We chat to Eva Calduch and Agust Juste, co-founders of Behomm – a home exchange website aimed solely at creatives – about trading their highly curated abodes with perfect strangers.
Urbis: What is Behomm?
Eva Calduch: Behomm is a worldwide home exchange community for designers, visual artists and people in creative industries. There is no money transferred between members. You stay for free, they stay for free, the site just works as a middle-man and all featured homes are by invitation only, meaning it is low-risk and we control the quality of the houses accepted into the site. Right now we have more than 1300 members in 53 different countries including eight amazing homes in New Zealand. Our existing members love your weather and wonderful sea!
U: Where did the idea come from?
Agust Juste: We personally needed something like it… we are graphic designers and are passionate about home exchanges. We were tired of searching for people like us, with a love for aesthetics, on other sites.
U: How do you select the houses for the site?
EC: Since the site acts as a private community where security and aesthetics are crucial to members, new members go through a selection process. Aesthetic criteria is totally subjective and by no means is our taste the best one or the right one, but it is this pre-selection that makes Behomm different to our competitors, and members appreciate it. We believe that aesthetics has nothing to do with luxury. A tiny home with secondhand furniture can be more beautiful than a castle. Behomm is not a luxury site, in fact, we are always happy when a beautiful, small home registers!
U: What motivates your users to open up their carefully curated houses to perfect strangers?
AJ: The first home exchange is always a mixture of nervousness and excitement. But after an initial exchange, you’ll reaffirm your faith in human beings! Plus, you’ll enjoy life without paying any money for accommodation and people get hooked. Usually before people exchange homes, they will email their exchange guests to agree on details, so they get to know them well enough that they should no longer be complete strangers. Obviously, there are people more attached to material things than others. For some people it is easier to share their things and for others it
U: It must be interesting for, say, an artist to temporarily live in the home of an architect from another country: among the objects, books, music, art that influence someone else’s creative work… it’s like a silent creative collaboration.
EC: Certainly. This is something you don’t find in rental homes or hotels. Sometimes we don’t want to leave the houses we exchange because we want to continue reading their books and watching their movies. Experienced exchangers usually leave their favourite magazines, books and music on the living room table so their guests can easily find them, along with the valuable tips they share of the local area that you won’t find in any guidebook.
U: What has been your most memorable house-swapping experience and what made it so?
AJ: Maybe the most outstanding memories are those related to the people, the owners you meet, more than the cities or landscapes you enjoy. Because home exchange gives you something any hotel or rental place won’t offer you: the experience of entering somebody’s life. One of our first home exchanges was a landscape architect’s home in Florence, Italy. She lived in her grandparents’ three-storey building. Her sister lives on the top floor, her mother lives on the bottom one. The family invited us to a delicious supper and the grandmother cooked lasagna for us. They set the table with beautiful linen and flowers. We have remained good friends with them and we have seen each other several times since. That’s what it’s all about, making personal connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. This is the way of the future for travel – sharing friends and homes with no money in between – it makes the world a more friendly place… but maybe we are fools.