- Travelers are using social media to arrange house swaps with strangers.
- It’s allowing them to circumvent subscription and membership fees charged by home exchange websites.
- Nicola Murray told Insider how she’s arranged 20 house swaps over the years.
The first organized home exchange network is thought to have been created by teachers looking for a more affordable way to travel during summer breaks. Since then, house swapping has transformed into a booming market with high-end property owners paying hundreds of dollars a year to become members of exclusive home exchange sites.
To avoid fees and waitlists on websites such as Kindred and Thirdhome, some travelers are arranging house swaps on social media like Facebook and TikTok.
Nicola Murray, a freelance marketing consultant from Australia, has participated in 20 house swaps over the past 10 years, she told Insider, some of which she arranged on Facebook. Even with the extra assurance of a third-party vetting website, inviting a stranger into your home requires a “leap of faith,” Murray said.
Murray said she always takes the time to get to know her fellow house swappers over video chat and listens to her gut when it comes to any red flags. She also thinks the benefits of house swapping outweigh worst-case scenarios, like someone stealing their TV or ruining all their furniture, she told Insider.
“You have to be really trusting,” Murray said. “99.9% of people in the world are good people and they’re trying to do the right thing.”
Along with her husband and 10-year-old daughter, Murray is currently living in a four-bedroom home in Oregon as part of a three-month house swap for her family’s two-bedroom apartment in Florida. Both Murray and her husband work remotely.
She said house swapping has allowed her family to travel to Australia, Paris, and Connecticut over the past eighteen months, with trips to Denmark and Norway on the horizon.
“In this whole world of fear-mongering that we’re living in at the moment, it’s a nice little patch of something so trusting and human that you’re sharing,” Murray said.
How to use social media to plan a house swap
Murray first tried house swapping by exchanging homes with friends and mutual acquaintances, she told Insider. Once she got a hang of that, she started connecting with fellow travelers on Facebook and using websites like HomeExchange, she said.
A quick search for house-swapping groups on Facebook shows in dozens of pages, many of which are organized around lifestyle similarities.
House swap groups with hundreds of members exist for vegans, kosher travelers, solo women over 50, and even alumni of certain universities. There are also pages for people who want to travel to specific countries and cities.
Many of these groups are private and require an administrator to approve your request. To join, you answer a few questions about yourself and agree to the group’s rules.
Other travelers have arranged house swaps simply by posting videos of their homes on TikTok and Instagram and connecting with interested parties that way.
In order to verify their identity and home, it’s important to video chat with the person you’re swapping homes with. There have been times when Murray has asked to Facetime people and received radio silence in response, she told Insider — an obvious red flag.
When it comes time to swap homes, Murray said she stores all of the family’s valuables in a locked safe and establishes some ground rules, but doesn’t exchange any money or written contracts. In some cases, they will agree to look after each other’s pets or use each other’s cars, she said.
After using both Facebook and HomeExchange, Murray said she prefers paying a fee for an official website or app for the extra peace of mind it provides.
“You set up so much in your life — school, work, and everything — to literally pick up your life for three months and drop it somewhere else,” she told Insider. “There’s so much that goes into it that you want to make sure it’s actually going to happen and be successful.”