In 2017, Victoria O’Connell rented her London apartment via a home-sharing site to a man who looted and wrecked the place during a party that drew the police. He disappeared, but left her a review on the platform, saying, “Great host.”
The violation convinced her there had to be a more secure way to share homes than dealing with total strangers. Earlier this year, she founded Golightly, an invitation-only platform for women.
“I wanted some kind of accountability, to know the renter as a friend or the friend of a friend,” she said. “I felt I would feel more safe if I had a woman renting.”
Golightly is among several new home-sharing platforms that, in one way or another, aim to improve on the Airbnb or Vrbo models based on who has access to the homes, the kind of units for rent and the fees that hosts pay to list with them.
“You’re going to always see people who are trying to nip at the heels of Airbnb,” said Joseph DiTomaso, the founder and chief executive of AllTheRooms, a vacation rental search engine and data analytics firm for the industry. “The real question is scale and can these other folks compete with Airbnb and Vrbo on a booking level. Can they drive demand? That’s going to be one of the hardest things to do.”
But for travelers willing to shop around, the following four new platforms offer novel twists on home sharing.
A women-only platform
Launched in January, Golightly was just getting out of the starting gate when the pandemic hit, but has grown 30 percent during it, to 590 properties. Most are in the United States and Europe, but there are also homes in Argentina, Israel and South Africa. Prices range from $80 for a mid-century-modern studio in Coronado, Calif., to over $1,000 for a country estate in Ireland.
The trick is gaining access to the offerings. Golightly members, currently at 2,500, must refer any new members in order to preserve the “friend of a friend” network (unaffiliated women can apply for membership and be vetted by a Golightly staffer, who becomes their referring friend). Spanning property hosts, managers and travelers, all members identify as women, including trans women, though they may travel with companions of any gender. The one-time membership fee, currently suspended during the pandemic, is $100.
Rent a time share
Time-share owners buy access to a property — typically a two-bedroom resort condo — for a week or more annually.
The new service Koala, which is scheduled to launch in August, aims to help time-share owners rent their vacation weeks.
According to Mike Kennedy, a co-founder, Koala is positioned as a generational transfer, from an older owner — though A.R.D.A. said the average owner is 44 years old — to a younger traveler, particularly millennial families looking for multiple bedrooms and residential amenities like kitchens and laundry appliances.
Home sharing with friends
The new platform MyPlace imagines a world where you don’t seek to make money off your spare bedroom or vacation home. Instead, you’re able to share it only with a trusted circle of friends and family and perhaps their friends and family. Any rental fees would be charged accordingly, such as free to Mom and Dad or having a friend of your college roommate proportionately cover your rent.
Zach Bell and Rameet Chawla launched MyPlace in March just within their own circles, about 2,500 people, with listings in Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Spain as well as the United States.
A platform for direct booking
About three years ago, as a property manager then living in England, Na’im Payman decided to develop his own booking platform to supplement listings on others. Direct bookings allow him to keep more of the rental rate and to maintain more control, such as setting cancellation policies from nonrefundable 24 hours after booking to flexible up to the day of check-in.
That software, Zeevou, begot Zeevou Direct, a short-term rental service that lists his 260-plus properties and is open to other hosts to list their rentals for free. The site currently lists more than 700 units.
“We don’t manage bookings, but give hosts the tools to do it themselves,” he said. “We’re trying to redistribute the power back to the hosts to run their business where everyone in the community is respected.”
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