Rent or Exchange – That Is the Question
When the first exchange sites appeared on-line, they offered two options to their member: Exchange or rent. At the same time, the Internet saw a chaotic booming of classified announcements sites such as Craigslist, where rentals could be advertised.
After Airbnb was born in 2008 revolutionizing the short-term rental scenario, home exchange gave themselves a face lift and decided to focus on their original purpose: Exchange. Members kept increasing, despite the fact that some decided to move on to rentals, but this trend could easily change in the future.
The American platform that allows any average Joe to become an instant entrepreneur in a few clicks by renting their properties, is starting to become victim of its own charms. With 17 million users and 1.5 million listings worldwide, this new economic model does not make everyone happy: between the private hospitality sector and the government, deprived of a source of revenue, the economic success of Airbnb translates in an undeniable lack of profit for the local economy. Not to mention the grudge of the jealous or frustrated neighbors. All resulting in states and countries around the globe increasing their constraints on Airbnb, which makes them trickle down to… the end users.
Besides the 6-12% commission charged by the American site on each transaction as fees, homeowners who rent their property through Airbnb now have to pay the same occupancy tax imposed to the lodging industry. In France, the law that allowed first homes rentals for up to 120 days a year without reporting it to the IRS was overturned. Starting in 2016, all income stemming from Airbnb rentals will have to be reported as revenue. The occasional renter will be tracked by the internal revenue system as much as the owners of the 25-30 thousand homes that were turned into full time hotels. And will Paris become like Berlin, where, as of May 1st, all Airbnb rentals have been banned? The fine for transgressing this ban goes up to 100,000 Euros. And in New York, about 2,000 listings have already been deleted from the rental platform.
Sanctions which are justified for those who abuse of this system, but at the same time are a bit extreme for those who rent just from time to time to “get some gravy” or to afford a vacation. Still, the noose tightens on Airbnb and its hosts. An amendment passed by the French National Assembly states that it’s no longer possible for a tenant to rent their property without the written consent of the landlord.
While the regulations for rent are becoming more stringent, home exchanging conveniently pulls out of the game. It escapes all of the drama simply because it does not entail a monetary exchange between parties. So even a tenant can exchange their home (since it’s not a sublet) and it’s all safe. As an article in the Paris Match explains, people are “invited” to exchange, as opposed to renting, which doesn’t require a supplemental insurance. The insurance (theft, fire, water damage…) held by the person who “lends” their place works just as if they were still there. And exchange doesn’t generate revenue taxes nor lodging fees. And, on top of it, the principles of exchange generally goes hand in hand with a sense of respect and tolerance that is a common trait of the members of the site. It’s not rare that exchanges involve maids and pats (still no spouses or kids!) and often also the cars. What a savings compared to a car rental!
Not to mention the comfort of finding a “lived in” home that often offers a well-equipped kitchen that allows to cook like at home, also saving on restaurants, as explained in a study conducted by the Bergamo University in 2013. Oh, the joy of not having to bring all the kids toys, knowing there will be just as many where you go! You could even ask your exchange partner to take care of the yard, to watch the cat, exchange some good contacts, even the doctor’s, the phone number of a friend in case of emergencies, or even get the mail. There’s nothing like a full mailbox to attract burglars during a vacation. Home exchanging is actually a great way to prevent home invasions.
So, in a globalized world ruled by money and interests, where it’s getting harder and harder to find anything for free, home exchanging, which takes the people and puts them at the core of the relationship, still seems to have some good days ahead.