Love Home Swap – Transforming the way we go on holiday
Love Home Swap, a home exchange website, was established in the UK in 2011. The founder had just had a deeply disappointing holiday in the Bahamas, sharing a cramped hotel room with her two children – while her lovely London home sat empty. She was watching the Cameron Diaz home-swapping romcom ‘The Holiday’ on the flight home, when she had a ‘Eureka!’ moment. Home exchange sites were not a new concept in America, but in the UK, it was still a relatively unexplored idea. And the rest is history! 10 years on, and Love Home Swap has helped thousands and thousands of happy members find authentic, original and unique holiday accommodation. They are on a mission to transform the way the world travels! Here, MumAbroad gets the lowdown from Managing Director Célia Pronto.
What do you think the main appeal of a home exchange is? And do you think that during 2021 a home swap will be more appealing due to the way people want to go on holiday?
It’s such a great way to travel. Our members don’t just get to stay in stunning accommodation (that would cost an absolute fortune if they were to rent it), they also benefit from all the mod cons that come with staying in a real home, rather than a rental property. On average, our members save £1,065 for a one-week swap – which means they’ve got more spending money on their holidays. So it’s not really surprising that 36% of our members holiday more than 4 times per year!
2020 was challenging for all of us, and the price increase in holiday rentals has been shocking. Many people accepted those prices last year as they were so desperate for any kind of break, but it just isn’t sustainable to spend money on overpriced holiday accommodation every year. People are also understandably wary of staying in hotels and holiday rentals that can be crowded, so we’re seeing more and more members join us every week – which is great news for everyone, as it means that our members are benefitting from even more incredible properties to swap with – and the scope for loads more holidays.
Why do you think Love Home Swap works well for families?
A huge amount of our members are parents, so when you swap homes with another family, you don’t just get to benefit from their home – you get access to their family-friendly lifestyle. That means children enjoy child-friendly bedrooms packed with toys, and gardens with climbing frames, treehouses and trampolines! Members often agree to swap cars (though what you choose to swap is entirely up to you), which means access to car-seats. And home swappers with little people enjoy access to stairgates, highchairs, cots and so much more. Our members also share tips about their local areas, so when you arrive at a home swap, you already know where the best family-friendly restaurants and cafés are, plus where your closest park, swimming pool or safe cycling route is.
What do you think most users of Love Home Swap are most surprised about after using the platform?
Probably three key things. Firstly, the money you can save on a holiday is immense, which makes it a much more affordable way to travel. Secondly, the homes on our site are incredible. Whether you’re looking for a chateau in France, a tropical retreat in Fiji or a cool city pad in Berlin, we’ve got something for absolutely everyone. And thirdly, everyone is amazed by how friendly, engaged and helpful our community is. Our home swappers are passionate about using their homes to unlock money-can’t-buy experiences – they know this is a great way to travel and they openly engage with each other to make every home swapping experience special. They leave treats for each other on their arrival – fresh flowers in the vases, a bottle of wine or even a homemade cake – and they look after each other’s homes as if they were their own. It’s because of this community spirit that lots of our members make friends with the people they’re swapping with.
Can you sum up how Love Home Swap works?
Once someone signs up as a member after taking their initial two-week free trial, it’s really simple. Our members browse the website for a location and the dates that they’d like to travel. Once they’ve found somewhere that they love, they then message the other homeowner to introduce him or herself and explain why they’d like to stay in their home. If the other member is happy to let them stay, they agree the details – then book their flights and pack their bags! There are two main ways for home exchange – members can choose from a simultaneous Classic Swap, where they swap houses with someone else, either at the same time or on different dates (in a nutshell, they come to yours and you go to theirs – and you don’t pay a single penny other than your membership fee). Or they can opt for a non-simultaneous Points Swap, in which the guest can offer ‘Points’ to the host for the number of nights they’d like to stay. Points are Love Home Swap’s virtual currency, and they can be spent at another time, in another location. This type of swap offers the ultimate flexibility as it allows members to travel without having to match their plans – which works really well for our members who have two or more homes.
Can users swap homes anywhere in the world?
As long as we’ve got members in that country, yes! We currently have members in more than 100 countries across 6 continents.
Which regions/countries tend to be the most popular?
Our key regions are America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland. We’ve also got thousands of homes across Europe and Asia, and plenty of options in lesser-travelled destinations such as Panama. In total, we’ve got more than 18,000 homes across the world.
There are obviously travel restrictions still, so presumably users can just travel within their region or country if needs be?
Absolutely – we witnessed a huge increase in staycations in all of our key markets last year, and we know that many of our members are planning local travels for this summer too. Since the start of Covid-19, around 50% of swaps among UK members have been within the UK, up from around 30% in previous years. The same happened in the USA. Many Americans are used to travelling exclusively within their own country, but the number of US home exchanges in 2020 rose from 40% to 70%. Of course, there are also a lot of conversations happening between our members about travelling further afield later in the year too. We’re all excited about the borders reopening!
If people have Covid concerns, how can they be reassured?
Interestingly, 36% of respondents to our most recent survey said they were more likely to do a home exchange rather than a hotel when they next go on holiday. Quite simply, staying in someone’s home is safer than staying in a hotel or a regularly reserved holiday property, as there are less people passing through a private home. From getting into the lift to browsing the breakfast buffet, hotels and resorts have the problem of multiple touch points, so you’ll inevitably be exposed to a lot more people than if you’re staying in a private home. Also, our members have committed to following enhanced cleaning guidelines – and as a likeminded bunch of house-proud travel lovers, we enjoy a real sense of responsibility to keep each other safe.
Are the homes pet-friendly and as a homeowner could you leave your pets for guests to look after?
Yes and yes! Lots of our members travel with their pets, and we have search filters for pet-friendly properties to make the hunt for the ideal home exchange even easier. Many of our home swappers also look after each other’s pets, with the agreement that you’re welcome to stay in their home as long as you’re happy to feed and care for their pet. This works particularly well for families who don’t have a cat/dog/bunny rabbit of their own, as the children are always really excited to have an adopted pet for the duration of their holiday.