Review: Home swapping websites

Forget hotels – for many baby boomer travellers, house swapping is where it’s at. Miji Kang reviews two Australian home swapping websites – comparing cost, trustworthiness and design. 

There are a lot of websites available that can help people interested in home swapping to find a suitable swap partner. Aussie House Swap is Australia & New Zealand’s largest house swapping website, while Home Exchange 50 plus is a website designed for travellers aged over 50. They said, ‘Most exchangers prefer the idea of exchanging with others with similar tastes and common interests with age being a factor.’

So which website should baby boomers use to have a successful house swapping experience?

Cost

In Aussie House Swap, the membership fee is $65 for 12 months; this information can be easily accessed by using the ‘cost’ menu located on the top of every page. People might wonder whether the site might have hidden fees that they have to pay later, but it clearly mentions that there is no payment required except the membership cost. The payment can be made with credit card or PayPal.

With House Exchange 50 plus, the membership costs £45.00($69.75 in Australian dollars, based on the currency rate on 23 Oct 2012) for a year; for two years it is £70.00($108.51), and a five year membership costs £135.00($206.26). The site also clarifies that there is no extra charge. Comparing the membership fees of Aussie House Swap (AHS) and Home Exchange 50 plus (HE5), for 12 months HE5 costs about five dollars more than AHS. However, for two-year and five-year memberships, HE5 is much cheaper than AHS (for two years, HE5 costs $108.51 and AHS costs $130 and for five years, HE5 costs $206.26 and AHS costs $325). In terms of the price, it is really up to the user’s choice depending on their situation. If the user has never tried home swapping, I recommend they try a 12 month membership. AHS might be the right choice for them as its 12 month membership is cheaper. However, if the user has experienced home swapping before and plans to do it for longer than a year, HE5 would be a reasonable choice for them.

How it works

Aussie House Swap is easy to navigate for first time users. On entering the first page, users will see the instructions on how they can start their home swapping, from searching to holidays. The instructions are very simple, divided into three steps: 1. Search listings, 2. Make contact, 3. Enjoy free holidays. Right under the instructions there is a register button where people can register and join the membership. After they join the membership, they can list their home and try to search for a house that they are interested in.

Home listings provide details and photos of each home and details regarding their location, nearest airport, how far the airport is from the house, the house owner’s preferred destinations and dates and swap length. There is also a profile of the owner, house details, house amenities, local attractions and activities, the house location map and the owner’s preferences (eg. preferences regarding children, pet, car swap etc.). I think it is so handy for users to find the right swapee before actually contacting the person. They can narrow possible contacts down according to their preferences on date, destinations and house details, based on the information provided.

Unlike to Aussie House Swap, Home Exchange 50 plus targets seniors whose ages over 50. The navigation of the site is easy to navigate around. It is easy to search for houses listed according to nations and regions the users interested.

With the listings of houses, Home Exchange 50 plus does not provide as many details of listed houses and owners as Aussie Home Swap does. The site provides basic information but no information about the house owner’s preferred destination, which is quite important for the users in order to find their suitable home swap partner. In addition, the site does not give proper owner’s profiles explaining their family – whether they are single or couple. Aussie House Swap includes a section on the user’s preferences, and asks users to write their home swapping experience, information which would be very informative for those who seek a house. While AHS succeeds in giving as much information and details as possible about the house and its owner, HE5 fails to provide this important information.

Design approach

Aussie House Swap is visually appealing to the average user with little technical background. For some people, the site might look boring, having a simple design approach. However, I think the simplicity of design is suitable for informative/business websites as the purpose of the site is to give information about home swapping rather than to entertain the users, which requires more creativity. I believe the site design successfully achieves its purpose. On Home Exchange 50 plus, the site is exclusively designed for seniors. Again, the site is not fancy in appearance but has all content displayed in a simple design. The navigation of both sites is also easy. Both have a searching tool on the sides of their pages, which allows users to find houses listed according to nations and regions that they are interested in.

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