Janet and John Merrywest, a couple from the UK, recently started a new home exchange network: Home Sweet Home Exchange. They bring years of house swapping experience to this endeavor. Just launched in 2019 and still offering free lifetime membership to the first 1000 members, I was curious to learn more about the project. I talked with Janet and John via Skype. They are working together on this project, and answered questions in tandem, building on each others comments. Below I’m attributing responses to both of them.
Why another new home exchange network?
ShareTraveler: With so many home swap networks already out there, why create a new one?
Janet & John: Good question. We’ve been passionate about it for quite a few years. There are a lot of people out there talking about sites having problems. It was sad to hear the stories so we just decided last year that maybe we should just start our own. We’ve had a lot of fun with home exchange. Let’s just go back to basics, people can home exchange and meet new friends and families. We’re old school, back to the old way, just have fun exchanging. Travel around with the least hassle as possible. Were just trying to make it as easy as possible for people to move around the world and not have big expenses and enjoy home comfort.
ShareTraveler: What networks did you use before creating this one?
Janet & John: We started with Home for Exchange, we were with them for 7 years and they were fine. We had a break for a year. When we decided to go back to exchanging we went with their sister company Love Swap Home as they had a home we liked in Ko Samui, Thailand.
ShareTraveler: What about other networks?
Janet & John: We didn’t quite like their layout; we thought we could do a better layout.
ShareTraveler: What background do you bring to this project?
Janet & John: We are passionate about travel and meeting new people, new cultures and local life. We’ve done lots of travel and house swaps over the past 9 or 10 years. And we like the community of home swappers because they’re such friendly people. Jan’s retired and I’m just about to retire in the next few months.
What’s under the hood?
ShareTraveler: Who is doing the software development work for Home Sweet Home Exchange?
Janet & John: Our son Peter, is a Graphic Designer and he bought a directory package from Brilliant Directories. The package included 4 websites he only needed 3 so offered us the 4th one to build our home exchange website. Brilliant Directories comes with software support, blogs, workshops and recommendations for developers and market researchers (freelance). And a data protection cover.
ShareTraveler: I see you plan to charge £50 per year after the first 1000 members join, what services can members expect for that fee?
Janet & John: We will be there to support our members if they need any help. We’re there 24/7 to help them along. This will help pay for the technical support for the website, keeping it current and cover the costs to keep it running.
ShareTraveler: How are you getting the word out about this new network?
Janet & John: We have employed a market researcher to work alongside us to help get the word out that we are here.
ShareTraveler: What sorts of special features will members find on Home Sweet Home Exchange?
Janet & John: We have a Favorites platform whereby members can save their favorite homes. A Private Chat platform where members can chat securely without having to disclose their personal email address, ensuring data protection. If they wish to share their personal email it is their choice with their selective exchanger. And also a Review platform so that members can express their experience good or bad.
ShareTraveler: Do you have plans to launch a system like points or balloons?
Janet & John: No. I don’t think it works well. I think it takes out the personal friendly part of home exchanging. What we’ve seen with the research we’ve done is that people who have the points system are not really respecting the homes because they’re not coming back to theirs. When you swap with someone else, house for house, you respect each others’ homes because you don’t want to come back to a mess. If you’re just swapping your home using a points system you haven’t got that same respect.
What does the future hold?
ShareTraveler: Do you have a target audience?
Janet & John: The whole world. We’re fortunate, we’ve had a few people come from all around the world. We’ve got about 25 listings now.
ShareTraveler: Is 25 listings on pace with your expectations?
Janet & John: We don’t have any expectations. Every one that joins we get excited. This is a new concept for us as well. We launched April 23 . Our anniversary actually.
ShareTraveler: Where do you hope to see this project in 5 years?
Janet & John: That our members are having a good and happy experience with our website.