LoveHomeSwap Review May 2017

Review updated: May 2017

lovehomeswap.com

Founded in 2009

14 day free trial

$240/year membership, $408/year standard (always on sale for $276), $816/year platinum (always on sale for $408)

English and French

Significant venture and private equity funding since 2011

49,000 listings (estimated)

Important note on membership claims: the Advertising Standards Association in the UK recently ruled that LoveHomeSwap’s membership claims are misleading. They required the network to remove these claims from their website. Previously they claimed 100,000+ listings.

Through brute force I come up with about 49,000 listings. There are another 65,000 listings that are not complete (none of them have pictures, and many are missing details about the property). I assume that everyone with a paid membership has a complete profile, as this is not a cheap price for a home exchange network. This means the incomplete listings are probably trials, and potentially inactive or deactivated members. For instance I found one that says the person was a member since 2008 but it’s still awaiting a picture. It also has very little description. I’m betting this was a trial that never joined.

Note: In last year’s review I wrote: “A brute force search where I leave all parameters blank (which should return all homes on the site) gave me only 8,256 listings.” I think this was an underestimate due to the forced default search option “editor’s choice” which appears to actually eliminate most of the listings from your search results (?!?). When I sort by “all listings” I get the counts I am reporting here. I can’t verify that LHS is displaying unique listings to me, but this is my best estimate at an honest count of active listings, something they make very difficult to calculate.

Here’s a geographic breakdown of active listings for the few broad categories that are searchable:

  • United States: 8,196
  • Europe, Middle East and Africa: 29,535
  • Australia: 4,169

Overall I get good value out of this home exchange network. They are one of my go to sites, particularly for the points-based swapping flexibility. And I’ve met some LHS members who are very enthusiastic about the high touch experience that LHS offers with their higher priced memberships. (I only pay for the basic membership). However, I have also talked to a lot of people who have big complaints about LHS. In addition to the false advertising issue, I have also heard a number of complaints about shady billing practices leading to people paying for a membership they didn’t want and the LHS team refusing to refund the (rather high) fee. I’ve also heard from people who complain that the members on the network are less responsive than other networks. LHS seems to be one of the more profit-driven home exchange sites, which is not necessarily a bad thing if we want house swapping to grow in use and functionality, but definitely not great for members if it’s reflected in poor customer service.

Searching: Overall I’m disappointed with the LoveHomeSwap search functionality. Searches all start with a blank to fill in for geography and travel dates. I have discovered that it’s best to leave off the dates even though these almost appear compulsory. Doing searches just based on geography, and adding in filters later, will return better results. Restricting searches by dates is only useful if your dates are completely inflexible. It is also very important that you change the default “Filter By” box to “All Results” or you won’t see all of the homes available for your search. When I did a test search on San Francisco leaving that box with the default “Editor’s Picks” I got 66 listings. When I changed it to “All Results” I got 462 listings! I can’t believe I never noticed this before. And I also can’t believe the default setting eliminates most results from your searches. That’s a terrible design.

Within the geography/date search results there are a number of filters to use to narrow down the matches. You can change the results view to see listings on a map, though you cannot redo your search dynamically within a narrower map area, a feature that would be useful.

Searching on “people who want to visit where I live” or people matching my travel dates only turns up exact matches and does not include those open to anywhere or anytime. The other filter options are very limited, for instance requiring a non-smoking home, or limiting the number of people in your the swap family are not options.

Listings: The search results are clean and easy to review with some good basic information displayed. Individual listing details are nicely organized and they display the status of any discussions underway.

Within the user profile you have the option of EITHER saying you are open to traveling anywhere OR listing some specific destinations you want to visit. You can not do both. This is a problem as I find that most travelers have specific destinations in mind but are actually open to most anywhere. But some are very specific about target destinations. I want to see desired destinations because matches there make for a great swap opportunity, but I also want to be able to say I’m open to anywhere.

In the member profiles I find the system of telling people to write “3 things about us” less useful than just requiring some standard information. For instance, not everyone mentions their family size in this section, which is a very important point for most people looking to find a match for a swap.

This site offers the following variations on house swapping:

  • simultaneous or non-simultaneous house swap – this is the traditional model where two parties swap houses for an agreed upon set of dates. Non-simultaneous works best with second homes, but is also useful for people going on vacation and leaving their home empty. In this case each party picks different dates for the swap.
  • vacation rental – the usual rental system applies here, and owners collect payment via LoveHomeSwap. There is no additional fee for owners renting through this site.
  • swap points – earn points for letting others stay in your home while you are away, and then redeem those points to stay in any of the other homes participating in the program.

Site design: This website has a newer generation look and feel, though this is a case where slick design does not necessarily translate to ease of use. Some features on the site that should be obvious are not easy to find. I had to actually email customer support to find where they hid the option to review houses you’ve swapped with. And some people can’t figure out how to “accept” a swap because it is far from intuitive. Also the member home page that comes up when you log in is mostly useless as a landing page. There are also a few significant bugs on the LHS site that have persisted for a very long time. For instance, for several years now there is an issue with the date fields offsetting swap requests by a day on each end.

Additional features: LoveHomeSwap has some innovative features. This includes swap points and home insurance options. And for those who like a high touch experience, the LHS premium membership options offer significant customer service and support.

The email system is reasonably easy to use, but you can’t archive discussions without sending a formal rejection of a swap, even if you initiated the discussion. (They call archiving “deleting” which is a bit unnerving.) And when I do this sometimes the declined swaps stay in my inbox with no indication that I’ve “declined and deleted.” Also the site blocks out personal email and phone number information until you have committed to a swap with firm dates on the site. This is rather inconvenient when trying to work out details which would be better done outside of their email system, or just trying to send someone basic information like the public transportation website for your city.

If you’re trying to figure out which one to join, check out my reviews of all the major home exchange networks.

1 Comment

  1. The ‘Filter by’ drop down is important. My research strongly suggests that the default filter of ‘Editor’s Pick’ shows all of the current (paid and trial) listings. Changing the filter to ‘All Results’ shows all listings that have ever been on the site including long expired free trial members.

    I know of one lady who took a free trial in 2009, completed her listing but did not join – her listing is still shown under ‘All Results’ 8 years later. That’s why the default is set to ‘Editor’s Pick’ so that users primarily contact current members. If users contact long-expired members, the expired member will still get the message but will have to pay a significant fee to reply – hence the low response rate.

    Last time I counted the ‘Editor’s Pick’ listings in February, I got 8478 listings. It is my conclusion that this is a much more realistic estimate of the actual number of active listings i.e current paid and current trial members – far lower than the figure that you quote.

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