LoveHomeSwap Review May 2016

 Review updated: May 2016

lovehomeswap.comLoveHomeSwap

Founded in 2009

14 day free trial

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

English and French

Significant venture and private equity funding since 2011

90,000 listings (claimed) in 160+ countries

Review update notes: I’ve found Love Home Swap (LHS) to be quite useful for finding both points-based swaps and simultaneous exchanges that meet my travel needs. Overall I get a lot of value out of this home exchange network. They are one of my go to sites, particularly for the points-based swapping flexibility. This site isn’t perfect for everyone, but in the past year I’ve met a lot of new 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). Below I mention a few criticisms of this site, things to keep in mind when deciding if this is the right home exchange network for you.

LHS continues to make it very difficult to count listings. They now claim to have 90,000 listings in 160 countries, but I can’t verify this or break membership out by region. Searches appear to turn up significantly fewer than would add up to this number. In fact, a brute force search where I leave all parameters blank (which should return all homes on the site) gave me only 8,256 listings. As I mentioned above, I find a lot of matches for my swap needs, but I wish I could explain this large discrepancy in listing numbers.

One other important note about LHS: I have found their customer service people to be very personable and responsive. In fact they have some of the nicest support folks I’ve encountered. But the technical team is not particularly quick or responsive about fixing very basic problems with the site. I have also heard a number of complaints over the past year 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. 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: 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. 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. And although they expanded the filter options this past year, it is still a very limited list, 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.

A few thoughts on swap points:  Since rolling out this feature LHS has really improved on integrating it with the regular listings, and allowing people flexibility around dates for point swaps. And with the calendar availability feature it is possible to see when people have space for points use, although I think a separate calendar for swaps vs. points would provide even more accurate information (my home is available for points use the last week in June but I’m  not available to do a simultaneous swap during that week). This is one of my favorite features of LHS, and a significant reason for maintaining my membership on this site.

Sadly this year LHS changed the way they do points valuation. They used to be the only site that had a set rate for points for all properties (100 points per night). I prefer this valuation since it is the same way I think about a simultaneous exchange: a one for one swap. Now they allow people to set variable points value for their homes, something that makes no sense to me in the context of a home exchange website, and I think this encourages gaming the points system.

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. As mentioned above, there are a few significant bugs on the LHS site that have persisted for a very long time. For instance, right now when trying to set up a swap request the date fields don’t work properly, leading to requests that are offset by a day on each end.

Additional features: Love Home Swap is focused on acquisitions and innovative new features. This includes swap points and home insurance options. Overall this is a site to watch for the latest developments in home exchange, and a significant player due to their size and funding. 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.

 

6 Comments

  1. hi there, love your reviews. thanks for posting them. i have one question. — where are you located and where are you traveling. I’m trying to decide between lovehomeswap (where i’ve done a trial) and homeexchange.com. i live in austin tx andwill travel mostly in the US.

    • dawnzerly

      June 9, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Hi Steven, I’m in the U.S. but traveling mostly internationally. I think for domestic travel homeexchange.com has a larger proportion of members in the U.S. than LoveHomeSwap (although LHS doesn’t make it easy to figure this out so that’s just based on my anecdotal experience). So for your purposes I think HE.com will be your best option. Let me know how it works out!

  2. thanks so much!

  3. dawnzerly

    September 8, 2016 at 10:39 am

    In response to a reader question I asked LoveHomeSwap directly what it would cost me to purchase points and here’s the response: “You can top up your points by buying them from us when you have a trip ready to agree, if you are short on the amount you need. As you are a Lite member, the cost would be $3 per point, and if you were to upgrade to our Platinum membership it would cost you $1 per point. Depending on how many you need to purchase, we can negotiate the price.”

  4. This site is fraudulent. Its filters (which a customer enters for their home availability) are not operational; therefore One receives inquiries for times and durations that one has not offered. Of the dozens of inquiries I received for my apartment in the United States only one was for the the months I had specified as available, and that was for a week rather than a month which was my minimum available time. I never initiated a search for a place. The site was not operational for 10 days out of the two week trial period. So effectively I had paid use for two weeks and the organization refuses a refund. Stay Away!

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