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New Trend: Home Exchange is Displacing Airbnb in the Housing Market

Over the years, Airbnb has been one of the most popular platforms for tourists to rent apartments or houses from private owners for short-term vacation stays. However, in some cities, prices of the service have become so high that travelers have started to reconsider its use. Recently, Airbnb has encountered serious competition from a concept called “home exchange,” which is gaining popularity. The idea is that homeowners when leaving their house for a certain period, offer to let others stay in it almost for free in exchange for the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home.

According to Bloomberg, offering your home in exchange for staying in someone else’s is not a new concept, but this often overlooked segment of the travel industry is thriving amid high inflation, the normalization of remote work, and skyrocketing hotel prices. This trend is also supported by growing dissatisfaction with short-term rentals and the tightening of regulations on home rentals in major cities.

Home exchange popularity

Kindred, an invite-only platform with access to 30,000 homes in 100 cities, founded in 2022, saw an 800% increase in home exchanges in 2023 compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, HomeExchange, founded in 1992 and boasting over 170,000 members in 140 countries, reported a 53% increase in home exchanges in 2023. ThirdHome, a platform exclusively for owners of luxury properties valued at $500,000 or more, with 17,500 homes in 100 countries, increased its membership by 41% and home exchanges by 16% over the past year.

Risks for homeowners

Despite its advantages, many travelers avoid home exchange, considering it an unattractive option for budget-conscious travelers due to the risk of property damage. However, experts reassure that this problem is mitigated by thorough vetting of exchange participants. Platforms like Behomm and others emphasize that they pay special attention to verifying each participant, from identity documents to home photos. While there are risks of minor damages, such as spilling wine on a designer sofa or placing an electric kettle on a stove, these issues are usually resolved quickly. The greater risk during exchanges involves significant material damages or physical injuries while guests take care of the home.

To protect homeowners, many home exchange platforms offer coverage, ranging from $100,000 on Kindred to $5 million on ThirdHome. Some homeowners also include coverage for third-party damages in their insurance policies.

Meanwhile, Airbnb disputes that its appeal has diminished due to the new home exchange trend. “With over 7.7 million listings and more than 1.5 billion guests arriving in almost every country worldwide, we believe we provide travelers with the opportunity to connect with local communities in far more places than any other travel site while ensuring important safety measures to help protect their trip,” said a company spokesperson.

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