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.