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Thanks to this startup, Aussies can live rent-free by looking after pets

Techly's Business Success Series

How would you like to shower animals with love and affection and never put a dollar towards rent? Good news: you can start today.

House sitting used to be something only close friends and family would trust you with, and it was usually an extremely infrequent arrangement.

But what if you could do it for a full year in your hometown, or even use it as a way to nab some free accommodation while on holiday?

That’s what Your Home My Home co-founders Mikaeli Loughrey and Rebecca Nankervis were wondering until they realised people actually were willing to offer their home to stranger free of charge in exchange for some peace of mind.

“The idea came about when Rebecca was building her home in Melbourne and she house sat for 18 months straight rent-free,” Loughrey explained to Domain in 2016.

“It actually surprised me there was such appetite for this. She switched accommodation 10 times, but it was free.”

Soon after Rebecca and Mikaeli realised they could connect homeowners with house sitters, they took the plunge and started Your Home My Home out of their own pockets.

Since inception, Your Home My Home has flourished more than the pair could have possibly imagined. As a quick and convenient platform that links homeowners with house sitters, thousands of nights of free accommodation have been exchanged to date.

Homeowners can advertise their properties free of charge, while house sitters can gain access to and apply for these listings for a small subscription fee.

Sure, in Rebecca’s case, she had to move 10 times over an 18-month period. But she saved thousands of dollars in the process, and probably hung out with some adorable pets along the way.

Plus, house sitters can potentially score quite lengthy stays if they find the right listing.

Living rent-free in the one city isn’t the only way for house sitters to take advantage of Your Home My Home, either. You could sign up and travel the country for as long as you like, paying nothing for accommodation beyond the objectively cheap subscription fee required to access the listings ($8.95 per month or $79 per year)

For homeowners who love their pets, the benefit is straightforward: you get full peace of mind knowing someone is keeping your pet happy and healthy in the comfort of your home. After all, leaving animals alone to be fed once a day by the neighbour is no fun, not to mention leaving them in a cage at an expensive pet minder.

Your Home My Home co-founders Rebecca Nankervis and Mikaeli Loughrey

Your Home My Home co-founders Rebecca Nankervis and Mikaeli Loughrey

While Your Home My Home encourages homeowners to use things like police checks, references and social media to screen potential house sitters, the platform is built on the idea that people are increasingly open to strangers – particularly within the context of the growing ‘sharing economy’.

Think about it: Uber, Airbnb, Airtasker and Spacer are just some of the many brands which are capitalising on direct interaction between private citizens.

Numerous platforms similar to Your Home My Home have exploded onto the scene in Australia and across the world, but these two entrepreneurs are relishing the competition. We chatted with Rebecca and Mikaeli to find out more about where they are, how they got here and where the want to be in the near future.

For some background, could you describe what the sharing economy is and why it has grown so rapidly in recent years?

“The share economy works when an individual provides a product or service to another individual, either for free, or for a fee.

“Social networking such as Myspace and Facebook normalised social networking behaviour, but this concept has been further expanded by sharing economy technologies such as Uber and Airbnb where consumers/suppliers can connect directly without third party businesses.

“It’s an enormous growth area for the economy. PwC research conducted in 2014 estimated that the five main sharing economy sectors generate $15bn in global revenues. However, by 2025, these same five sharing economy sectors could generate a potential revenue opportunity worth $335bn. The peer-to-peer accommodation sector alone is expected to grow by 31% by 2025.

“It’s so successful because the share economy gives individuals access to people, places or products that are not ordinarily available. For example, people using our site can holiday in the comfort of someone’s home in the Cape York for a month, for free. They can immerse themselves in local culture, get to know the neighbours and experience places in a way that is unique and special.”

You’ve said you were both avid fans of house sitting before the days of Your Home My Home, but what exactly sparked the decision to found a startup?

“We knew with 33 million pets in Australia, we knew there was a demand for trusted, reliable pet sitters as well as a growing acceptance of the share economy. What we also discovered was a huge demand for rent-free accommodation – particularly for first home buyers.

“We were alarmed that 28% of Australians are renters and the average age of first home owners is reaching 37.7 years. We decided that if we could bring these two groups together to help one another by exchanging pet care for free accommodation, it could be a match made in heaven.

“Needless to say, we are so glad we joined the startup world. It’s a community where people are incredibly generous with advice, making introductions and providing constructive feedback. It’s a really exciting movement to be a part of.”

With more competition surfacing by the day, what makes Your Home My Home the better choice?

“We think competition is a good thing. As a homeowner, you can – and should – advertise your home on as many sites as you like.

“For house sitters, our membership is very affordable and we are the only website that offers an $8.95 monthly subscription that can be cancelled at any time. Even taking a year’s subscription works out at just $1.50 a week.

“We invested heavily in our technology. As a result, our website boasts a modern design, is easy to navigate and simple to use. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service and are proudly Australian made and owned.”

How have you been received so far in Australia, and what’s your next major goal for the business?

“Since we launched in Australian in January 2016 we have exchanged over 17,000 nights of free accommodation. Our next goal is to expand to New Zealand and then across the UK, Europe and the US. We hope to reach 200,000 users within the next five years.”

Your Home My Home is the perfect example of how the sharing economy is revolutionising the world we live in. Head to their website to find out more about the platform and to sign up as a house sitter or homeowner.

About the author

Andrew is Techly’s Editor. Loves: weird gadgets and the Collingwood Football Club. Hates: olives and cardboard boxes.

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