Home Exchange

Soliciting (spamming?) for guests on home exchange networks

soliciting

Home exchange is a relatively labor intensive process. It often takes many inquiries to find a match for a trip you want to take. Now, in addition to searching for matches for places to stay, there’s a growing trend of members soliciting for guests on home exchange networks that allow hosts to earn credit towards future stays. And I’ve been hearing complaints from house swappers who say they’re getting solicitation messages that are clearly sent to lots of members of their network.

These networks operate either in points per night or a credit per stay. One of the few that offers one credit per stay, HomeExchange.com, uses “balloons.” These credits are earned/spent as one per stay, regardless of the length of stay. This means a balloon is potentially very valuable. You could spend two weeks at someone’s home with one balloon.

HomeExchange.com launched balloons back in 2016. It took a little while to catch on with members, but seems to have grown quite popular. This is, in my opinion, a good thing. It gives house swappers more ways to find swap matches. While I’m out of town visiting family or friends I don’t need a place to stay, but I’m happy to host someone and earn a balloon.

Recently though, I’ve noticed a trend towards members soliciting for guests on HomeExchange.com in a format that I have to call spam. Some solicitations are targeted and thoughtful: someone with a home in Denver will send a message to people looking to visit Denver mentioning the dates their home will be available. That’s fine with me. But recently I got a message on the HomeExchange.com platform that is a great example of un-targeted solicitations:

“Hi, If you have ever thought about visiting Ashland? August is the very best time to visit! Prime weather and infinite hiking, rivers, streams, fishing, the Shakespeare Festival, other festivals, amazing restaurants, small town atmosphere and vibe. We are looking for a red balloon credit in exchange for you staying at our home here approximately August 2nd through 8th.”

The message goes on to describe the attributes of their home, and then concludes with:

“p.s. we just moved so the photos and description on Home-exchange are incorrect. I will be taking photos in the next day or so and can email them to you.”

I can’t imagine the logic that would lead someone to send a message out to presumably lots of people (nothing in my profile suggests I want to visit Ashland) but not bother to update their profile first so that people can actually see the home they’re being invited to visit.

Getting spam is annoying on any platform. But the main problem with receiving solicitations like these is the response rate measurement. I really like that house swap networks publish response rates of members. This can save you a lot of time by identifying the inactive members so you don’t bother to reach out to them. But this means you have to respond to these messages or your response rate will go down.

I’m starting to understand why people are complaining about the solicitation messages. I can’t think of an easy solution to this problem. I hope the networks start to think about technical solutions, and perhaps also remind members that targeted messages are far better than random solicitations.

4 Comments

  • Really interesting observation. We don’t yet offer points or credits but we did have one member say they didn’t want to be part of a network that did and I gather that’s because of this type of activity. On balance I think it’s a worthwhile feature and we will probably introduce something similar in the near future.

    One thing we’re working on right now is a bulletin board style feature so that members have a place where they can advertise their place for a specific time in a location that people are more likely to see. It’s sort of an open blog or a bit more like a Facebook feed.

    As an operator of a network, I wouldn’t want to see anyone spamming other members. I haven’t seen it happen yet on People Like Us and I’d take a very dim view of such activity but you could easily see that it may happen before you get a chance to jump in and stop it. Maybe something limiting the number of individual messages that a member can send in a 24-hour period? I’d be interested to find out what people think would work.

  • I can’t see the problem. I live in Australia and like to visit the UK regularly. I send out 50 or so queries to everyone who lives in an area I’m looking for, and I’ll eventually get a positive response from someone who likes the idea of visiting Sydney even though it wasn’t mentioned on their list of places they’d like to go to. Arranging a long-haul exchange just takes a bit more organising than a weekend or a few days, as it’s usually for a few weeks or months.

    And I’ve had queries from places I haven’t planned going to, such as Cape Town and France, and consequently done a wonderful exchange.

    It’s certainly not spamming. The one you mention where they say they’re moving house and will put up new photos, is often genuine in my experience.

    I’ve been exchanging for ten years via 3 different HE websites, and it’s been amazing.

    • This is a good point Gara, it does take a lot of queries to find an exchange. I think the difference here is that people are soliciting for guests, not for an exchange. So they are just advertising a time when their home will be empty in the hopes that someone will come stay there so that they can earn a balloon. And as a result, some of these requests are relatively unfiltered, instead being sent only to people in a specific place they want to visit. Nonetheless, I agree that these requests could result in a fun destination for someone open to visiting new places.

    • Hi Gara,

      This is a good point. I’ve thought myself that I want a way to be able to say “I’d like to travel in October and I don’t care where I go … who wants to come to Sydney at that time?”

      That’s what I was thinking about with the Facebook-like feed or open blog on my site. You can set a time when you’d like to travel or write it in your description but it’s quite a passive way of advertising and people wouldn’t necessarily see it. I want a way of members being able to openly talk to other members, or to advertise.

      Would that work for you?

Leave a Comment