HomeExchange recently announced a clean up of home swap listings in their network. Lots of inactive and incomplete listings were removed from search results. This is good news. It’s a waste of time for active home exchangers to wade through incomplete listings from people who aren’t actually interested in house swapping. People often call these “ghost” members, and you can see why from the picture that is displayed.
Here’s what HomeExchange posted at the end of December: “we have done a little bit of a cleanup and you will no longer find homes that are less than 80% complete and that have not been active for several months in your search results! This has been highly requested by many of you so we hope that it will make it easier for you to organise your exchanges” “you will no longer find homes that are less than 80% complete and that have not been active for several months in your search results … we have put 145 847 homes offline…”
I decided to test out the new search to see if the impact was noticeable. The first thing I noticed is that HomeExchange now limits results to 10,000, regardless of the search area. So I can no longer count total listings in a broad search. That’s very bad for transparency. I understand that this might speed up search optimization but there’s no longer a way to independently verify HomeExchange’s listing claims.
To look at the search in more detail I did some tests on Toronto. Here’s what I found:
Toronto HomeExchange search results on January 2nd:
- 22 without pictures
- 43 with response rate <80%
Of the 136 listings with response rate >80%
- 14 without pictures. Only 2 of these are not new members so presumably 12 are working on their profiles
- 1 with a response rate of 75%, not sure why that member showed up in my search results
I put this post aside as I went to HomeExchange with some questions about the de-activations. A few weeks later I came back and decided to run the same search again. It looks like they de-activated a few more listings in that time.
Toronto HomeExchange search results on January 16th:
- 19 without pictures
- 43 with response rate <80%
Of the 131 listings with response rate >80%
- 11 without pictures. Only 1 of these is not a new member. But this person has no information in the profile at all and no pictures, just a complete calendar, and a 100% response rate. I guess that qualifies to stay active as they are in fact active responding to requests.
It looks like the de-activation of inactive and incomplete listings is an ongoing process. That’s what I would hope as it should be easy enough to automate a process that could be running daily or weekly.
Overall this is a big improvement in the search results. Especially when I use the handy filters to only show homes with pictures and homes with >80% response rate. This gives me exactly the homes I want to see in a search. In this case 120 homes in Toronto.
Some people argue that listings should not go live until they are entirely complete (pictures, description, and all the details). I think the other side of this argument is that getting people live and searching for swaps helps hook them into the network. And it encourages them to build a more complete profile. And with this cleanup it’s quite easy for me to look only at relevant listings in Toronto.
I’m still trying to get more clarification from HomeExchange about how many members didn’t opt to pay for membership on December 2 when they eliminated the pay-per-swap membership option. But these people were not necessarily de-activated. Members can remain on the platform without paying, they just can not confirm exchanges that involve their own travel. Members can still host guests without paying. So I’m sure a lot of the de-activated members were folks who didn’t opt to pay the annual fee. But if they’re still active on the website they will not be removed.
Some people are concerned about this as a privacy violation. But as I’ve explained before, this data exposure is common practice among the home exchange networks. There are very few that entirely restrict access to listings to only paying members. Check out that link to read more about this risk and the potential reasons behind the practice.