What is a home exchange?
Before I tell you about Behomm — the coolest home exchange community I know, let’s just cover the concept. It’s refreshingly simple. You stay at my place for free and I stay at yours for free. It’s a non-commercial transaction where two parties essentially barter with their homes. The cost is usually restricted to the subscription you pay for the home exchange service — and the travel to get to the other home, of course. But no rent or hotel bill. Over the past decade the ever-expanding home exchange market has become more crowded with websites offering their services to help people swap their homes.
The list is long and includes companies like HomeExchange, LoveHomeSwap, Homelink, PeopleLikeUs, Homestayin, and so on. The original concept started in the 1950s when teachers started exchanging homes as a way of economising their holidays. In 1996, the concept moved online and started to grow.
The biggest hurdle has always been people’s reluctance to live in someone else’s private home but after the advent of Airbnb and short term rentals, many people got that monkey off their back and the home exchange market was boosted exponentially. Generally, it’s people between 45–64 who account for the largest market share of users of home exchange services.
Why Home Exchanges Make Sense
Many serious urban issues are caused by overtourism and lack of housing due to the rise of short term rentals like Airbnb. With a home exchange you get to elegantly exercise some Social Responsibility by not occupying a home that could be used by locals. You also might get to stay in a local neighbourhood instead of the usual hotel clusters that exist in many cities.
Right then. Enough of the journalism preamble. Let me introduce you to Behomm. If you’re on this site you probably have a burning desire for design and travel. Behomm is a home exchange community that started in Barcelona by the graphic design couple Eva Calduch and Agusti Juste.
They call themselves “ The home exchange community for creatives and design lovers”. It’s all right there in that excellent tagline. They looked at the home exchange market and decided to carve a niche for themselves. Behomm fosters community and connections between people with shared interests. “It’s about a shared economy. We do believe that sharing is the future,” Juste has said.
I was a member early on. When they launched they focused on people who worked specifically in a creative industry and who wanted to exchange their impeccably-designed home with like-minded people around the world.
Later, Behomm expanded their concept to include design lovers. They call themselves a community with good reason. Many of the big home exchange websites have the look and feel of dull real estate websites. They go after volume and earning money from subscriptions.
Behomm is having none of that. They curate potential subscribers with beautiful homes in order to maintain a high level of quality. And when I say curate, yeah, they operate with an invitation only concept. It’s not so much fabricated exclusivity, they really want to ensure that hosts and guests are offered an amazing selection of beautifully designed homes. It’s all about design quality, not subscriber quantity.
“We like thoughtful design and don’t confuse luxury with good taste,” explains Juste. “We get very happy when a small home wants to join.”
Like with other home exchange websites, there are both simultaneous and non-simultaneous exchanges. The first one I tried a few years ago was simultaneous. A Catalan architect wanted to go to Copenhagen and I wanted to take my kids to Barcelona. It was so simultaneous that our planes passed each other somewhere in European airspace.
We stayed in her amazing flat in the Born neighbourhood of the city and she crashed in our flat in Copenhagen and used my cargo bike to ride around on with her kid. Perfect.
Sometimes it’s hard to coordinate simultaneous holidays. In the Nordic countries, July is holiday month. When we head back to work and school in early August, most of the rest of Europe are just starting their holiday month. Not to mention the US who are one of the few countries in the world who don’t have five or six weeks of holidays each year, so trying to match a simultaneous exchange with their two available weeks is tricky.
Non-simultaneous exchanges can solve all that. They’re out travelling in June and you stay in their home and then when you’re out travelling in September, they come to your place. Many of the properties are second homes, so you can stay there off-season and figure out the return exchange on other dates.
Behomm publishes photos on their Facebook page so you can have a look at what kind of homes are on offer. To scroll through the website you need to be a member and can apply for an invitation on their website or through their app.
I have spent a LOT of time scrolling through Behomm’s website just peeking into amazing homes in splendid destinations. Their curation work is exceptional. They really have selected exquisite properties designed by creatives and design lovers. This also means that when you apply for an invitation, you might not make the cut.
The most popular countries on the site are Spain, Denmark, USA and the Netherlands. About half of their clients are families with kids and half are couples and singles.
The whole concept is sustainable by design. I love that Behomm donate 5% of their earnings to ARCHIVE Global: Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments — an international non-profit organisation using architectural design to combat disease around the world. Even in their choice of NGOs to support they maintain a focus on design and architecture.
In the vast ocean of home exchange websites Behomm is a beautiful design island you have to visit. A safe harbour for design lovers who want to travel differently and sustainably.
A subscription currently costs €280 annually, which offers unlimited exchanges.
Website: Behomm Community