If you’re traveling and need a place to stay, there’s a new option that won’t stress your wallet. Home-exchange website Love Home Swap has launched a Facebook application that may introduce a little more serendipity to your life.
The movie “The Holiday” tells the story of two lost women, looking to reconnect with their lives in new places. Kate Winslet, who plays a unlucky-in-love Londoner, switches homes with the uptight Southern Californian, Cameron Diaz. The two travel to their distant new homes, meet new people, and fall in love (I was surprised too). Love Home Swap basically does the same thing, but through a Facebook application.
“It’s using your biggest investment — your home — to facilitate your lifestyle,” said Debbie Wosskow, chief executive of Love Home Swap, in an interview with VentureBeat.
The application lets you connect with the person you are swapping with to see if you have any mutual friends, check out their home through provided photos and, get to know each other. The app is intended to be more image-heavy since it’s so easy to share photos on Facebook. People also get a ranking based on how much they use the service, how much content they’ve provided, and if they leave reviews.
Wosskow, who is a Londoner, says she’s used Facebook to keep in touch with every person she’s swapped homes with. She connects with people, checks them out, and has even repeat home-swapping friends. The company also suggests connecting with people through video chats, such as Skype, before the actual swap.
Wosskow explained that swapping websites did exist before, but have been “all about Craigslist, nasty, nothing that skewed toward stylish.” She saw the opportunity to use a person’s social graph to connect homes, facilitate a safe feeling, and make it easier to verify that your house is really what it says it is. Love Home Swap originally existed only on its website, but soon allowed people to use Facebook Connect to join.
But swapping is the only option. It doesn’t have to be completely symmetrical, though. Similar to “The Holiday” where Winslet and Diaz trade a small English hamlet for a large, modern LA home, actually swappers often trade city lofts for country houses, and other combinations. Love Home Swap has no interest, however, in becoming a paid-rental website such as Airbnb or HomeAway.
“We’re swapping purists, the space is so over crowded with rentals,” Wosskow said, “Swapping is about a connection that you’re building with another family.”
Love Home Swap originally started as a luxury-home swapping website, where only people with a certain level of digs could apply. Wosskow started with this market because she believed it would be easier to prove her business model with higher-end transactions. The expanded site formally launched in November, and divides its target markets into Europe, the U.S., and everywhere else.
“U.S. is [really] our biggest market,” she explained. “People are more accepting of this collaborative, touchy-feely [business]. Especially in California.”
Honestly, I just want to swap internationally so I can finally be the one with the adorable, foreign accent.