Leverage luxury: Swap million-dollar homes worldwide with ThirdHome

Property

If you are fortunate enough to own a second home in the $1 million to $50 million range, ThirdHome has a deal for you. You can list your home with them, and in return get access to stays at 17,000 similar homes, boats and private islands around the world.
A villa in Mykonos, Greece that is listed with the ThirdHome home-swapping service. THIRDHOME

As the company puts it, ThirdHome positions itself as an exclusive home exchange club for luxury second-home owners. This is hardly Airbnb; ThirdHome members need to have a first home, or their ‘real’ home, and a second, or vacation, home.

By listing that second home with ThirdHome, members get access to similar multimillion-dollar vacation properties in the US, Australia, Europe and elsewhere.

Self-made real estate entrepreneur Wade Shealy founded the company. Shealy, who put himself through college selling Bibles, created a real estate company in South Carolina in 1986, putting his sales experience to work building and selling resort property.

In 2010, Shealy came up with the idea of ThirdHome, which he founded with a small group of friends and investors. Members earn credits when they list their properties, making them available for exchange.

By using these credits members can chose when and where they want to travel to another listed second home, so there’s no need for a simultaneous swap (as in the movie THE HOLIDAY) with another member.

Wade Shealy, CEO and Founder of ThirdHome, a luxury home-swapping membership program. THIRDHOME

Shealy told me that the issue with second homes is that they are often not used enough. Owners also can’t always rent their second homes when they want to.

Some owners get frustrated and sell their second homes.

Instead of just letting the homes sit empty, Shealy’s idea was to build a community of upscale ‘home swappers’ around the world (now in 100 countries) so people could leverage their existing investment for travel without a huge cash outlay.

The company says that the ThirdHome ‘secret sauce’ is the unique indirect exchange business model, significantly limiting the cash outlay for members.

The company also says that prospective “third home” listings are thoroughly vetted by their international team to ensure the property is in a desirable location, has trustworthy homeowners, and is valued at over $1,000,000.

As for the homes themselves, Shealy told me that “they are cared for and curated by family members, not an agent” as at other listing companies.

As the company puts it, “With trust being the main ethos of the club, it is highly imperative that members in the community care for each other’s home with the same respect they want their own property cared for.”

An aerial view of a castle in Turin, Italy. The property is available for members to swap on the Third Home website. THIRDHOME

The company says members can “immediately reserve stays around the world for a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere, saving them an average of 90-95% off standard booking rates.” I was told the cost to use the service, charged by ThirdHome, was $900 a week per swap.

Swapping butlers, cars, beach rights etc. is discussed between the parties.

Members can earn additional credits through renovations, extra services, and especially by making sure their second home is available during desirable weeks. (A penthouse in NYC available between Christmas and New Year’s will be worth more credits than in March or July.)

Since 2010, the Club has also expanded their business model to include the THIRDHOME Reserve Tier (for homes valued over $5 million), THIRDHOME Adventures (small, organized luxury tour groups) and several partnerships and hotel affiliates such as the Ritz Carlton.

I attended a recent ThirdHome event in Los Angeles at a mansion on top of a mountain in Tarzana. Built-in 1972, it has been kept in 1970’s shape down to the avocado-green toilets.

Naturally, it has been the filming site of many a film.

At the event, I overheard two ThirdHome members comparing their experiences with their respective luxury homes. One was on the Caribbean side, the other on the Pacific side of Costa Rica.

A ThirdHome listing for a private island in Belize. THIRDHOME

Most of the group were members or prospective members of ThirdHome, who had come to watch Shealy’s presentation. Wade arrived with Debbie Fields, the famed cookie entrepreneur (“Mrs. Fields”) who he is currently dating.

After champagne, Shealy gave a presentation to about 50 people showing off the company, including footage from the six-part Paramount Plus television series, Millionaire Holiday Home Swap, which began airing in 2022.

The group of multimillionaire homeowners were a mix of ages, from the late 20s to mid-sixties. One woman said she had already used ThirdHome ten times.

The luxury home she stayed in on an island in Belize was a particular favourite.

A ThirdHome spokesperson told me, before they left for Australia, that they expect the company to grow to close to 50,000 members by the end of 2025. Wade Shealy is certainly operating in a target-rich environment.

Zillow says that there are 550 cities in the U.S. alone where the average house costs more than $1 million. And a 2023 Ameriprise Financial survey of financial advisors who work with high-net-worth clients found that about two out of three own second homes.

No wonder ThirdHome’s motto is “Where will your second home take you?”

A ThirdHome member property in Lake Tahoe, CA, known as the “Tahoe Treehouse.” THIRDHOME

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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