This week the new Home Exchange network was launched, merging HomeExchange.com and GuesttoGuest. This follows on the acquisition of HomeExchange.com by GuesttoGuest almost two years ago. At that time GuesttoGuest said it planned to keep the two brands separate. Emmanuel Arnaud, one of the founders of GuesttoGuest, spoke with me about the future of the two networks shortly after the merger.
I think it was smart to wait a while before making major changes. But I see no good reason to keep the brands separate long term. That defeats the point of the acquisition. And a well done integration of networks should result in a much larger pool of potential swaps for all members. Unfortunately, the integration has been anything but smooth.
The technical team choose the GuesttoGuest web interface for the new website. I think this was an unfortunate choice from a user experience perspective. I’ve always found this website less slick than others. HomeExchange.com, on the other hand, had a pretty nice interface. I’d guess the reasons for this have more to do with the backend, including the Guest Point system and the insurance built in to the new site that came over from GuesttoGuest.
A lot of people from the HomeExchange.com network are unhappy. I think in large part this is due to the lack of testing of the new website before it was rolled out. It sounds like even the ambassadors for these networks weren’t given a chance to test and provide feedback. And a lot of features from the old HomeExchange.com website have not yet been integrated. Further, many people had log in issues. And others found their home profiles partly or entirely lost. (I now have duplicate profiles, but not much information was lost).
I think GuesttoGuest (now called Home Exchange) could have handled the technical side of this integration much better. And they should have done more to prepare people for the changes. The technical issues can be fixed. But there will always be people who are unhappy about the merger because they don’t like the new system. Most of the complaints I’m hearing are around the conversion of HomeExchange.com’s Balloons into the Guest Point system used by GuesttoGuest. Many people feel that Guest Points devalue the home swap ethos. They don’t like putting a value on homes. It’s too similar to an Airbnb price per night. Instead these folks want to focus on simultaneous and non-simultaneous swaps. Some people are setting their home value to 1 in protest, and making it clear in their profiles that they will not participate in points-based swaps.
In the coming year we may see some significant fallout from this merger. I expect some people will leave the new behemoth network that is Home Exchange. This could be a boon for the smaller networks as these folks want to continue house swapping. But it’s also possible that people will adapt to the change. Change is always hard. Hopefully this integration will lead to lots more opportunities for swaps with the expanded membership. The new Home Exchange network claims 400,000 members in 187 countries.