I’ve written a few posts about the rocky integration of HomeExchange.com into the GuesttoGuest swap network. They are now jointly called HomeExchange. In the GuesttoGuest network many home exchanges are done using GuestPoints. This system is carried over into the new HomeExchange network. This GuestPoints system facilitates exchanges that are not simultaneous and not between the same people. I wrote a three part series on home swap points a few years ago that explains points-based swaps in detail.
On the HomeExchange network, members can purchase GuestPoints for cash. This concerns some people who don’t want any money in the home swap equation. Here I want to look at that option in detail. I think some of the concerns are justified. Some are based in misinformation.
How does points purchasing work?
GuestPoints purchasing is only possible when a member is finalizing an exchange and is short some number of GuestPoints. Members can pay 0.1€/GP up to 20% of the total needed for the exchange. Any points on top of the 20% cost 1€/GP. I really don’t think the network intended to make money on this points selling system. They are purposely pricing the first 20% very cheaply to maximize the number of swaps people can do with their GuestPoints. However, the system leaves open the possibility that people could never host anyone and only pay to “swap,” essentially renting homes on the platform.
This is the answer from the HomeExchange folks to the question: “Is there a difference between guest points I earn and guest points I buy?”
Here’s an example with my home. My house is priced at 110 GuestPoints per night. To stay for a week would cost 770 GuestPoints. Theoretically someone could buy that week stay in my house. The first 20% of 770 would cost €15.4, and the other 80% would cost €616. The total cost to rent my home for a week is €631.40. Interestingly, that’s pretty close to what people in my area charge for an Airbnb rental. At that point I’d say my swapper would be better off just going through Airbnb since it’s quick to book and availability is clear. Arranging a home exchange typically takes some negotiating and requires the personal approval of the swap partner.
Is points purchasing bad?
So is this points purchasing a problem? Well if you don’t mind the GuestPoints system maybe not. Letting people pay to stay in your home is just one more way to earn points. It increases the number of people who might be guests and increases your ability to take spend points on your own stays. But I do agree with those who say that there is a fundamentally different ethos around home exchanges vs. home rentals. People staying in Airbnb rentals expect more of a hotel-like experience. While home exchangers tend to be quite a bit more conscientious about property care and cleaning. And home swappers are far more focused on the relationships: making friends with swappers, sharing tips about local things to do, etc. Airbnb is essentially an anonymous exchange. I personally don’t want swap partners who are just paying for exchanges and never hosting.
However, I think allowing people to top up their points balance so they can stay 7 nights when they only have 6 nights worth of points seems reasonable. So if I could change the system I would still allow topping up, but I would not allow more than 20% of the points to be purchased.
In the end, most home exchangers are judging their potential guests on previous swaps. So if you can’t show a history of swapping, and you’re not new to the whole home exchange system, it’s going to be harder for you to find exchanges. I agree with those who want to keep pay-to-stay options off the home swap networks. And for the most part I think it’s a self-limiting community that will drive renters off to real rental networks like Airbnb.