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Welcome to Episode 2 of The Room Xchange Podcast.
According to Finder.com there are 7 million homes with a spare room in Australia. Now are you a homeowner with a spare room. You may not realise it, but that spare room it’s a cost centre. Yes it’s costing you money whether you’re paying rent or you’re paying a mortgage.
Let me ask you, what if you could use your spare room to get your evenings, to get your weekends back in an easy, safe and secure way. How you ask? That’s where Room Xchange comes in. The Room Xchange is an online marketplace that connects busy people who’ve got a spare room with guests who’re willing to give a couple of hours around the house each day in exchange for food and accommodation it’s taking the sharing economy to a whole new level.
Hi I’m your host Anne-Marie Cross joining me today is the CEO and Founder of The Room Xchange Ludwina Dautovic. She’s going to tell us a little bit more about how, as a homeowner with a spare bedroom you can benefit from the Xchange program. So welcome Ludwina.
Ludwina Dautovic: Thank you Anne-Marie. I’m really excited to be talking about hosts today.
Anne-Marie: Yea absolutely. For those people who may not have listened yet to episode one. Let’s just recap – The Room Xchange.
Ludwina Dautovic: As you said in the intro it’s busy people with a spare room in their house and we’re looking at primarily, sort of middle class housing as being the sweet spot. Yea, you know they’re really busy, they’ve got that spare room there that’s a cost centre and it’s sitting there idle. You know most spare bedrooms either gets filled with stuff or they get used, you know, maybe a couple of times a year when family comes over. I mean, they don’t really get utilised, and if it’s a, you know whether you’re paying a mortgage or rent it’s possibly something. So there’s a need there that they have. They’re busy, time-poor, got that space there so why not utilise it and then they get matched up with guests who are looking for, you know, alternative ways of living, as in low-cost. They come from various sort of different backgrounds but we’re primarily focusing on the millennials because of the high cost of living that they’ve inherited and we’re matching them up together in what’s commonly known as a peer-to-peer marketplace and so we as a host you can create a profile, as a guest you can create a profile and then we help you find the perfect exchange.
Anne-Marie: mmmm perfect, now we know that you’ve shared a few terms, host and guest, and next week we’re going to talk more about the guest and the benefits and so forth. But today we really want to focus on the host. These are the homeowners that have a spare room. I know you’ve already shared some of the benefits, and I know that you yourself have been a host. So let’s recap, what are some of the benefits that you’ve experienced and that you know many hosts are also going to experience once they join The Room Xchange program?
Ludwina Dautovic: Well one of the greatest things that has happened for me is that I’ve become an artist.
Ludwina Dautovic: yea I know, it might sound weird – well how do you become an artist after you’ve been a host on The Room Xchange, well I’ve actually got time to think and I’ve got time to create and I have, you know, time that’s my time now, so all those things that you sort of think about, that you wish you had time to do, and I bet anybody listening now, I dare you to grab a pen and paper and write down every single time you said’ I wish I had time to do that’, and I have time to do that cause I’m not spending my evenings anymore catching up on laundry, cleaning the house, and cleaning up after dinner etc and spending, you know, all day Saturday or Sunday playing catch up, you know, with the rest of the household big weekly stuff that you usually do. I can sort of go, ‘ok well actually, as we speak, Anne-Marie, today is Friday so tonight I’m going to chill and watch a couple of movies maybe, and then tomorrow I’m going to paint’.
Anne-Marie: Oh wow
Ludwina Dautovic: And then Sunday I might go and see some friends. Now that’s the benefit to me, is that I get this space and this time to do the things that I want to do because our current xchangee who’s name is Guillaume, he does all those things for us, but the benefit to him is massive because he doesn’t he doesn’t have to pay to live anywhere. So its just such a great win-win all round.
Anne-Marie: Yea absolutely I could just imagine. My goodness if I had hours that I could reclaim and do, you know, things, new hobbies, and learning how to paint. Perhaps I could see that my stress levels would certainly go down significantly. Let’s talk about who would make a good host.
Ludwina Dautovic: The possibilities are quite endless in regards to who can be a host. It’s not sort of like one particular type of person, I would say, or there’s not any that can’t be other than they need to have a house that’s got a private, comfortable bedroom that is available for the guest. You don’t need to have an ensuite, but if you do that’s lovely. But you know most of our guests are happy to share a bathroom, and just yea, be an open person who is willing to welcome somebody into your home, into your household, that also includes the other people that are in your home, and that you’re the kind of person who likes to share your space.
Ludwina Dautovic: You know there are some people, I guess, that it might not suit and if you’re listening you’d know that anyway, but generally it’s, you know, if you consider yourself to be an open person and you like to learn about different cultures and meet new people and, you know, if you’re a kind of a hospitality kind person, you know, you just like to have guests over. I mean I’m not saying that to say that you have to be hospitable all the time but you know often when we’re busy we don’t have time to spend a lot of time but it’s just that more about attitude and that approach I guess I’m saying is that you know the right kind of host is somebody who feels that they’re going to benefit a lot from having this person in their home as opposed to it…. Oooh I don’t know if I would like to have somebody around that I don’t know very well, does that make sense?
Anne-Marie: Yea, absolutely and I mean you obviously had Guillaume that’s been living with you at the moment and has been for 12 months and I know that you mentioned that in episode one and you have also had young children you’ve got young children yourself – well when I say young they are young millennials.
Ludwina Dautovic: young adults
Anne-Marie: yea young adults, so when you think of the age group of potential hosts, are there any restrictions, can it be any age group, anytime of life, all that kind of thing.
Ludwina Dautovic: The only thing is that all of our users have to be at least 18 years of age, if you are 18 and fortunate enough to have your own house good on you.
Anne-Marie: oh wow yea, thumbs up to you
Ludwina Dautovic: You know we’ve got sort of what we call personas or scenarios of sort of types of households, I’ll run through them.
Anne-Marie: yea absolutely
Ludwina Dautovic: :So we’ve got one, of course is our empty nesters, I guess technically my husband Harry and I would technically you know be almost empty nesters our second one is about to leave home and our first one did 3 years ago. So we’ve worked really hard to have the home that we have. You know we don’t want to downsize, but at the same token I’ve got this space, I’ll have two bedrooms and I don’t feel right about living in a house that has got two bedrooms sitting there empty you know, I want to be able to share that space with you know somebody who would like to live there, but I also you know need help around the house because a lot of the time of empty nests you know I hate that term but who couples that kids have left home, their family property might have big gardens they still might have the family pets, it’s still a decent sized house – so it’s a lot for them to maintain and they also just might miss the energy and the fun of having you know people around who they can share their life with. So that’s one group that we are focusing on attracting. Another are young families, so whether you’re a single parent, a couple however that couple looks, we’re a very open company, so whether you’re married, gay couple, however that family looks like we welcome that. I just want to have the opportunity to be really clear about that and we put that in our company’s values. We welcome all cultures, races, religions, lifestyle, gender, age, people with disabilities; we’re a very open company.
Anne-Marie: So you know young families however that looks again generally it’s a very busy, the evenings I hear a lot through mums – you know 3 to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, crazy time for households you know with young children and imagine if you had somebody who was helping you out at that time even if it’s you know if you were just with your kids and somebody was there doing the other stuff or perhaps somebody could pick up your kids from after school and you can maybe go and get to the gym and have the time or get your hair done or just go and see a girlfriend you know just having some support at that crazy time or them helping out with dinner or whatever that is and you know weekends get pretty crazy too for families so being able to you know go out and spend some time with your family without having to worry about all this other stuff that you’ve gotta do when you get back home so you can definitely see them as a prime group that would become hosts. Are busy professionals I have this sort of idea in my head of yea kind of like having in-house concierge you know you’ve got somebody who’s living in that spare room. You could be a single or a couple busy professional couple or it could just be a couple of housemates, all professionals sharing a house it doesn’t matter again how that looks but you know just imagine if you could just sort of text your exchanger and you know hey can you pick up the dry cleaning for me today or my cars gotta get serviced and you know do some you know again some household stuff as well you know I kinda like the idea of that fun notion of having an in-house concierge but that can be there to support you, you know in your household. Actually meet somebody last night at an event and he was saying – oh my God, I so have to have one, you know we’re both professionals and I don’t even have time to get my car serviced or to you know he said I don’t even care I don’t want them to cook or do my laundry or anything I just need those things done, so I’m not sort of getting to the end of the weekend and my car still needs to go to the shop so it’s sort of like there’s lots of different scenarios in regards to how that looks.
Anne-Marie: Absolutely as you’re sharing that I mean there maybe some guests who absolutely love to cook and who feel oh I just can’t I wanna cook can just imagine it’s like the kitchen is yours go for your life.
Ludwina Dautovic: Well it’s funny actually because I love cooking so whenever we have somebody stay here with us it’s like the kitchen is my room, you know but they learn to prepare the food the way I like too and they’re always cleaning up around me while I’m cooking so by the time it’s done it’s all clean and there’s another group too and I think this is really going to be a significant one sadly we’re hearing a lot about elderly people who you know are living on their own or with their partner and they’re elderly and the houses are getting broken into or they’re fearing that. It’s just awful you know it’s awful but it’s become very routine in the way that they live and so often I guess they’re predictable in terms of how they’re coming in and out of their home but also there are elderly people who don’t want to go into a retirement village but maybe can’t completely be on their own but they’re not unwell they’re still healthy but they just that company and they need that little bit of support and they say that when elderly people live on their own they start to diminish faster in terms of their mental and physical health then when they have company around and you know we had a call this week from somebody who wants to find a guest for her elderly mother and often it’s just not practical for the elderly parents to live with their adult children either you know and vice versa. So this is a really great opportunity and we welcome you know the adult children of the elderly people to you know get involved in finding the right person for their parents as well. We’re very much open to that you know that support for them so that they can feel confident in knowing that they’ve got the right person there and they can just be helping out cooking a few meals, down the grocery store, pay some bills, you know whatever that looks like for them and just company.
And that unpredictability of coming and going also kids makes them feel a little bit safer do you know what I mean?
Anne-Marie: Absolutely, yea I can just imagine for the elderly as you said who are not yet quite ready to move into a retirement village, they can still have a level of independence but have the security of the knowledge that there is someone there who has an eye out for them and of course one of the processes that you do and we’re going to talk about this in a moment is that there is a very thorough form that people have to fill in and you match the right host with the right guest so I can imagine, imagine if you had a guest who came from a family with young children and they really miss that and they just love this, you know the company of young children I can imagine that they could be incredible help and would feel so comfortable residing with a host family who did have young kids that they could help out with.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea absolutely, absolutely
Anne-Marie: So you know the questionnaire that you both submit that the host has to complete and the guest has to complete is thorough and then ensures that you match the right host with the right guest yes?
Ludwina Dautovic: Yes absolutely, yea definitely and it will take about 20-30 minutes and the reason being is you know the more information you can provide for us, the easier it is for us to find the right fit so if somebody is you know looking at working with children for example that what is about in terms of your qualifications your experience yea some families might want you to have a working with children’s check – we actually expect all of our users to, whether you’re working with children or not to have a police check and we have a partnered CV check, actually to write in, where you fill out your profile there’s a link there that you can go too and you can get a police check within an hour and it’s only $44.90 it’s really cheap so that just gives everybody that additional security, but the actual the process of filling out your profile this is the first step which is your basic information second step is your preferences so what is it that you’re looking for in regards to the kind of person that you want to come in to your home as the host and then the third step is verification so that’s just you know you’re proving to us in three different ways who you are so that we’re certain that we’ve got that covered even before we start creating a match.
Anne-Marie: Glad you shared that because I know as a homeowner, who does have a room to spare and is considering this which sounds like an incredible idea there may be a little bit of hesitancy around that around the safety, the security particularly of inviting strangers into the home but what you’ve just explained there is a really thorough process. You’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s so to speak to make sure that it really is safe and secure for people isn’t it.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea, yea absolutely and look if it was too easy for people to sign up to become a user then that there’s a greater risk there in terms of who’s applying but because we ask you to jump through a couple of hoops so that the people who are really keen to be a host or a guest are going to make that effort to provide us with as much information as possible so it’s a vetting process the whole process of creating a profile is a vetting process of itself so it shows us who’s serious and who’s not and you know it would be no different I’d imagine not that I’ve actually used it married for 25 years but I don’t think that it’d be any different to creating a profile on one of the dating sites you know so it’s just like put your best face forward you know, tell us as much about who you are why somebody would be interested in having someone an exchange with you and yea what kind of personality are you, you know we ask people if they can to add a video even because you know a video can tell a little bit more about your personality then just writing something or you know what are the things that your that might be quirky about your good at doing that might be of interest to someone. You know what are the sorts of things that you’d like to experience with your host or your guest.
Anne-Marie: Yea, you know and as you’re saying that you know sharing that the information that you are requiring people to add. It really is to the benefit of us as a host because it’s going to enable you as The Room Xchange to look for a suitable guest who really is going to fit your lifestyle all of those different things so if you’re not going to provide the great information that you’re asking for then you’re just not going to be able to place someone that is really going to fit into their family.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea and look there might be some values or some things that are really, really important to you and you know tell us that so that we can make sure that we get that right fit viewable by anybody, the only people that can see them is our team at The Room Xchange and once we’ve verified you and we’ve viewed your government documentation that you provide for us, we ask you to black out your numbers but again it’s just another form of photo ID’s so that we can we can prove that it’s you once we’ve viewed that then we discard it so it’s just a matter of once we’ve verified you that’s fine and then we go, we continue on from the process from there.
Anne-Marie: Yea, fantastic, also too if someone is considering becoming a host and then later they’re going to be obviously matched with a guest, if there is a guest that only stays a short term and they’re happy to continue extending their room are you going to as The Room Xchange also have feedback for new guests that come into a space or a room like feedback from perhaps other Room Xchange hosts kinda like not like a scoring system but at least feedback about how that particular guest was and so forth is that kind of what you’re going to have in The Room Xchange as well.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea it’s kinda like peer-to-peer ratings and reviews. So when you look at any other peer-to-peer platforms, Uber when you jump out of a car once you’ve had a ride, you rate them and they rate you back. They’ll be that at the moment while we’re going through the beta xchange program that will be something that we will be requesting of both hosts and guests for them to write us a review from their experience and we’ll keep that at hand. If something’s not working out for them, they’ll just stop the exchange straight away there’s no contract, there’s not a lease or anything like that so they’re not bound to a period of time with them. We do ask that you give it a month because I think it takes a little while to you know get used to each other’s rhythm before you make a decision, unless there are pressing reasons why you shouldn’t and then certainly cancel it but in regards to the reviews yes, it’s going to be a big part once we’ve raised the funds and we’ve built our main technology platform which will be the next step beyond what we’ve got now, all of those ratings and reviews will be public. People will be able to see them, the profiles will be public there and you’ll be able to decide what part of the information of course will be public and what’s not, but you know just like any other standard business that does this kind of thing just some information that will be made available at that time and then the ratings and reviews will kick in then, but I think that’s a really important part or great benefit that we have now is that people do want do want to have great reviews they want to continue using the platform they have to continue having great reviews otherwise people are not going to want to you know exchange with them.
Anne-Marie: Yea, and from the hosts point of view once you are including that information I would imagine that you can also state the amount of time. So in other words, that you want to have the guest so if you say well look I would love to have someone preferably who would like to stay long term that you would then go and match them with someone who is a guest who is looking for long term host. Is that something that I would imagine The Room Xchange is going to do too?
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea that’s one of the questions – how long would you like your exchange to go for and there’s a period of time that they can select so you know there are all the questions and look we come up with new questions all the time, it’s like today I had awww that would be a great question to ask or someone was telling me oh I don’t have a drivers licence or a passport but I’ve got a keypass is that enough of a government ID – yea it is, I didn’t think of that you know so we’re, that’s why we call it the beta exchange program because the people, the first 100 hosts and guests that come onboard they get to use it for free 2017 and the reason being because they’re going to teach us alot and some of the things that we don’t, you know that I’m not aware of either so you know, we’re learning, we’re growing, we’re developing and as people come along for the ride with us at the moment we’re really want them to be able to benefit from that.
Anne-Marie: Yea, fantastic now I know that you have been a host yourself Guillaume is your fourth guest that you have had, what would you say to people who are considering becoming a host?
Ludwina Dautovic: Oh firstly imagine, what you’re going to do with all your spare time, the second is you know have some I call them whip meetings you know maybe once a week, end of the week, work in progress meeting that with your guest so that you can ascertain how things are going and then say well ok so obviously you lay down your expectations from the get go so this is a set of things that I wanna have done I personally don’t keep time card on people because I don’t like that but I know that if my exchange is not doing their work because I end up having to do it and then I go hang on a second someone’s slacking up here you know but that just happens that’s life it doesn’t happen very often but it does sometime happen and sometimes I also just let it go too because they may be tired, and you know that’s life but he always makes up for it like when he spends a weekend sorting out Harry’s garage that’s like oh my gosh that was insane, put shelving and everything in there and I could actually go in there and find an A4 battery in there now, A4 is that the right word – I don’t even know, I could go in there for a double AA or a triple A.
Anne-Marie: Yea that’s it
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea how funny is that? But yea I know where everything is now and when he does projects like that it’s like you know take a few days off mate, you know – yes so you know it’s sort of like from the get go and just say have a list of the things that you want to have done around your house, that you don’t want to be doing anymore obviously you list it in your profile that’s how it begins and then when you know, I always say to give the guest about a week to settle in not that they’re not doing anything in the week but just don’t have too many high expectations of them straight away because you know we had someone come straight from Spain to our house and still getting into you know used to a new country but just give a week to sort of settle in and then at the end of the week have a chat – how’s it going? Yea great ok well I think that you can do a little bit more here or I prefer if you did this a different way or whatever that is and just talk and then you know I’ve never had an issue in regards to laziness or not wanting to contribute because they get so much back in return and just the gratitude is there from the get go so communication is very important, laying out expectations, also like how certain things idiosyncrasies you might have around your own house, you know a certain way that you might like to do things you can continue that but at the same token be open to compromise. One of the things I’ve learned with Guillaume is that he is very methodical and he likes structure and order and everything to have a place. Now that’s great and I love the idea of it but sometimes you know particularly when I’m cooking or being creative I can be a little chaotic or just not, things might be, just get a little all over the place and so we both have to compromise with each other on that but it’s actually been quite fun learning that you know but I guarantee you my laundry cupboard, my kitchen drawers, my butlers pantry, everything has got it’s place, oh my gosh I love it and then he just comes in and maintains it, so anyone listening all those little spaces and cupboards around the place that you wish that you’d got too – put all of them on your list to get to first.
Anne-Marie: It’s incredible
Ludwina Dautovic: Then it’s just a matter of maintaining them.
Anne-Marie: Yea and your husband Harry, just to come home and all of a sudden, there’s his garage all rearranged and beautifully organised, my goodness.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea I know it’s so funny and it’s really funny because Guillaume was, he goes Ma when was the last time that you used this and I said a year ago and he said do you need it? No ok, it’s going to the Op Shop. He goes through all of my stuff and because he’s into lessening the things that we have and if you don’t use it why have it take up space.
Anne-Marie: We all need a Guillaume; we all need a Guillaume in our spare room, oh amazing.
Ludwina Dautovic: Yea, it’s so funny
Anne-Marie: Now you mentioned that at the moment The Room Xchange has their beta program for people who have listened and have got a spare room and you think oh I need to find out more, how will they access that information?
Ludwina Dautovic: Head over to The Room Xchange so that’s an ‘X’ Change dot com and just the first step is to just register with us, which is free and then from there you can create a profile so we do actually have a blog with a video tutorial showing you, you know, helping you, sort of hold you hand through the process of that if you like to see, just head over to the blog you can find that and another too is head over to YouTube, just go to YouTube and look for The Room Xchange, you’ll find a whole series of videos there too which are quite helpful and Social Media platforms too, over on Instagram and Facebook, Google+, we’re sort of everywhere that you would look. So if you want to find out more information, go there too but look if you just want to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and just ask a question or just go onto Facebook page and ask a question. So we’re everywhere, we’re very accessible, if you go to the website, our phone number details are on there and we will you know, chances are it will be me at this stage or my assistant Kelly who will respond to you and you know we really wanna talk to anyone who feels that they need to have a conversation, who want that and we’re also going to be doing some Facebook live videos too so you’ll be able to engage in conversation with us there.
Anne-Marie: Fantastic and of course that web address again is www.theroomxchange.com
Thanks so much Ludwina and I know on our next episode in the series we’re going to look at the benefits of becoming a guest and of course how it’s going to enrich your life. Thanks for sharing that, look forward to the next episode.
Ludwina Dautovic: Thank you so much.