This Home-Swapping Site Helps You Live Like a Local (& It’s Cheaper than Airbnb)

published Aug 29, 2023
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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you probably know the struggles of finding affordable accommodations in just the right location. This especially rings true for big cities like New York, where tourists arrive by the thousands each week. Despite the number of hotels on offer, the prices just seem to keep rising — even during off-peak seasons.

Enter: home swapping. Inspired by Nancy Meyers’ fan-favorite The Holiday, travelers can make like Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet and swap their homes in exchange for a free stay in their city of choice. An ongoing TikTok trend inspired by the film sees users calling out to other TikTokers to swap homes for the holiday season. While it has proved successful for many social media users, it’s not exactly the safest way to go about home-swapping, as there are no contracts involved in case of liability.

That’s where Kindred, a members-only home exchange network, comes in. To be accepted onto the platform, members must host their own home to be able to travel, and to be eligible for a stay, travelers are required to send a short video introduction to their prospective hosts.

There’s no limit to the size of the home that can be accepted onto the platform, and whether it’s a rented apartment or a home you own, Kindred’s only rule is that the space is well-cared-for and is home to someone who loves to travel.

I signed up for the platform to explore its options, and before I could even browse through the homes, I had to list my own home to swap. As someone who lived on the outskirts of Manchester, England, at the time of signup, I knew there wouldn’t be particularly high demand for a stay at my home. In fact, Kindred only currently operates in one U.K. city: London.

If, like me, travelers have any reservations about hosting their own property, they can rest assured knowing that Kindred offers all members $100,000 in host protection coverage for each trip in case of accidental damages. Kindred also organizes professional cleaning — paid for by the guests — before and after each trip so hosts know that they’ll be returning to a spotless place. Plus, each time members decide to host, they will be sent a welcome kit packed with essentials to make the guests’ stay as comfortable as possible (think: fresh towels, sheets, and a lockbox).

To find a spot for a trip, travelers can search through hundreds of homes across the United States, Canada, and Europe. There’s also the option to chat with a dedicated concierge to find the perfect place for your needs if you need a little help choosing a spot.

Recently, I’ve been scrolling through Kindred to find a place to stay for an upcoming trip to Los Angeles. The iPhone app is super simple to use, and with a simple swipe, you can toggle between different options based on home preferences and aesthetics, whether you’re searching for a winter getaway or a home with a jaw-dropping view, or need somewhere that’s set up for working from home.

Although you’re able to search through the app based on your length of stay — just a weekend, a week, and a month — and the time of year, you can’t set your own specific dates until you’ve toggled through the available homes. For people who don’t have the time (or, frankly, the patience) to scroll through, this can be quite frustrating. Plus, in the age where social sharing is at the top of people’s minds, I feel like the platform would benefit from a sharing option like booking apps such as Expedia offer. My vacation is for a group of people and I was unable to share the homes I liked with them, which made it difficult to coordinate our trip.

Still, what’s particularly unique about Kindred is the home-away-from-home feel guests get on each trip. Rather than staying in a standard hotel chain that lacks character, guests can immerse themselves in the lives of their hosts. Guests will be living among — but not becoming overwhelmed by — their host’s belongings, photographs, decor, and even little travel trinkets. The idea is that they provide inspiration for the guests’ experiences.

Kindred is a viable way to see the world at a fraction of the cost of sites like Airbnb and Sonder. Enrollment is free; each member starts off with five credits (one credit equals one free night) and each hosted night earns a credit each after that. Members use credits to book stays, with no commitment to swap their own home at the same time. All it costs is a per-night service fee, which comes out at around $25 per night, and a cleaning fee of around $150 per stay (although this varies based on each property).

While it’s easier to be accepted onto the Kindred platform with an invite code through a friend, family member, or colleague who has already joined, prospective members are still encouraged to join without a code. Members are accepted on a rolling basis, so you’ve quite literally got nothing to lose.