Ever since man decided to settle and live in one place, house sitters have been needed; someone who will live in the property and keep an eye on things while the owners are away. Up until very recently, if you were to ask someone to ‘house sit’ for you, it would probably either be a friend or a professional house sitting agency. These days, most homeowners needing a sitter, do what they do with any other problem, they turn to the internet. And rather than simply pick someone local – it’s not uncommon to find a homeowner in Sydney, for example, chatting with someone in London and discussing the practicalities of them flying over to house sit for them, for free.
The zeitgeist or buzzword at play here is ‘collaborative consumption’ or ‘sharing economy’. It describes the cashless exchanges that are taking place between an increasing number of start-ups such as house sitting websites. In the case of house sitting, a ‘house sitter’, which thanks to websites like Trusted Housesitting could be just about anyone, exchanges his willingness to look after someone else’s property and pets. He does this for free, and in the example given above, the Londoner gets free accommodation in Sydney – all he has to do is cover the cost of his flight. The homeowner likewise saves a considerable amount of money on the cost of a house sitter or putting his pet into boarding kennels.
House Sitting is just one of several collaborative consumption start-ups in the travel field. Other start-ups which connect people with people (P2P) rather than people with companies include car sharing start-ups in which car owners rent their cars out to drivers, parking space start-ups in which those who own some enviable parking space – for example near an airport – rent it out to others and local guiding start-ups in which city experts can set themselves up as tour guides an offer private tours of their city to visitors.
Pricing, is one of the biggest driving factors and reasons for the success of many collaborative consumption start-ups. In the case of P2P car sharing start-ups, the cost of renting a car is often considerably cheaper than the traditional car rental alternatives. The same goes for P2P parking websites like Park at My House.
But the success of collaborative consumption start-ups isn’t solely about its ability to undercut traditional business models. Take house sitting again, and the example of the Londoner who’s offering to house sit in Sydney for free. Living in Sydney, in someone else’s home is a unique travel experience. It’s the chance to experience another place not as someone who’s visiting, but through the eyes of someone who lives there. That’s a travel experience that the traditional travel accommodation options like hotels, self-catering and hostels can’t offer.