House-Swapping: the Cheap Route to Ritzy Travel


Lavish 13,000 sq foot Villa looking out to the handsome marina in Cabo San Lucas, and the gleaming Sea of Cortez beyond
Listing # : 1458
Location : , MEXICO
Nearest Airport: San Jose del Cabo Distance to Airport:
Region Type : Beaches and Shores, Golf/Resort, Other
Bedrooms: 6 Bathrooms: 10 Sleeps: 18
Offered As : Home Exchange and Vacation Rental
Property Conditions: No pets, No smoking indoors
Available: Available All Year
Member: spartacus
Desired Destination: Open to all offers,
Specific Destination:

How ’bout a swap meet? No, not the kind where you buy second-hand junk from a vendor and homemade tamales from a truck but the kind where you connect with someone who lives somewhere you want to go (like a villa in Cabo San Lucas) and you exchange your digs. Now, that’s a romantic way to meet, if you ask me.

It all starts with listing your place and finding a good trade, either via Craig’s List regional ads or through one of the many online home exchange services. According to Move Trends, the recession is generating a boost in swaps with listings jumping from 20,000 last year to 27,000 in May of 2009.

It’s a great strategy for those with homes or apartments in desirable locations. I remember a Bay Area lawyer once telling me he was able to swap his turn-of-the-century family home in Alameda for a castle in Great Britain. Another friend is headed to Israel this summer, trading her family’s L.A. digs for a nice pad in Jerusalem. She wants some holy land. They want Beverly Hills. You don’t have to own a luxury estate for your home to be attractive to other travel bugs. Simply having a pool, garden or being close to a city hub could close the deal.

Also, don’t think it’s just the last resort for folks who can’t afford a luxury hotel or other inn. A recent article on swapping in New York Magazine recounts the story of  David Drake, a wealthy NY venture capitalist, who swapped his sprawling, 4,000-square-foot Soho loft with a baby grand piano and plasma TV for a 2,000-acre cattle ranch near Houston, Texas. “It was amazing!” he shared. ” We got to shoot, we got to ride. Rather than pay $5,000 per night at the Four Seasons to get a really nice suite, why not?”


It’s a sign more moneyed homeowners are securing this form of budget travel for a variety of reasons, including being able to get an authentic cultural experience in an exotic region with all of the comforts of someone’s home. New York Magazine interviewed Margaret Carr, owner of Exclusive Exchanges, who says a man with a Tuscan villa is receiving many inquiries for his property from affluent swappers willing to trade their fancy co-ops and Manhattan penthouses.

I had concerns, myself, about swapping because of strangers using my bedding and furniture and living with my artwork and other personal belongings. This is why so often those with luxury properties swap their vacation homes rather than primary residences. The vacation homes are often staged with decor designed to be used by renters.

Which areas are most sought after for swaps? According to Carr, New York is the top destination, followed by Paris. Maybe it’s not just that these cities are exciting and romantic but also because lodging there can run a small fortune.

Images: Noah Kalina

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.