The Room Xchange connects guests with free accommodation, paying with time rather than money.
Entrepreneur Ludwina Dautovic is the founder and CEO of The Room Xchange, a platform that puts busy homeowners (aka hosts) in contact with guests who provide a couple of hours of help a day in return for a place to stay.
The Xchange allows guests to pay by providing a certain kind of household contribution, and otherwise save extra money for their own interests.
“There’s a massive difference in cost of living. That’s a challenge we face,” says Dautovic. “In terms of our guests, for the time of fourteen hours a week they help out the hosts around the home. This depends on what the host needs help with, and they list that on their profile. It could be cooking, cleaning, childcare, drop offs, pick-ups or grocery shopping. The guest lists what they’re willing to help with and if that matches, that gives them the opportunity to live for free.”
SBS reports that in the last 12 months almost 11,000 university students have been recorded as homeless. That could mean either couch surfing, living in cars or roughing it on the streets. The Room Xchange offers an attainable living option.
“When you look at what’s available in terms of affordable housing for people on low incomes, it’s just not there,” Dautovic says. “We need to be coming up with solutions for the younger generation. Someone Xchanging can save $18,200 based on $350 a week over a 12-month period. They might want to buy a car or save for a deposit on a house.”
For those wanting to move out while staying close to work, university or family, The Room Xchange opens up the market. According to finder.com.au, there are seven million unused spare bedrooms in Australia.
“People are interested in alternative ways to live,” says Dautovic. “So they may be able to afford [renting] but they might not want to use their own money or cash for environmental reasons. They like the idea of using existing housing. There’s these spare bedrooms in houses where hosts are stressed, time poor, mortgages are high, they’re working long hours to cover their cost of living – busy professionals, building their careers or building a business for themselves.”
The Room Xchange is a beneficial experience for everyone involved. Hosts receive assistance with necessary tasks, while guests are introduced to a new way of living.
“We’re a social enterprise, making a difference in how people live. Hosts are inviting people of different cultures, values and ideas into their homes. It enriches their lives and, at the same time, provides a solution for affordable housing. It also gives guests access to networks of people. When you get access to the network, you’re living like a local. It opens up this whole new world. It’s a win-win on both sides.”
Dautovic is passionate about The Room Xchange being equitable and safe for guests and hosts. The two hours of help a day is calculated from the average of $350 a week often spent on rent, food and utilities and divided up into $25 per hour segments.
This allows guests to fairly contribute their time, skills and abilities in return for housing from their host, leaving both parties feeling valued. Applications for this platform are all facilitated through their website, and Dautovic assures The Room Xchange is secure.
“We ask our users to jump through a couple of hoops. The first is SMS verification, then Digital iD. It’s important to us that our users feel like everyone’s on the same playing field in terms of being vetted and verified. That step just makes hosts and guests feel safe knowing that everyone on the platform’s done that. You’ve got to have a 100% complete profile to be able to connect and message with other users.”
Xchanging is not only for locals but travellers too. Anyone staying a month or more qualifies for The Room Xchange in Australia. The platform is available to users nationwide, wherever hosts and guests coincide. Its presence is continuing to grow in cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as well as rural areas.