Instead of a Hotel try Knok Home Exchange

A apartment available in Santiago, Chile. photos:
A apartment available in Santiago, Chile. photos:

Knok Home Exchange: Swap houses and live abroad on the cheap

By Alyssa Pirrello

Wouldn’t it be easier if hotels could be more like your own house? Knok Home Exchange is here to make that happen. Who wouldn't prefer to have a home with several bedrooms and not have to lay out hundreds per night? How about just being willing to trade your home for a new one some place else?

How Knok Works

Knok Home Exchange is a home exchange program with over 30,000 houses in 159 countries. Knok uses technology to allow potential home exchange matches to find each other and communicate. Users can send each other messages or they can simply “knok” on someone’s door.

A “knok” is similar to a “poke” on Facebook- it sends a notification to the owner of the home you “knok-ed” on and shows them that you’re interested in an exchange. If they’re interested too, they can “knok” back on your door and you can begin a conversation.

To look for a home exchange match on Knok, you must sign up for an account, but you can use a free trial at first to see if Knok is truly for you. Once you’re on the website, you can search for houses that match your criteria, send messages to potential partners, and finalize home exchange details by signing a contract.

Home up for Exchange in Paris on
Home up for Exchange in Paris on

The Details of a Home Exchange

There are many details to discuss when going on a home exchange: one of the major questions being the dates of the exchange. People are surprised to find out that home exchanges do not need to be simultaneous. It is possibly for your family to stay in a home while another family is on vacation elsewhere, and then have that family stay in your home while your family is away. This makes it easier for everyone to travel during their vacation time.

To accommodate even more people and make travel easier, Knok is about to launch a new scheme called Knok Days, a universal calendar system that will allow people to do multilateral exchanges. For example, a family in Paris could go on a home exchange to London. The London homeowners would then get credits for this exchange, and they could spend them to stay in another person’s house anywhere in the world.

This system will increase the number of exchanges that will happen and will also create a more positive experience for customers, allowing them to travel where they want to go with less hassle.

Other details to figure out include how to get the house keys, who should do the cleaning, and which other amenities are available to use. Many people leave their house keys with neighbors for their home exchange partners to pick up.

Typically, people leave their homes clean with fresh bedding and towels out, and home exchange partners will decide beforehand whether or not the houses should be cleaned at the end of the exchange. Additionally, home exchange partners may agree to let one another use their cars or other amenities in their contract.

Why is it so important to have a contract? Because Knok Home Exchange’s insurance only works if the exchange has been officially contracted and agreed upon. The insurance provided through Knok supplements people’s individual home insurance. It would cover things beyond what normal insurance would, such as a TV or computer breaks. The insurance covers up to 50,000 Euros of damages. Sheera Gendzel, the head of Knok’s Business Development Team, explains that “we’re the only home exchange provider that provides this type of insurance worldwide.”

Knok’s headquarters is located in Europe, so they currently have more Europeans participating in the program than Americans. However, since most home exchanges are international, the surplus of European houses can be a great reason for Americans to sign up. For families looking to explore outside of North America in Europe, Australia is also an easy option since Australia is the seventh fastest growing country in home exchange on Knok.

What's the benefit? offers home exchanges in places like Brooklyn, NY. So chic! offers home exchanges in places like Brooklyn, NY. So chic!

Knok home exchangeAccording to a Knok infographic, the top five things people report valuing most from participating in a home exchange are the money they save, the increased level of comfort, the bigger space, the ability to stay longer, and the fact that they are able to make new friends through the home exchanges.

Most people converse via email a lot with their exchange partner before the trip, so they know where to find the best restaurants, markets, and attractions that might go unknown to most tourists.

Sheera Gendzel explains: “There’s a couple of great things about it. The first thing is you’re staying in someone’s home--you have more space and are more comfortable, and you are seeing the city through their eyes. You’ve messaged back and forth, you’ve built a relationship with them. It’s an authentic travel experience.

”The founders of Knok recently spent six weeks in San Francisco through a direct home exchange, while the family from San Francisco stayed at their home in Barcelona. They saved thousands of dollars by using Knok instead of staying in a hotel, allowing them to stay in San Francisco much longer than they would have been able to.

An additional perk of a home exchange is living in a new city as a resident for a short period of time. For the founders of Knok, going to San Fransisco was incredibly interesting, for their company is based around technology and San Francisco is known as being a center of technological innovation. On the other hand, their home exchange partners worked in design, so living in Barcelona was an equally fascinating for them.

In addition to families, couples, and retirees looking to travel, Knok is experiencing a growing segment of freelancers and startups that are using their home exchange program. Since most freelancers can work remotely from wherever they are, it’s easy for them to use the Knok home exchange program to live in a new city for an extended period of time.

With the sharing economy growing as a movement, home exchanges are definitely the method of travel of the future. Knok Home Exchange makes finding people to swap houses with simple, affordable, and safe through their website and policies. For travelers who love to truly experience a new culture, nothing can compare to staying in someone’s home. For more information on the Knok Home Exchange program, visit

Alyssa Pirrello is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst who now lives in Boston.