Consider this situation: Marcia has deactivated he listing on a home exchange network because she is moving to a new place. Maybe she is selling her old home and hasn’t bought a new place yet. But she knows she wants to take a trip next summer.
Obviously Marcia can’t set up a simultaneous swap for next summer. Without a new home to list she has nothing to offer prospective exchange partners. But on the growing number of points-based networks, it should still be possible for Marcia to spend points she has earned for lodging for her summer trip.
It turns out this isn’t possible, at least not on the networks I tested (LoveHomeSwap, GuesttoGuest and HomeExchange.com). They all prompt you to activate a listing before you can contact other members.
There is a good reason to have a limitation like this built into the system. Home exchange is an exchange. And networks don’t want to encourage people to game the system and accumulate points to spend without hosting folks themselves. While not super gamable, there are certainly ways to earn or buy points without hosting. And people doing this will be bad for the network by driving down availability.
However, in the case I describe above, I suspect this limitation is more technical than ideological. People who have earned their points by hosting could go spend those without hosting anyone. And that’s not a problem for the home exchange system. In fact it’s bad for a network to have active listings that aren’t real because that just makes members waste time contacting people who can’t host them. And the effect of this policy is to force members who have legitimately earned points (or balloons in the case of HomeExchange.com) activate listings that are not actually available.
I realize that solving this problem would take some technical work as I believe there should be a restriction on new people spending points without having a listing. But for those who have hosted and earned points, this restriction should not exist. Perhaps it could be within a limited time frame to encourage people to return to listing as soon as possible. I’m happy to consult with any networks who want to talk about how to implement this solution in a fair way.