It’s holiday season, I’m sweating profusely in my shorts, and like many of you, I can’t wait to go on my well-deserved vacation. As always, when it comes to choosing somewhere to stay, I have a bunch of options at my fingertips; hotels, short-term rental apartments, sleeping on the street, all of them providing me with a different type of experience. However, one I haven’t tried yet is home swapping.
Home swapping isn’t a new concept by a long shot. According to ‘the people on the internet’, swapping homes has been around since the 50’s giving travelers an alternative, cheaper and more authentic option for getting to know a new destination. It isn’t more complicated than it sounds. You swap your house with someone else’s for a certain period of time preventing you from having to incur outrageous hotel bills.
As the collaborative consumption market swells larger by the hour and with the rise in popularity of sites such as Airbnb and its cronies, not only have we become aware that that we can monetize unused assets, we have also become more accustomed to staying in other peoples homes when we travel. Up until now, the market for home swapping was left to sites such as Home Exchange and closed private clubs geared towards a certain niche in the market. But times are changing.
Knocking these incumbents out of the market is KNOK, founded in 2011 by married couple Juanjo Rodríguez and Laura Martinez, which is bringing home swapping to the masses. Juanjo and Laura had been working in the marketing industry for over 10 years and initially started KNOK as a side project for “people to interact within the home exchange community”. Both are aficionados of home swapping and have done over 20 ”swaps’ themselves. According to Juanjo, “we don’t think about traveling without home exchange”. Putting their passion into action they have converted KNOK into the fastest growing home sharing community in the world.
So how does it work? During the sign up process, new users are given a quick test to see if home swapping is really something that fits their type of personality. If so, KNOK will match them with other home swappers using intelligent algorithms based on educational background, interests, preferences and a plethora of other factors. Once a successful connection has been made, it’s up to the members to organize the final details of the ’swap’. Users can also approach other users by “Knocking” them, similar to a Poke on Facebook. KNOK’s astounding repetition rate of over 90% proves that home swapping is most definitely an attractive option for travelers.
One of my first questions to Juanjo and Laura was about trust and how people feel about giving up their house to a bunch of strangers. What happens if they get back and all their antique jewelry and leather whips have been stolen? Home swapping isn’t for everyone so if you’re the type that tends to lose your shit when someone doesn’t use a coaster then I would assume it’s not for you. Regardless of whether or not home swapping is for you, KNOK is the only company offering home insurance of up to €150,000 (included in the annual membership fee) protecting you should anything go astray. Plus, it’s important to consider that most of KNOK’s clients are families with children and couples from a higher socio-economic background, so not the usual profile of someone who is going to rob you blind.
Laura and Juanjo want to become the number 1 player in the home swapping world and with KNOK they are essentially creating a platform with extremely in-depth information about their users preferences and background which it turn will allow them to provide more personalized and valuable experiences. The potential exists in the future to add complementary services such as local tickets and offers
To further sweeten the pot, KNOK has introduced the “10 Cities To Home Swap Before You Die” sweepstakes. To win, contestants must write a blog post about their favorite city and submit their post on the contest website. Every month, the most popular post with the greatest number of votes will receive a new Kindle ebook reader. Each entry will also be automatically entered to win a pair of plane tickets to the destination of their choice redeemable for up to $750. The goal of the “100 Cities to Home Swap Before You Die” contest is to create a free collaborative travel guide written by locals who have insider knowledge about their city.
“We hope this contest will inspire people to satisfy their itch to go abroad and visit a new city,” says Juanjo. “Locals know their city best and can help visitors make the most of their time there by revealing some of their hometown’s best kept secrets and helpful tips for travelers. With today’s sharing economy, Knok is committed to helping travelers enjoy the best travel experience possible by connecting them in a safe, easy and efficient community online.”
The platform is currently available in 5 languages and feature homes in over 160 countries so you are spoilt for choice. To date they have over 20,000 members and aim to triple membership by the end of 2014. In March, they raised a €500,000 round of investment which is being directed to build out their team here and strengthen their position internationally.
With a potential 1 million homes for home swapping in the medium term, KNOK’s team have an interesting road ahead. Good luck guys!