See updated My Twin Place review from July 2016 here
Adding to the growing number of home exchange websites that facilitate points-based exchanges, MyTwinPlace recently re-invented itself with a “nights exchange” model that allows users to earn points for hosting travelers in their homes.
I wrote a series about home exchange points a few months ago that includes:
In those posts I addressed the basics of how points-based swaps work and the variations on these points systems. MyTwinPlace has opted for the model where the value of each home is calculated using an algorithm they created. Their algorithm is based on the rental price of a home, and if you imported your listing from a site like Airbnb (a nifty import feature they offer), they will just use your listed rental price where 1€ is equal to one point. As they explain: “If your listing has not been imported, we’ve developed a unique system that, by comparing your home’s characteristics to those of other homes on the market, calculates an average price and assigns a points-per-night value to your listing on your MyTwinPlace profile.” As a host you can modify your home’s points-per-night value.
Founded in 2013, this relaunch of MyTwinPlace represents a significant change from the original functionality and swap system, and I think it reflects an attention to the market and demands of folks they hope to attract to home exchange. I asked Jean-Noel Saunier, the co-founder of MyTwinPlace, why they decided to switch to a points-based model and he explained: “Our vision is to enable our members to book ‘free accommodation’ in amazing places in a similarly easy way as booking a house on Airbnb. And at the end, the point system is only one part of the equation.” He described the value of their exchange system: “Our unique Nights Exchange model solves the common ‘triple coincidence’ problem faced by many travelers wishing to do a traditional home exchange. This problem forces two members to travel on the same dates, to stay in the same type of houses, and to visit a compatible destination…this is difficult to coordinate. With MyTwinPlace, members can host travelers when their house sits empty and earn points that they can then use to book a house whenever they want to travel. ”
I think Saunier is right about the value of the Nights Exchange model in addressing some difficulties in setting up simultaneous swaps, but there are a number of people in the home exchange community who do not like the point-based model. I addressed some of their concerns in my Answering the Critics post. One fear of points-based swappers is security and trust: since the people staying in your house are not simultaneously hosting you in theirs, you may not be as comfortable trusting them in your home. MyTwinPlace attempts to address the issue of trust with travel insurance for all home exchanges. This insurance covers accidental damage to stuff in a host home, up to €3000, and also offers the traveler trip reimbursement if the host cancels at the last minute. They even offer coverage for alternative accommodations in the case that the home you selected was falsely advertised and is substantially different than represented.
Here’s a post with my overview of insurance for home exchange
In my original review of MyTwinPlace last year I raised several criticisms: searches were slow and inaccurate, searches returned insufficient detail on the overview display, and overall the site moved very slowly. They have addressed most of these complaints, although I still don’t love the overview of listings returned from searches. I think it should provide more information at a glance to help travelers more easily select which listings to view in detail. And MyTwinPlace still doesn’t make it possible for me to count up how many listings they have in total, or broken down by continent, data that I think potential members will want as they select from among the many home exchange membership site options.
Finally, in rolling out all of these updates to their exchange system, MyTwinPlace has modified their fee structure since my original review: membership is still free but travelers now pay 9.99€/night. This fee includes the travel insurance described above.
People who sign up for MyTwinPlace now are given points equal to the value of 7 nights in their home. That’s a pretty good startup bonus, and a good way for MyTwinPlace to seed the system with folks who have points to spend. If you’re looking to test out a points-based exchange system, MyTwinPlace is a good option to investigate.
Here are a few resources to help you select the right home exchange membership site for your needs: