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March 21, 2007

NASCAR Nation gets wired: Julie Buchanan's HomefortheRaces.com


Long story short: Ms. Buchanan (above) was always reluctant to rent her home to strangers on Bristol race weekends — so she created a home exchange website designed to connect outsiders with homeowners in the Mountain Empire, NASCAR's hotbed.

Here's David McGee's story from today's TriCities.com.

    Trading places: Site offers rental alternative

    Julie Buchanan was always reluctant to rent her home to strangers on Bristol race weekends.

    Now the Twin City native operates an Internet business designed to fill a unique niche in the race housing market.

    Buchanan and her husband, Steven, operate HomefortheRaces.com, a home exchange Web site designed to connect people in other cities with homeowners in the Mountain Empire.

    "I thought about [renting] for a long, long time, but I didn’t like the idea of someone else deciding who came into my house," Buchanan said Tuesday.

    Rather than pay rent, those who join the program are encouraged to establish relationships and exchange homes for a weekend, a week or longer.

    "Rentals and lodging are so expensive. People are paying $800 to $1,200 for three or four days here," Buchanan said. "With home exchange, you only let people in your home that you want — while you stay in their home. So there is mutual trust."

    She envisions a network of race fans from Daytona to California eventually using the service, with many also using it for vacations.

    "Maybe you exchange with someone in Myrtle Beach who comes here for the races, while you go there on vacation," she said. "And Bristol attracts fans from foreign countries. So people here could go to France or Finland and not have to pay for lodging."

    Housing is an issue because major events at Bristol Motor Speedway attract 160,000 fans. Hotels from Knoxville to Roanoke are typically filled and as many as 90,000 fans stay at area campgrounds, Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau officials say.

    Hundreds of area homeowners use several local firms to rent rooms or entire homes to race fans.

    "They’re [fans] paying a lot of money to do that. Our listing is $59.95 a year, which is the average cost of one night in a hotel. And they can exchange as many times as they want," Buchanan said.

    Speedway Vice President Kevin Triplett said he was unaware of the program, but had read about others.

    "I think anytime we can expose this area to other people, it’s a plus," Triplett said. "This is a creative way, by exchanging their homes, to visit somewhere else. It’s a neat concept."

    The site, which began operating in August, currently has about 30 members.

    "We’re trying to build a database, so we’re offering free memberships to the first 100 members," she said. The site also offers a feedback system, so members can address concerns or provide praise.

    Because exchanges are private dealings between those who join the program, Buchanan said she doesn’t know if anyone has exchanged homes yet.

    "There’s a lot of interest. We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls," Buchanan said.


zoom Zoom ZOOM.

March 21, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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