Home Exchange website lets you stay in luxury properties around the world for FREE – just like in The Holiday

YOUR next holiday could be completely free – as long as you are willing to let someone stay at your house.

Website HomeExchange, where you swap homes with someone else around the world, has seen a boom in UK properties signing up, which lets families swap their houses to stay somewhere else for free.

While this can be a simple house swap across the UK, you could find yourself in Paris, New York or even Hawaii without having to splash the cash on a hotel or Airbnb.

Originally launched in the US in 1992, Emmanuel Arnaud bought the website in 2002 before relaunching it Home Exchange.

He explained his reason for wanting to create the website, which now has more than 14,000 homes in the UK.

He told Sun Online Travel: "I find the prospect of home exchange quite amazing, the idea you could stay around the world and not have to pay for accommodation.

"I also thought that companies at the time were not doing a good enough promise for it as a concept.

"Airbnb is helping us – they have made it common for you to sleep in another person's home, and not at a hotel."

Similar to the film The Holiday, where the two female leads swap houses for the week, all you have to do is sign up your own property and then you can start looking to swap.

On the website, properties in the UK range from one-bed flats in cities such as Glasgow, London and Manchester, to four-bedroom houses in the countryside.

However, you don't always have to straight swap with another property, which could be difficult to agree on the same time and same location with another host.

Instead, they offer Guest Points – so you can stay at someone else's house, while they stay elsewhere.

He explained: "It's a points system where I contact you to stay at your house in say London, but you may not stay at mine at the same time.

"You then get points, and use it for somewhere else.

"In some cases you swap homes, in other cases, you swap hospitality, so you will welcome and be welcomed.

"I created Guest Points as I had been frustrated myself – I was living in Paris and tried to go to Florence, but I couldn't get it organised as they said their house was available but they didn't want to go to Paris."

With hosts given an average amount of guest points just for filling in their property details, they can then earn more as they stay more – and can build up to stay at much larger, or luxury destinations.

For example, you can get 700 guest points for creating a profile and your first listing – enough for five nights in Majorca.

Not only are all the pictures checked by hand, but they also have strict protection policies for both guests and homeowners.

You can sign up for annual memberships for $150 a year, but this covers all unlimited exchanges – of which Emmanuel said he has done more than 40 himself – and property damage coverage.

The guest point value for a property is determined by size, location and the amenities, so you can expect to have to shell out more to stay somewhere nicer and nearer the beach.

The pandemic has affected where people are wanting to stay, Emmanuel added, with a "big dip in demand" for cities, but growth for rural destinations.

He added: "Right now, 52 per cent of bookings are local in the UK while in 2019, only 15 per cent were."

He continued: "I think Covid going to have a lot of people thinking about how important travel is in their life.

"I really think home exchange will make them think that it's a good deal as there are no cancellation issues.

"During first lockdown, when you buy a plane ticket or book room, you've paid some money, and then the platform has to decide how much to give you back. That's a very complicated process between host and guest.

"For us, as there is no money exchanged, they were easy to cancel, the only thing exchanged was guest points.

"We refunded the guest points and let the guests keep the points as we wanted all members to feel happy."

He said: "We know that is is an interesting, or scary concept, but once you have done it, and experienced it, gives it a different perspective as it's simple, but free."

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