listing, I contacted 6 homeowners in Barcelona to see if they were interested in an exchange and Voila!, the artist couple wrote back and said “Yes!”

Website Procedure:

 

In this aspect, HS and HE are the same. The key is to place a stellar profile on either kind of site.

Communication:

 

HS – Travelers read their email alerts each day to find new posts on house sitting assignments they like and contact homeowners immediately.  Assignments get snapped up quickly, so as a house sitter you have to be on top of new assignment postings.

HE – Everyone is a traveler/homeowner, so communication can be initiated by either side of the exchange. I see this as a slight advantage, because travelers can take their time contacting as many prospective exchangers. The process can begin a year in advance or a week before traveling.

Timing:

 

 

HS – Travel time is set by the homeowner, so travelers must be flexible.

HE – This is where exchanging can get tricky. Both homeowners have to coordinate their travel time to make a “simultaneous” exchange. That can prove a challenge. But there are options. There are also “non-simultaneous” exchanges, which means family A travels at a different time of year than family B, or for a different length of time. Or perhaps family A is traveling for six weeks and in that timeframe, they arrange two different families to stay at their home. Every story and need is different and requires patience to put all the puzzle pieces together. I don’t mind this but some may find it daunting.

Negotiating:

 

HS – With the house sitting scenario, homeowners are concerned – and rightfully so – about having strangers stay in their home. Negotiations revolve around determining trust and creating a contract that leaves no question about the responsibilities involved. There may be costs involved, such as paying utilities.

HE – Negotiating an exchange revolves around coordinating two or more familys’ travel times. No money ever changes hands.

Length of Stay:

 

HS – Here’s where house sitting has the upper hand in my opinion because the assignments can be much longer – up to a year or more. Conrad and I set our criteria at six weeks minimum for a house sitting assignment because getting to know a place –to really become a part of the community – takes that long.

HE – Exchanges are generally short at two to three weeks. Longer ones can be found, but are rarer.

Pets:

 

HS – A great deal of assignments include looking after a pet or farm animals.

HE – Most – virtually all – don’t involve pets.

Membership Dues:

 

HS – The lower cost of the two at $10 – $89 per year.

HE – $125 – $189 per year.

Conclusion:

Both house sitting and home exchange are very similar. The biggest compelling feature is no lodging cost while traveling. That feature alone means both travel options are worth a look-see. Home exchange has a few advantages in that it may be easier to break into. And finding someone to trade with is a more leisurely practice. House sitting wins out in length of stay, annual membership price, and works for those with an unsuitable home to trade or no home.

Full disclosure – I have not tried home exchange yet. A trip this fall, (2014), is one we want to do a combination of house sitting, home exchange, and Airbnb stays.

There’s something for almost everyone as I see it. Which one is for you – House Sitting or Home Exchange?

I started this website to help others discover and succeed at this really fun low-cost way to travel the world. You’ll find many more tips and hopefully some inspiration to begin on your own journey. Click here for a list of house sitting articles.

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31 Responses to “Home Exchange vs. House Sitting: Which is Right for You?”

  1. A huge congratulations on your new home, Josie. That is so awesome. I’ve mentioned before that I’m so intrigued by the home exchange program. I would definitely be up for house sitting at a nice place where there wasn’t repair work, etc to be done. Just a warm body so to speak. Good post…
    Mike recently posted..We Are Headed Off To New York City!My Profile

    March 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm Reply
    • Hey Mike,
      Thanks! We love our new home and have had much fun decorating. But we still have a bad case of wanderlust and are constantly figuring ways to travel!
      I hope you get to try home exchange or house sitting some day. There are quite a few that welcome your dog as well. Wouldn’t Phoenix have fun?!

      March 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm Reply
  2. How hard is it to co-ordinate a home exchange when both families are trailing at the same time? I have read elsewhere that changing travel times can be a challenge and nuisance.

    I totally agree with you, that it takes some weeks to get into local life. This is slow travel for thoughtful people who want to immerse, rather than see, taste and leave!
    heather recently posted..How to find the best bread in FranceMy Profile

    March 25, 2014 at 3:08 am Reply
    • Hi Heather,
      Coordinating trade times for home exchange is indeed the biggest challenge — there are so many variables: vacation length, size of family, and when traveling are only a few. But with so many stories out there, exchanges can also work beautifully. Options abound! I’ll let you know how it goes after we try it this fall.
      In terms of your comment about slow travel, my recent 9-day whirlwind tour to Turkey reinforced your point. See, taste, and leave is no way to travel! What we experienced in Turkey is a fleeting memory at best. At worst, I feel cheated from experiencing “real” Turkey!
      Glad you stopped by, my friend!
      Josie

      March 25, 2014 at 9:01 am Reply
  3. Excellent article and wonderful advice! Thank you!

    March 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm Reply
    • Welcome Marilyn,
      Thanks for your kind words.

      March 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm Reply
  4. Congrats on your new home! How exciting for you.

    I’ve never done home sitting or home exchange, but do find the options interesting. Am definitely going to bookmark your site for future reference.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..exploring OahuMy Profile

    March 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm Reply
    • Hi Doreen,
      By far the best aspect of house sitting and home exchange is staying in a place for weeks at a time. It turns travel into a deeply moving learning experience. Thanks for stopping by, my dear!

      March 25, 2014 at 5:58 pm Reply
  5. Helpful analysis for anyone considering house-sitting!

    March 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm Reply
  6. I’ve only done one home exchange – my former home in Boston for two owned by the same family in Spain. Overall I met some lovely people and had a very mixed bag experience but learned a lot and will probably do it again with my new home on Marco Island. Here’s a post of what I learned from my first time. http://blondebrunettetravel.com/2013/11/19/home-exchange-wish-we-knew-then-what-we-know-now/
    Kay Dougherty recently posted..Africa has “The Big Five” and Arabian Bedouin culture has “The Big Four.”My Profile

    March 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm Reply
    • Welcome Kay,
      I read with great interest your post on home exchange — and thank you for that great advice. Conrad and I also learned many lessons through several years of house sitting.
      Thanks for helping us all with your experience.
      Josie

      March 26, 2014 at 8:36 am Reply
  7. I’ve been hearing a lot about house sitting lately, and was wondering what it was all about. Thanks for such detailed information — you’ve really got me thinking!
    Patti Morrow recently posted..10 U.S. Iconic Photo Ops for Your Bucket ListMy Profile

    March 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm Reply
    • Welcome Patti! I love that you are considering this fun, low-cost way to see the world. Happy traveling!
      Josie

      March 26, 2014 at 8:37 am Reply
  8. ben #

    Great thoughts! I’ve learn a lot from this post. Anyway congratulations on your new home. 🙂
    ben recently posted..Havasu Falls – An Uplifting ExperienceMy Profile

    March 26, 2014 at 4:50 am Reply
    • Welcome Ben!
      Thanks for your kind words. Yes, we are loving our new home — but always have itchy feet to travel again!
      Wishing you safe and happy travels.
      Josie

      March 26, 2014 at 8:39 am Reply
  9. I think this is a very good article. I do think there is more work in a house-sit. I house-sit my way around the world right now and am currently house-sitting in Ireland. Very good points made by you in this article. Well done!

    March 26, 2014 at 9:50 am Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words!

      March 26, 2014 at 9:59 am Reply
  10. I have never even heard of this, but am so excited to learn more. Thanks for the great post and information about this amazing opportunity!

    March 26, 2014 at 1:19 pm Reply
    • Welcome Michelle,
      I love finding new house sitting recruits! Come in and take a look around, there are also many other house sitting bloggers who all have a slightly different take on it. But all-in-all, it’s travel at its best!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
      Josie

      March 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm Reply
  11. I’ve done a few home exchanges and get offers on a regular basis but usually not to the places i ant to visit unfortunately…so communication and timing is always key especially if you are picky about a set location.

    March 26, 2014 at 8:57 pm Reply
    • Welcome Noel,
      Thanks so much for adding your experienced view. Yeah, it must happen all the time — that exchangers contact you but you don’t want to travel to their location. One of the aspects of home exchange to take into consideration.
      Josie

      March 27, 2014 at 7:34 am Reply
  12. Hmm. One issue with house exchange is that by definition, you probably can’t arrive at the other house a day or so early so the homeowner can show you any quirks and orient you to the area. On the other hand, one would assume that you both are homeowners and have similar interests in the condition of your home being cared for. On the other hand, people have different standards of what level of housekeeping is acceptable. I still hope we get to try one of them someday.
    Suzanne Fluhr recently posted..Hawaii Quilt Guild Show: E Ho’onanea I Ka Mili KapaMy Profile

    April 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm Reply
    • There are many considerations to both home exchange and house sitting — and a big one is trust. I read about one form of exchange whereby each party leaves their car at the airport — to be picked up by the exchange family and driven “home.” Nobody meets in person, but presumably would have done a fair amount of skyping to feel comfortable.
      After house sitting, Conrad and I both agree that the folks we have encountered are a wonderful breed. But everyone must follow their gut, you know? I believe it’s a rule that can keep everyone safe and happy.
      Thanks for stopping in Suzanne, and for your always thoughtful comments.

      April 10, 2014 at 9:29 am Reply
  13. We never though of doing home exchange mainly because at the moment we don’t have a house and we are full time travellers, in the future is something we’ll definitely consider. We are enjoying the good sides of house sitting though, we only wish we started earlier! 🙂
    Franca recently posted..LOCATE CAVEY – Paris (Part 2)My Profile

    May 4, 2014 at 2:52 am Reply
    • Welcome Franca,
      We were in a very similar situation in that we had no home to exchange — until one year ago when we bought our condominium. So I’m happy to report that we just finalized our first home exchange with a cool artist couple in Barcelona. Just like with house sitting, you meet the most wonderful people.

      You are so fortunate to live a traveler’s life — and I enjoy your focus on the arts. Good stuff, my friend, and thanks so much for stopping by.

      Josie

      May 4, 2014 at 9:30 am Reply
  14. Great post Josie! While my partner and I are avid fans of house sitting (because like you some time back, we don’t have a house to exchange!) I can really see how house swapping offers similar benefits to travelers.

    We had friends of ours we knew from Dubai that did a house swap with a family in Sweden over Christmas last year and had an absolute ball. They escaped the desert for a few weeks and instead had a white Christmas and went ice swimming… literally! (We saw the pics!)

    They are both fantastic ways to have new experiences and live someone else’s life for awhile!
    Nat Smith recently posted..Spam, Scams and the Search for Income FreedomMy Profile

    May 18, 2014 at 11:38 pm Reply
    • Hey Natalie,

      You have nailed the great thing about house sitting or exchanging — that you get to live someone else’s life for a while — and with no cost for lodging.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your great story!
      Wishing you happy and safe travels,
      Josie

      May 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm Reply
  15. Hi Josie. Congratulations on the home and the lifestyle. I checked out your about page and you mentioned living on less than 40k – my mom also has a nomadic lifestyle, living most of the year in Thailand and Mexico with occasional trips to Canada and Europe. Her annual budget? 25K. So it can be done, no need to be an old person shivering under 6 months of winter. My mom only wishes she had started on her nomadic lifestyle earlier!
    Great job on the blog!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    June 26, 2014 at 9:13 am Reply
    • Hey thanks Frank. Kudos to your mom — and it’s so true, the world is accessible and relatively low-cost to travel. The notion that the only option is to pay upwards of $200/night lodging is preposterous! Not only that, but alternative places of lodging offer deeper cultural experiences. Let’s get the word out!
      Say “Hey” to your mom from another baby boomer in love with the world!
      Josie

      June 26, 2014 at 9:48 am Reply
  16. I got into Home and Pet Sitting because even now, AU$14,248.00 per year on a pension it is impossible to survive renting – no food or utilities can be bought or paid for.
    So eating my nest egg, literally just an egg now as I have been homeless since December 2011.
    I needed to look outside the box, and wow I haven’t looked back.
    Thank you Josie and all who have replied. I am a baby boomer too Josie.

    August 12, 2014 at 6:19 pm Reply
    • Hi Francien,
      It’s is indeed a great time to be alive and enjoy this wonderful planet! I love that you have found your place in it — and thank you so much for your lovely comments.
      Josie

      August 14, 2014 at 11:07 am Reply

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