The House Exchange system allows all social housing tenants from landlords nationwide to search for mutual property exchanges. House Exchange needed a website that works hard, in real time.
House Exchange is operated by the Clarion Housing Group as a joint venture with 101 to allow all social housing tenants from landlords nationwide to search for mutual property exchanges. The House Exchange system is an online database of property information provided by tenants relating to their current rental property as well as the type of exchange property they require. House Exchange finds matches for them in real time, checking many criteria including geographic location.
House Exchange started life as a local mutual exchange database for housing tenants in and around Norwich. 101 approached Clarion with the idea of making it a national property matching system, and the joint venture was formed. At the time, the only similar system was a government-sponsored project which unwieldy and unloved. Today, the system is directly supported by around 200 landlords whose tenants use the system free of charge, together with thousands of tenants from other landlords who pay a small fee.
The system is very firmly in the public sector. In 2010, House Exchange was part of a group brought together by the Department of Communities and Local Government to discuss how competitive systems could work together to improve the opportunities for tenants to find a mutual exchange and to move from a paid service to a 'payment by results' service. 101 and House Exchange have supplied technical solutions that have been adopted in both cases.
In essence, House Exchange is an online matching agency. It puts people with matching property requirements in touch with each other, based on specifications such as existing and desired property type, location, number of bedrooms, rent, parking, garden, double glazing etc.
From this data, it is fairly easy to match most characteristics. However, location matching is not straightforward and represented a significant challenge to implement in real time across tens of thousands of users. The system also needed to have a completely separate administration interface to allow landlords to manage their tenants using the system.
Our response was to create a web solution that provides access to the House Exchange service on four different levels:
- Trial access to enable new users to try the service and view related pages about how it works
- Members' access to the main system, which is used by the majority of visitors after they have logged in
- Landlords' access, enabling them to review tenants' activity and operate the system on behalf of tenants who do not have online access
- Administrator access for Clarion and 101 to manage the site content and, to some extent, the landlord clients
The heart of the site is the matching of tenants with others so that a mutual exchange is possible. In most cases, this is a direct match where the tenants swap with each other. In these cases, we have created new geographic techniques to make searching fast enough for real-time operation.
This is a significant advantage over competing systems which do their matching offline and restrict access only to the lists compiled overnight. Unlike our system, new properties aren't available until a new list is compiled.
Powerful matching algorithms
We developed such powerful new matching techniques for House Exchange that the system now allows tenants to investigate multiway chains of property matches. With this feature, tenants can review lists of properties that match their specifications as part of multiway chains, rather than being limited to simple one-to-one exchange possibilities.
Multiway searches require complex processing and, impressively, the system 101 developed for House Exchange delivers these search results in real time.
Supporting landlords and tenants
The website's administration system offers landlords an insight into which of their tenancies are over or under-occupied and whether tenants are looking to upsize or downsize. In some crowded inner city boroughs, this information allows landlords to identify and approach tenants (usually with incentives) about alternative property options where their current property size and family size are mismatched.
The system scans all new property registrations and alerts existing users to novel matches. This happens in real time throughout the day.
House Exchange app
Following the development of the House Exchange website, 101 was commissioned to create a mobile app to provide users with access to the system on the move for up-to-the-minute notifications of matches and messages.
What Our Client Said
"As one of the largest Housing Associations in the UK, we needed to work in partnership with a company that we could rely on to produce an attractive, hardworking system which reduces administrative costs for our landlord clients and satisfies the needs of tenants.
"101 are full of bright ideas and work with us to explore together how we enhance and improve our online services."