Home exchange platforms return with strategies targeting remote work
Home exchange platforms see an opportunity to capitalize on the rapidly growing trend of flexible working and the appetite for more “authentic” experiences.
And the fact that they’re offering free, or at least more affordable, stays during a post-pandemic travel boom that’s skyrocketing the costs of flights, hotels and vacation rentals is another favorable condition. But the challenge for the home exchange industry, once associated with classifieds and ad sites, will be gaining the trust of customers.
A handful of well-known investors see potential in a new network, with venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz leading a $7.75 million funding round for a platform called Kindred in April this year.
Co-founders Justine Palefsky and Tasneem Amin previously worked for real estate tech company Opendoor, and brought in former colleagues Eric Wu, co-founder and CEO, and Rohan Seth – who co-founded the audio platform ClubHouse. Elad Gill, who had previously invested in Airbnb, also participated.
The concept of these platforms is that you pay an annual subscription and you must have an approved house yourself. You agree to exchange with another accommodation, as well as any cleaning costs. Kindred, for example, charges $300 per year, and a service fee can be around Service $30 per night. However, some platforms, such as Intervac, accept accommodations that are also rented.
Palefsky thinks the biggest vacation rental companies have become “over-commercialized” today.
“Airbnb and VRBO have increasingly professionalized their offer. By and large, their inventory comes from full-time investment houses,” she said. “People aren’t comfortable joining Airbnb or a similar business with their primary residence because it’s become more professional. That’s where it all started, but (now) that’s not where the host lives from day to day.
She added that her backers’ interest was piqued because, according to her research, there are about 800,000 Airbnbs in the United States, but 150 million primary residences. “It’s a very, very big market,” Palefsky said. “People spend a lot on travel. But what appealed to Andreesen was seeing how many primary residences there are around the world that aren’t on any vacation rental platform.
Palefsky launched the company in April last year after struggling to find properties on her own to work remotely.
“Holiday rentals don’t come cheap, especially if it’s longer than a few nights,” she said. “I considered becoming a full-time digital nomad to avoid paying double rent, but that wasn’t a practical long-term option.”
Kindred aims to differentiate itself from the crowd, which also includes Homelink, by focusing on themes (similar to Airbnb’s latest redesign.) Rather than searching by dates, Kindred has taken the organized route.
“Instead of sending 60 emails to different houses, you only contact the right house that matches the date and style you’re looking for,” Palefsky said. “We’re moving it from the listings to the managed marketplace.”
Established player HomeExchange launched a similar feature called Collection earlier this month. After a soft launch at the end of 2021, a new collection includes 300 homes (out of a total of 450,000) that are certified based on aspects such as available technology, wellness or family features, and even works of remarkable art.
HomeExchange, which charges $1,000 on an annual subscription, also now allows members to lend their homes without reciprocity, as guests can gift GuestPoints to use later.
There is certainly innovation in the market, but Kindred now needs to evolve. It currently has 500 accommodations, but a waiting list of 6,000 applications. “We are growing, but trying to do so in a thoughtful way,” Palefsk said.
Every well-moderated webinar or online conference leaves time for a Q&A session, but speakers found themselves caught off guard at a recent event that aimed to address the complexities of digital nomad visas.
The usual questions were asked during the webinar Let’s Talk Visas – The Modern Way of Nomadic Freedom, hosted by Boundless Life and Relocate.
Lawyers and accountants from Greece, Italy and Portugal shared the ins and outs of managing application processes to help remote workers seamlessly transform into digital nomads. They discussed golden visas, entrepreneur applications, short and long term residency permits, family reunification, blue cards and citizenship processes.
But one member of the public threw this curveball: Can a child be born a digital nomad to digital nomad parents? First, Italian accountant Nicolo Bolla: “Every time a baby is born, we have a big discussion about the new floor. If a baby is born in Italy, he is not a citizen.
Greece’s Eleftheria Charalambous said parents can apply for a visa for them, while in Portugal, if the parents have been legal residents for more than a year, they can automatically apply for Portuguese nationality for the child or apply for a card residence hall, according to Sara Sousa Rebolo.
Then followed questions about childcare and nannies. Italy offers a dedicated au pair visa. Sousa Rebolo said she wanted Portugal to offer the same.
A more serious question is what happens if a digital nomad overstays their welcome. Don’t, seems to be the answer.
10 second catch up on business trips
Who and what Skift covered last week: Air France, American Airlines, Capital A, Choice Hotels, CWT, Multilingual Meetings, NH Hotel Group, Saudi Arabia, Sonder.
SAP Concur adds new counting app Another Cabon
Travel and expense tool SAP Competition added the Choose Climate carbon management platform to its app hub. It helps organizations measure, reduce and manage their travel-related emissions. The Application Center offers 270 partner applications, but SAP Concur said it is one of the first extensions to be built on the SAP Business technology platform. The addition follows its Thrust Carbon partnership, to enable travel managers to offer live show reporting, which went live in March.
United Airlines signs 20-year aviation fuel deal
United Airlines and United Airlines Ventures purchase at least 300 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from the utilization company Dimensional Energy. United aims to be ‘100% net zero green’ by 2050, without the use of traditional carbon offsets. Dimensional Energy eliminates the need for fossil fuels, converting carbon dioxide and water into usable ingredients.