Just how far can the sharing economy truly go? While Airbnb might have seemed like a far-fetched proposal several years ago, similar startups with slightly larger products are jockeying for power within an even more seemingly impractical market.
TechCrunch reported that U.K.-based Love Home Swap (LHS), the Airbnb-inspired whole home swap service, has acquired Netherlands-based HomeForExchange to expand operations in regions where it’s lagged behind since launching in 2011. Debbie Wosskow, CEO of LHS, told TechCrunch that this brings the total number of properties the company manages up to about 100,000 locations. However, while LHS’ growth may mirror that of the more recognizable Airbnb, Wosskow thinks that her company offers something different to prospective lodgers.
“We operate in a different market to Airbnb, and it would be mad to try to replicate them,” Wosskow told TechCrunch. “I like to think of us as online dating for homes.”
While some homeowners might understandably balk at the idea of letting strangers into their homes without supervision, Wosskow explained that the system works because everybody involved in the exchange has “some skin in the game” — parties swap properties directly with each other, which eliminates the unknown quantity variable that irks many Airbnb users. LHS members pay a $20 monthly fee to remain with the service, though repeated transactions with LHS accrue “Swap Points,” which can be used to book a property without having to put one up as rental collateral.
“We want to be a destination for anyone who wants to home swap, and people want to do different things at different times, and our portfolio seems the right way to serve them,” Wosskow told CNBC. “As we continue to expand the business globally and during 2016, I am looking at further acquisitions, and the strategy of the group is to operate a series of different brands.”