Love Home Swap is one of the few home exchange networks that includes a system of points-based swapping. On this network members can do simultaneous and non-simultaneous swaps, which don’t involve points. Or members can host and stay to earn and spend points.
The recent integration of HomeExchange.com members into the GuesttoGuest platform (now called HomeExchange) resulted in a lot of discontent from HE.com folks who were not accustomed to a points-based system. Some of the complaints I’ve heard are not just about the system but about how members of the HomeExchange network interact. People will send out requests to stay, treating the points just like money. Some folks expect that availability listed in the calendar should automatically result in accepted stays, without any discussion between the host and guest. I’ve seen messages where guests criticize potential hosts for turning them down. And for some, the cleaning and home prep required is not worth the effort to host someone for just a few nights.
I’ve been wondering why I don’t see these sorts of problems or complaints on Love Home Swap. The interactions on this network are definitely more transactional than on other networks I use. I have had very nice communications with all of my LHS swap partners. But it seems less personal and more shallow than is common on other networks. People focus on the business of arranging swaps, not on getting to know their swap partners. And LoveHomeSwap is actively pushing the transactional use of home exchange points. They recently launched an instant booking option that looks a lot like Airbnb’s booking system.
To be fair, Love Home Swap doesn’t run a Facebook group so there isn’t a forum for discussion among the members. But even in other home swap forums I don’t hear complaints about points-based swapping from LHS members. It’s possible there is a lot of discontent I’m not hearing. But I doubt it. At the price they are charging, Love Home Swap members who are unhappy should just quit and find another network. This certainly isn’t the largest or best run of the home exchange networks.
I’ve been thinking about why this more transactional system works for Love Home Swap members. The homes on this network are generally quite high end. I think this is because they are the most expensive home exchange network ($228/year), and because they started as a luxury-focused network in the UK before expanding. This might lead to less concern about how many points each home is worth. Also, because the network introduced points years ago, everyone who joins is familiar with the system they are getting into. You don’t join LHS if you don’t like points-based swapping.
So why are so many HomeExchange members unhappy? Obviously the forced integration of members from a platform that used a different model for points-based exchanges (balloons) created a lot of this unhappiness. But I don’t think that’s the only issue. One major difference between Love Home Swap and HomeExchange is that Love Home Swap charges a high annual fee for membership while HomeExchange offers two membership options: an annual fee or pay-per-night. With the later option, members join for free. They have no skin in the game, and in fact are incented to do shorter stays since that costs less. There’s also the possibility that some of these people will game the system: using the free points they get for joining without ever hosting anyway.
I think that the HomeExchange network would be better if everyone paid an annual fee. This would address some of the problems with inappropriate requests for points-based stays, which seem to be based on a misunderstanding of how home exchange works. This change would probably result in a significant drop in members on the HomeExchange platform. But most of those folks aren’t really active in the network anyway. They have profiles that are just distractions; homes showing up in searches but not really being available to host. The hurdle of paying an annual fee is a level of commitment that helps ensure trust and mutual understanding in a home exchange community. And in a network that includes points-based exchanges, I think an annual fee is essential.