Users of the Catalonia-based platform exchange their homes, a service they can access by invitation only, and in which money is not the important thing. The only requirement is to have a creative home.
“Eva had the idea; I wasn’t really convinced, and the kids said no way – no one was going to enter their bedroom,” says Agustí Juste, recalling how his partner first breached the idea of swapping their home instead of paying to go on vacation.
The year was 2012 and the resulting experience, in a photographer’s loft in Denmark, prompted them to start Behomm, which they launched at the end of 2014. Currently, Eva Calduch and Agusti Juste’s platform totals nearly 2,800 homes in more than 50 cities around the world.
Becoming a member of Behomm is not easy – it’s by invitation only. And unlike Airbnb, it requires more than just owning a home. The members must be “creative,” Juste says. “Our criteria are subjective. We reject people that we don’t like, although at times people don’t understand that. You always think your home is attractive.”
So, is Behomm meant only for luxury homes, or people with high purchasing power? “Well, yes and no,” says its founder, doubtfully. “What we look for is not so much luxury homes, but ones that have something special.” He adds: “Aesthetics are important and we’re not interested only in Scandinavian design. A home has to have certain minimum requirements. It could be a farm, an apartment in Manhattan, or a small house by the sea in Chile.”
In Juste’s view, the giant Airbnb – which has more than three million homes – is not his competition. His philosophy is just the opposite: “At Airbnb, you pay: even the founder says that he’s embarrassed when it’s referred to as sharing economy, but that´s the label that’s been placed on it, and it´s stuck.”
The pair of entrepreneurs are also graphic designers and for that reason, their platform was started with an emphasis on putting creative people around the world in touch with one another. But are there also doctors, engineers, other sorts of people? “Very few. The majority are creative people, but we created a concept that we call “design lovers,’ ” Juste says.
Although people outside the creative world do enter the platform, its founder stresses that connecting people with shared affinities is one of the attractions of Behomm.
“For an architect in Madrid, going to a house in Milan or New York, or vice versa, has its appeal. They realize that they have many things in common, and can become friends after the exchange is over. Often you have more in common with a creative person that lives in Australia than with your first-floor neighbor, whom you don´t even talk to,” Juste says.
Juste combines the platform with his work as a graphic designer. Five more people work at Behomm, but he doesn’t disclose the company´s revenues. He says that “for the moment” the business model is based on the fee the members pay once a year, which is about 100 Euros and “permits unlimited exchanges.”
“We don´t get anything from each individual exchange,” Juste says. “It’s something we´re considering but everything takes time. This website involves a lot of work and you have to do “customer service 24 hours a day.”
The countries that are the most inclined to home exchanges are, in addition to Spain, the United States. Denmark and Holland.
“Leaving your house to another person is a frontier. In general, it takes someone who has already done it to convince you. It´s a big step but afterwards, you take it again,” says the designer, who began at his partner’s insistence. Since that day, they have been continually discovering the world, from the windows of private homes.