Home-Swapping – Now Banned in Carlsbad, San Diego Next?

Effective today, June 4, the City of Carlsbad has new regulations on vacation rentals / short-term rentals in the city.  They have a helpful FAQ sheet explaining where such activity is and isn’t allowed.  Essentially, the city has banned renting any portion of a home, or an entire home, for fewer than 30 days, unless it’s in the “coastal zone” – roughly west of Interstate 5.  This means if you have a second property, or a spare bedroom, you can not rent it for less than 30 days whether once a year, once a month, or every day of the year.  Per my conversation with the City of Carlsbad, it also prohibits home-swapping or a home exchange.

What is home-swapping?  It is trading time in one property for time in another.  A popular platform for enabling this type of trading is HomeExchange.  For many, it is an opportunity to travel and greatly reduce total travel costs by securing free lodging.  I haven’t used home-swapping before but it seems like a great idea.  A couple approaching retirement on my block recently used HomeExchange so I spoke with them to get more details.  (Names withheld to protect privacy.)

homeexchange example
A sample HomeExchange property in Indonesia

To use HomeExchange costs my neighbors $100 annually, which gives one access to the site and contact information for others on the site.  The details for a swap occur between the individual parties, not via the site.  My neighbor noted that some people include money as part of agreements to swap but they have not in their two uses in the past year.  Their first experience was to Brooklyn, New York, and their most recent trip to Florence, Italy.

My neighbor noted that when he originally read about HomeExchange his wife was adamantly opposed but after looking at overall finances and their joint desire to travel they thought it worth a try – this option would close the financial gap and allow for travel now, and during their retirement years soon approaching.

So far the experience has been a very good one for them and they plan to continue using this option in future.  However, the San Diego City Council may have other plans.  The city is currently researching new regulations on short-term rentals which may include a ban on uses like home-swapping as our neighbors to the north in Carlsbad have enacted.  This platform that allows homeowners to utilize their otherwise empty homes and enable world-wide travel for owners would be gone.

For more recent home purchasers in San Diego the financial incentives to supplement vacation funds is compelling.  The median single-family home price in San Diego currently stands at over half a million dollars – $520,000.  As opposed to long-time home owners with lower property taxes (and lower mortgage balances), new buyers are shelling out near-record prices for their homes.  The upside is that living in San Diego means that there is a lot of demand  for property here and home owners have an opportunity to utilize that by home-swapping to visit family or explore a new country.  Of course, banning home-swapping would be a double whammy – high purchase prices and limited ability to utilize homes.

The debate about short-term rentals and Airbnb continues in San Diego and new regulations of some sort are on the way.  Hopefully, these regulations won’t throw new opportunities in the trash can in the effort to address resident concerns.  We are at the start of many new opportunities like Airbnb and home-swapping which are beginning to become mainstream and many others that are yet to come.  Problems need to be addressed, but the opportunities presented also need to be preserved when possible.

[The Carlsbad prohibition of home-swapping also raises questions about the general ability of homeowners to have guests of any sort.  If no payment is being made but home-swapping is not allowed, are non-paying friends or family also prohibited?  It almost seems as if any overnight guest is technically barred from staying, though I don’t believe this was the intent of the new law.]

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John P Anderson

Living in San Diego. I enjoy learning about environmental issues and connecting with good people that want to make the world a better place. Cheers!

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