02/07/2013 04:08 pm ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

8 Easy Ways to Choose a Home Swap Club and Enjoy a Dream Vacation for Half the Price

Do you want to vacation in a flat in Florence, or a cottage in Canada, or a mansion in Mexico for FREE? The place to begin is to join a house exchange club. The good news is there are more than 70 clubs to choose from. The bad news is there are more than 70 clubs to choose from.

One company lists 43,000 house swaps from 155 countries! Another offers 5,000 house swaps in 81 countries. One home swap agency has a network of Christian members and yet another has gathered together Jewish members. There's a home exchange company for seniors and one for teachers. The options are endless. Soooo, I've put together a list of...

8 Easy Ways To Choose a Home Swap Club

1. Location, Location, Location - When you search for a house exchange you need to achieve two things: a) find a suitable home in your dream city and b) find an exchange partner who wants to visit your city. Let's say you want to vacation in Paris. If a house exchange club has 20K members, but they have only 100 homes in Paris, you have less of a chance with them than you would with a home swap company with 10K members and 1,000 homes in Paris. Key takeaway: before you join a home exchange agency find out how many homes are available in the city you want to visit.

2. Number of Listings: Sometimes it's all about numbers and increasing your odds of booking an exchange. When you join a home swap company you'll want to remain a member with them for several years, so although this year you may want to enjoy a home exchange in Paris, next year it might be Madrid. Consider all eight ways to select a home swap club and choose the company that feels right and meets most of your priorities.

3. Price: Annual fees for home swap clubs range from free to $500. Most companies fall in the $50 to $100 range. Clubs that offer more exclusive homes generally charge higher fees; Love Home Swap is $159 annually and Home Base Holidays is $45. Many allow you to look around their website for free; I encourage you to invest 30 minutes on three different house swap websites and determine which one has the most homes that match your style.

4. Maximum Number of Photos Allowed - High quality photos of your home are the single most important way to attract a top home swap. Some home exchange agencies only allow 4 photos; other agencies allow an unlimited number. When you home exchange you'll want to know exactly what you're getting, and you'll want to see photos of the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and yes the bathrooms too. When getting your home ready for prime time follow these 7 Photo Tips.

5. Reverse Search: This feature is way cool! It allows you to easily find home exchange partners who want to visit your city or state, as opposed to you looking at the entire list of members and just hoping to find someone who wants to visit your region. For example, let's say you live in New York and want to visit Canada. On the website there are a total of 2,496 Canadian house swaps available. By using the reverse search tool I was able to determine that 75 people with homes in Canada want to travel to New York.

6. Website Ease: Website friendliness is really subjective, but there's no question that some sites are easier to use than others. The only way for you to know for sure is... you guessed it, go online and try a few sites yourself. Remember, it's free to look around most house exchange company websites; you just can't contact the members until you join.

7. Language Translation: After 14 house swaps in nine countries my husband and I have always communicated with our swap partners in English. But just in case, a few home swap agencies offer translation options. HomeLink International and offer translation tools for 16 languages and offers 5 languages.

8. Response Rate: I lovingly refer to this as the deadbeat rate. Some people join house exchange clubs and then don't ever exchange; they don't even respond to house exchange requests. (Go figure.) Don't waste your time with them; focus on the members who are actively seeking and responding. Look for members who have a 75% and above response rate. HomeLink International has member response rate that is quick and easy to see.

You now have the facts to select the right home exchange club to fit your needs. Begin your research now. Your dream vacation is out there.

Home swap has enriched my family's life; it can do the same for yours. If you want to learn more about home swap have a peek at my blog at Home Exchange Expert or follow along on Facebook.