This post is also available in: FR
What is the HomeExchange website?
In our group, we love loyalty programs, credit cards with reward points, and low-cost travel, and we have at least four members who use their points to exchange homes—Pauline, Suzanne, Amélie, and Marion.
Only one website that we know of uses this system, which allows us to host people in our home and not necessarily go to their homes, because we want to go elsewhere. It is HomeExchange, which is headquartered in France and has existed since 1992.
Although the first home exchanges were registered within a community of American teachers in the 1950s, HomeExchange was a pioneer in its own way thanks to its system of “Guestpoints“.
The company now boasts 400,000 homes listed on its site in more than 180 countries.
The approach is so interesting that by putting online a description and photos of your house, your surroundings, your availability calendar and by becoming a verified member (ID and proof of address such as an electricity bill), you earn enough currency – the”Guestpoints” – to go stay elsewhere without anyone coming to your house.
This allows you to explore the system a first time and decide whether you will accept requests from members interested in your offer to earn points again to leave once more.
You add to this a brief presentation of your family, couple, person and you are ready to try the adventure.
Recently however, an annual subscription fee of $190 (or €130) is required when finalizing the exchange, even the first one.
This amount includes:
|Cancellation protection: Compensation up to €700 per week and support in case of cancellation or non-compliance
|€500 deposit deposited by the guest to cover potential property damage.
|Guarantee of conformity: Proposal of an alternative solution if the accommodation does not match the initial description of the house.
|Property damage covered up to £1,000,000*
|Damage insurance: Protection in case of property damage up to £1,000,000*.
|Help in case of theft
As well as a day and night support service.
This means that it is no longer free as it used to be. However, be aware that you can do as many exchanges as you wish per year.
Marion, a milesopedia of French origin, but living in Montreal, found for her family of three a large Parisian apartment for nine nights during the Christmas 2019 period.
The exchange cost her 1170 points that she had in her bank, thanks to those given for free by HomeExchange when she subscribed, and the $190 subscription fee.
Marion was able to invite about twenty guests for her three-year-old daughter’s birthday party in the large apartment in the Nation district, near four Metro lines.
Great deal, $190 for 9 nights in Paris over the holidays.
How the HomeExchange website works
Simultaneous reciprocal exchange
Here is how the simultaneous reciprocal exchange works.
The Gagnons want to go to the Tremblays. The Tremblay’s are also interested in the Gagnon’s offer, and what luck, they agree on the same dates.
So that is a simultaneous reciprocal exchange. And as long as the point values of the houses are roughly equivalent, there may be no point exchange.
However, if one is worth much more than the other or if there are more nights spent at one of the exchanges, a difference in points could be paid out after agreement. The parties decide this among themselves.
Non-simultaneous reciprocal exchange
But what happens when both parties are interested, but the dates don’t match?
Since it is possible for each exchanger to leave their house free on the dates that suit the other, there is a reciprocal but not simultaneous exchange.
Especially interesting for people who own cottages, for example. Again, if the houses are equivalent in points, there’s no need to redeem points. Everyone keeps theirs.
Suzanne, a milesopedian, is a champion of non-simultaneous home exchanges.
In three years she has been hosted more than 80 nights in Paris, Rome, Kuala Lumpur, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Bogotá, Medellín, Santa Marta, Cartagena and Ottawa.
It must be said, as she told us, that she owns a second home in the Laurentians, which allows her to offer a lot of availability and thus earn many points. She has hosted French people from the continent and Reunion Island, Americans, Australians and Italians.
And finally, Quebecers.
It is the same for Pauline who is also a member of milesopedia and who has been doing home exchanges for several years.
She offers a vacant unit on the ground floor of her home in Saguenay. Thanks to the HomeExchange points system, she hosted people from France, Martinique, Spain and Quebec.
She went to Italy, Spain, California and Quebec. Only last summer, twenty French families asked to exchange their home with her!
Of course, she couldn’t accept all those invitations from the French cousins.
Finally, the Gagnons want to go to the Tremblays, who have a trip to a different country in sight.
The Smith family’s home appeals to them and the Smiths would agree to leave it to them, but in 6 months time. This is a non-reciprocal exchange.
The Gagnons pay the Tremblays the points that the stay is worth and then the Tremblays use them in whole or in part to go to the Smith’s house.
Or simply bank them.
My retired friends' example
I have a retired couple of friends, owners of a Safari condo RV who leave several weeks a year for North America, leaving their large Montreal home with a view of Rivières-des-Prairies.
They are adepts of non-reciprocal exchange and have hosted several French families from the old continent and Guadeloupe without having gone to these destinations.
With their 8,000 points earned in two years, they went to Sicily, London, New York and Quebec.
They are targeting Europe again when the bans are lifted because they still have several currencies in the bank.
A world of possibilities
According to the description of your house, (how many rooms, equipment), the proximity of shops and services, places to visit, HomeExchange gives your offer a value in points per night that you can increase or decrease by 30% in case of disagreement.
It is surprising to see the variety of offers on the site.
We think of course of popular places such as big capitals or seaside resorts, but there are all kinds of them.
Don’t underestimate the power of attraction of your home even if it’s not next to Central Park, but be ready to be wooed if you live in Old Montreal!
The site recommends to keep an open mind:
Stay open to surprises, to destinations you had not considered before, to accommodation that does not necessarily correspond to your ideal. It’s also a change of scenery.HomeExchange
And you don’t have to own the place.
As long as you have the owner’s consent and your home insurance covers the exchange (some companies limit them to 30 days, read the small clauses carefully), which is common because there is no trade here, you can exchange “your cabin in Canada”.
For a long weekend or several weeks.
My experience with HomeExchange
Personally, I hosted a Belgian farming couple in a non-simultaneous exchange, who were delighted to stop for a few hours at a market gardener in my part of Lanaudière. See how things are going here.
Then picnicking at the falls in Ste-Béatrix.
Then go to the Festival de musique classique de Lanaudière.
My house is 30 km from Montreal, on their way to Quebec City, and they enjoyed escapades on both sides of the road for a night here and there in a hotel near Quebec City and Tadoussac.
Then they also stayed here resting and had a BBQ in my big backyard, under the shade. Soaked up the place. Got some bread from the bakery. Gauged the village.
A little bit of slooow travel!
For parents, it seems to me that the formula is perfect, especially when you want to travel light.
You exchange with other families: you allow children to discover a new world of games without having to bring their own.
Then there’s the stroller, the high chair, the kitchen, the yard, the swings or the pool… and the car seat.
Did I tell you you can switch cars, too? I’ve done it on a few occasions. The important thing is to have your insurance endorsement.
The essentials for an exchange and the investment of time
An up-to-date calendar
Like the game of Reward Program points, swapping houses and managing the Guestpoints takes time.
First of all, you must maintain your own up-to-date availability calendar as well as your list of desired destinations.
It is rather disappointing to get an answer from a prospect whose chart shows that his house is available on the dates you’d like, just to find out it is not available after all. Or that he actually came to Quebec the year before, when it says that it’s a trip he hopes to make.
A personalized request in advance
Then we must write a custom request. Write down the names of the people and some of the features from their offer that you’re interested in. Avoid copying and pasting them.
And be patient, because it takes on average about fifteen requests for very touristic places before getting a positive answer.
But in the meantime, you will also receive requests from some from places you hadn’t thought of, which, if you think about it carefully, would do the trick.
And then you’ll also get offers to which you would have liked to say yes, but that you simply cannot accept. I received some from a family in Cancun, Mexico who would have liked to go to the Christmas markets. But I’m here during the holidays.
Oh! I almost forgot. You must do it months in advance. Six months to twelve months. Like for business class award tickets during a mini-tour of the world 🙂
Preparing and hosting
Home exchange is first of all about welcoming others. It’s the art of hospitality.
Depending on the time and manner of arrival, I am at home waiting for my visitors, at the airport to drive them back or have already left and we have arranged for them to find the key easily.
On both sides, one prepares one’s house.
I make sure to clean and wash of the carpet shortly before the visitors arrive. And I take this opportunity to buy some new placemats and maybe some scented candles. But no, I will not buy new cutlery.
We leave each other a basket of “small treasures” from the region. I usually leave them a bottle of Quebec wine and maple products in many forms. Sometimes a good cheese from here.
We can also leave what we need for a first meal in the fridge. Just enough so yout guests have time to do a little grocery shopping.
Then, a binder with all the necessary indications regarding the house and its appliances, emergency addresses and numbers, good restaurants, our favourites etc. With a map of the city that indicates where are the grocery stores, bakery, coffee house, etc..
Directions to the City of Montreal incentive parking lot, next to the metro.
And booklets, pamphlets, maps, interesting things to do here and elsewhere in Quebec.
The Internet being what it is, it is also easy to communicate when needed.
Travelling in times of pandemic
Amélie, who lives in Quebec City, hosted five families last year, both on the family ground floor and in her basement rental unit : Spaniards, Italians, a French father and son and a Montreal couple.
From long weekends to six days in a row.
She had managed to earn enough points to set up a nice trip to Portugal and Spain with her husband and their two young daughters: Lisbon, Porto, Seville, Faro.
21 out of 22 nights, paid in Guestpoints.
All the points were returned to her quickly after the cancellation, but she remembers how many requests she had to make before she found a place, and wonders how long such a trip will take to be re-planned.
Especially since her maternity leave will be over.
We all hope for a little mobility in the weeks and months to come. Many would like to travel inside Quebec.
After all, you don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to get a breath of fresh air and HomeExchange offers several houses in our province.
As long as Quebecers in the regions will want to host people from the greater Montreal area.
Four years ago, I had the opportunity to rent a cottage with my Guestpoints on the shore of a lake in the Outaouais.
My recently retired friends, who have earned more than 8,000 Guestpoints in just two years, had the good idea of redeeming points in a house in the Montcalm district of Quebec City to get closer to the family on New Year’s Eve weekend 2018. They were able to break out the champagne with them.
They also used the system in a chalet in the Laurentians last year to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary. Surrounded by a dozen of their own.
Of the five people questioned on the subject, all agreed on the wonderful experiences they had with the points-based home exchange.
They found their homes clean and untouched as they had left them to their visitors and some were able to enjoy the hospitality of the hosts who stayed nearby during their stay.
This was the case of Suzanne who twice was able to discover picturesque and less known places in the presence of her “exchangers”. I had the same luck in Switzerland, where we were directed by our hostess to an artisanal cheese factory in the Alps.
A referral system!
Home Exchange offers a referral system, just the way we like it:
- Earn 25 GPs when your friends sign up
- Earn 100 GPs when they send their first message
- Your friends will earn 100 GPs when they register
The referral system is limited to 10 registrations per account (i.e. 1,250 GP maximum).
Home exchange with Guestpoints is another great way to travel at a lower cost.
When combined with reward program points which are aimed at reducing expenses for flights and car rentals, you get a perfect mix.
However, we must have the desire to travel this way, because beyond the savings made, we must accept to meet strangers and trust them by leaving our belongings to them. The notion of hospitality comes into play here. Personally, it’s the kind of adventure that suits me so well. How about you?
For more information, some of us are ready to answer you in the Facebook group!
Pauline Pedneault, Suzanne Charbonneau, Amélie Soucy-Gauthier and Marion Nash
This post is also available in: FRCome to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!