A TikToker with a bobby pin made 28 trades for a house. Now, she plans…
“I’m going to be that one person that does this twice.”
By Jaclyn Peiser, Washington Post
December 15, 2021 9:54 AM
With her hands clasped tight and her grin wide, Demi Skipper walked with anticipation toward her new home in Tennessee. She secured the $80,000 two-bedroom house after 18 months of trades that started with a lone bobby pin.
“This feels so surreal,” Skipper, 30, said in a Dec. 12 TikTok video. “I’ve done it.”
The @trademeproject TikTok account, which has racked up 5 million followers and nearly 64 million likes, chronicled the emotional ups and downs of trying to fulfill a goal Skipper set for herself in the early months of the pandemic. Her 28 trades included a vacuum for a snowboard, an Apple TV for Bose wireless noise-canceling headphones, and an iPhone 11 Pro Max for a 2008 Dodge Caravan. She dealt with closed borders, a bungled diamond valuation and naysaying commenters along the way.
But despite those hurtles, Skipper says she’s not quite done with the trading game – she’s going to do it all over again.
“We are fully renovating the house . . . and then whenever that’s done, my plan is to truly trade the house for a bobby pin,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I’m going to give the house away to somebody who really needs it.”
Skipper, who works at Cash App, a mobile payment service, was quarantined in her San Francisco apartment last May when she was inspired by a 2015 TEDx Talk on YouTube. It was a video of Kyle MacDonald, a Canadian blogger who in 2005 made 14 trades – starting with a red paper clip – until he landed a house. As she watched MacDonald, Skipper searched to see if anyone else had pulled off similar trades in the years since.
“No one had done it,” Skipper said. “So closest, I was like, ‘I’m doing this. I’m going to be the second person.’”
She kept the goal quiet, not already telling her husband. The experiment was for herself, she said, and she would follow two rules: no trading with people she knew and no spending money. Skipper also kept a video diary of her transactions to post on TikTok.
She didn’t expect anyone to follow along, but suddenly, a video chronicling her first two trades – the bobby pin for a pair of pink earrings for three margarita glasses – started gaining traction. (The TikTok now has over 30 million views.)
“I went to my husband and I’m like, ‘I think I’ve done something. I think people like this,’” she said. “At that point, I think there were like a thousand followers, and I was already mind-blown.”
Within the first few weeks, Skipper’s videos got millions of views. People who discovered her journey at, say, trade 10 or 11, wanted to go back and watch from the beginning, she said.
Skipper spent hours on each trade, dedicating her mornings and evenings to messaging hundreds of people on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, only to receive countless “not interested” responses. She searched by online sneaker-head groups and posted an electric bike food cart she ultimately scored in groups for street food vendors.
“I ended up finding a guy in North Carolina who was telling me his dream is to sell ice cream on the beach,” Skipper said. “And I’m like, ‘Do I have the right item for you, sir.’”
Her 28 trades included four cars, three pairs of sneakers, a MacBook Pro, a Peloton and a tiny cabin on wheels. She crowdsourced help from followers throughout the country, some of whom stored the vehicles in their garages or connected her with people interested in trades.
“There [are] so many bad things going on . . . and the world has been in such a tough place that it’s sort of cool to have this bright identify of knowing people are genuinely really good,” Skipper said.
The last trade before the house turned out to be most difficult. It involved a Chipotle Celebrity card, which is given to a select group of super fans for a year’s worth of free food. The woman interested in the card, whom Skipper called “the number one Chipotle fan I’ve ever met in my complete life,” lived in Canada and wanted to trade a trailer worth $40,000 that was equipped with solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall, a battery system that stores solar energy. But closed borders and paperwork backlogs stalled the trade for months.
As she waited to move the trailer into the U.S., Skipper sorted by house trading offers. She and her husband were willing to move anywhere but wanted a single-family home.
A woman in Clarksville, Tenn., a small town about 50 miles northwest of Nashville near the Kentucky border, reached out offering to trade a 750-square-foot home she was flipping for the trailer.
“The house itself is super cute and small,” Skipper said, and has a “giant backyard.”
After the home passed inspections, Skipper and her husband traveled to Clarksville the day after Thanksgiving to see the place in person.
“I just, like, didn’t believe that it was going to be the last trade, like there was part of me, already getting on the flight, when I was like, ‘This is too good to be. Like, something is going to happen here,’” Skipper recalled.
The associate plans to move in January and start the home makeover. A sponsor, which Skipper said she can’t in addition publicly disclose, is offering to cover the renovations. Once those are done, she will find someone to trade the house for a bobby pin and try her luck a second time.
“It is going to be so special to be able to give it to somebody and then also start my journey all over again,” Skipper said.
Skipper has learned a lot over the past 18 months, she said. In the early days she credited her trades to good luck but now recognizes that her perseverance allowed her to pull off the 28 transactions.
And she’s ready for the next challenge.
“There’s literally like one other person that’s done it once, but there’s nobody crazy enough to do it two times,” Skipper said. “So I’m going to be that one person that does this twice.”
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