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HomeExchange.com COO Jim Pickell on how Home Swapping is revamping Collaborative Consumption

One day, when I was flicking through the TV channels, I came across this very interesting movie called ‘The Holiday’. Released in 2006, it is about two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet), drowning in men-related problem. In order to find a shore to breath, they both use a home swap website and decide to exchange their houses for two weeks. And as usual, they end up finding their happy endings in the foreign land.

Wondering if this is possible in real life? Guess what? IT IS!

“Hey there! Let’s Collaborate and Exchange our Houses”

Collaborative Consumption is not a new concept. In fact, barter system is the oldest form of exchange which dates back to 6000 BC and has been in existence long before money was introduced. Today, the trend of exchanging homes has taken over the runway, and we have globalization and technology to thank. With internet as the prime catalyst, the world has shrunk and networking as well as connectivity has only grown stronger. Now a person sitting in the US can communicate, collaborate and swap his/her house with another person in Singapore for a certain period of time. Besides, one more thing that has motivated people to revive and propagate this form of sharing assets is the shift in their attitude and preference towards a more sustainable future and environment. Hence, instead of ‘buying accommodation’, they are opting for ‘leasing or exchanging homes’.

Jim Pickell, COO of the industry leader HomeExchange.com, says “While the internet has certainly created opportunities for traditional businesses to achieve remarkable economies of scale (or to be replaced by those that can), those seeking to remove/reduce the fundamental inefficiencies in asset ownership have a long way to go. Take cars, for example –  the average person’s car has a large “vacancy rate” while it sits in the garage and depreciates. The potential for improving how we utilize our vehicles is well within reach as evidenced by regional car sharing businesses sprouting up around the globe. The same principles apply to everything from bikes, to tools and of includes, of course, the most significant asset most people purchase in their lifetimes, their homes. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that people are realizing not only that under-utilized assets are wasteful, but that there is a direct opportunity cost to this waste to the owners individually, as well as to society as a whole.  Think about it… Bringing millions of vacant “room nights” to the market is disruptive and certainly a very big thing.

He further added, “Collaborative consumption is simply basic economics.  People always try to maximize the value of a portfolio of “stuff” and to improve their return. Assuming this evolution continues, we’ll certainly continue to cut a lot of waste out of our society.”

HomeExchange.com, which has been providing incredible home swapping experience to its members since 1992, is one of the torchbearers in elevating the collaborative consumption of houses. Jim believes, “We’ve been banging the drum that there’s a better way to do things for many years.  Most early exchangers were pioneers, ahead of their time. They loved the sense of adventure that came with home exchanging as new cultures revealed themselves. The concept grew only with much attention on retaining our trusted community. This trust was core to the past and the future of the movement. While others seem to be approaching the sharing economy as a short term opportunity, we believe that preserving and protecting the underlying values is critical to sustain the momentum. Our role and commitment is to continue to build and retain “trust” in an increasingly interconnected society.”

Now you must be thinking, “What is it in for me?” Jim very well discussed the benefits of using home swapping services like HomeExchange.com. His favorites are:

  • You stay for free!
  • There are typically no check-in or check-out times.
  • You can get to know what it’s really like to live in a real neighborhood.
  • You have someone to watch your dog!
  • You get to know a real human being in the process, often from a different culture.
  • Many days you open your emails and receive an exchange request from places you have never dreamed of visiting with an offer that’s so compelling you cannot turn it down. (“It hard to explain until you experience it!” -Jim)

 

MY HOUSE IS YOURS: A Worldwide Study on Home Exchangers’ Profiles and Motivations

Professor Forno and Garibaldi of the University of Bergamo realized that, despite the rapid growth of ‘exchanging homes’ concept, not much research has been done on this field. Hence, they allied with HomeExchange.com for the study ‘MY HOUSE IS YOURS: A Worldwide Study on Home Exchangers’ Profiles and Motivations’, and surveyed their 46,000 members. The results are summaries below:

  • HomeExchange.com Participant Profile

It might surprise you that the biggest piece of the sample group pie, i.e. 28.3%, falls between the age bracket of 45-54 years old; and the smallest, i.e. 5.9%, belongs to the participants who are 34 years old and below. 62.1% of them are graduates and above. In addition, around 70% are employed, 24.9% are self-employed and 24.1% are retired. And nearly half of the sample population have children.

 

  • HomeExchange.com Experience

When talking about the duration of membership, every 3 out of 4 members have been the part of HomeExchange.com for over a year, and their motivation to join was to save money (33.3% of the respondents) and travel more often (23.1% of the respondents). Besides, every 4 out of 5 members have participated in at least two exchanges. Since there are wide variety of houses available, nearly 35% and 23.6% of the exchangers have opted for 2 to 3 bedrooms and 1 bedroom apartment respectively. 76.8% of subscribers are ‘very satisfied’ with their HomeExchange.com experience and this can be proved by 42.1% members who enjoy their duration of accommodation for 2 weeks – 1 month.

  • HomeExchange.com Travel Profile

The top three reasons for traveling given by the participants were to experience different cultures (46%), escaping routine (19%) and relaxing (18.3%). Besides, around 84.3% of the members on their vacation prefered to explore the destination by visiting parks, museums, etc. and  68.9% prepared their own meals at home. When asked about their interest in cultural heritage, more than 90% gave a positive response. In addition, nearly two-third of the sample group also realized the significance of environmental friendly tourism like HomeExchange.com. During a non-work related trip, nearly 27% and 26% of the members spent an average cost of $1000-1900 and $500-999 per traveler (respectively). And when they were not using home swapping services, 78.5% of them used high end accommodation options like hotels, resorts, inns. bed and breakfast, etc.

  • Social Involvement and Trust

There is no doubt that home swappers are environmentally conscious people with critical consumption habits like purchasing organic food (73.5%) and fair trade food (65.3%). Out of all the survey participants, 59.1% were actively involved in civil engagements like community services (32.8%) and wildlife preservation (22.7%). What’s interesting to note is that 75.3% of the HomeExchange.com members believed that “most people are trustworthy”, which forms the crux of collaborative consumption pursuits.

 

So for all those aspiring Entrepreneurs and Startups in the field of Collaborative Consumption, Jim has some words of wisdom for you especially for you.

“Monetizing peer-to-peer relationships by taking a transaction fee will most certainly be a huge market; however, the most interesting opportunity to me involves creating an exchange of physical assets that’s not dependent on selling, but rather on the higher utilization that comes with sharing. There is a tremendous opportunity to find inefficiencies in the market, but eliminating them is not always easy. It is dependent both on building trust (which has no precise formula) and the continuing evolution of people’s mindset. While a few major players will find hyper-scalable opportunities, most successful businesses will succeed by their persistence. Many will fail. I feel we’re just at the beginning and it’s incredibly exciting!”

-Jim Pickell (Chief Operating Officer, HomeExchange.com)

 

Do you have a Startup idea on the lines of trending Collaborative Consumption? Are you looking for a Tech Partner who has just the right skills, resources and manpower to turn your idea into a successful reality? If yes, then you are at the right place. Get in Touch now and schedule a free call with Juggernaut Experts.

 

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