New Twists on Home-Sharing: 4 Airbnb Alternatives

In 2017, Victoria O’Connell rented her London residence through a home-sharing website to a person who looted and wrecked the place throughout a celebration that drew the police. He disappeared, however left her a evaluation on the platform, saying, “Great host.”

The violation satisfied her there needed to be a safer approach to share properties than coping with complete strangers. Earlier this 12 months, she based Golightly, an invitation-only platform for girls.

“I wanted some kind of accountability, to know the renter as a friend or the friend of a friend,” she mentioned. “I felt I would feel more safe if I had a woman renting.”

Golightly is amongst a number of new home-sharing platforms that, in a technique or one other, goal to enhance on the Airbnb or Vrbo fashions primarily based on who has entry to the properties, the form of models for lease and the charges that hosts pay to checklist with them.

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.

The vetting process for listings includes an actual or a virtual walk-through by Golightly staffers to verify the homes are as described or photographed.

Members say the private system with traceable connections to other women gives them a sense of security.

“As a woman, with wages not being equal, I think it’s cool we can make a concerted effort for a woman to profit off our business and build a network of people like us who want to make women feel safe when traveling,” said Maura Cusick, a Golightly member who rents her home in New Orleans on the platform.

Hosts can choose from an extremely flexible policy (no penalty the day before) to a restrictive one (a 50 percent penalty one month out).

He added that because time-share owners set their own rates, and are often looking to break even on expenses, the resale rates for time-share units compared to rooms offered by the resort may be lower. The average price of a two-bedroom rental on Koala, he said, is about $2,500 a week. Owners choose their cancellation terms, ranging from fully refundable 72 hours in advance to nonrefundable after booking.

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.

“We’re not creating a public market of B&B entrepreneurs,” Mr. Bell said. “Everyone wants to share, but not rent on the public market.”

Relying on known users, even with a few degrees of separation, aims to build trust into the stay and replaces group exchanges — which the pair say are common on Facebook — with better booking technology.

Travelers would have to be in Mr. Bell’s and Mr. Chawla’s group to have access to their listings. The plan is to make MyPlace available to other groups who can then operate their own private exchange open only to their members when the technology is fully launched later this year.

“Airbnb is an incredible tool for people who want to monetize their assets,” said Mr. Chawla. “We’re aiming outside of that market. With my apartment in New York, my goal is not to make money but I’m paying for it and I’d love to allow friends and friends of friends to stay there.”

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.

“I’m trying to democratize the hosting marketplace,” said Mr. Payman, who launched the service in March and said he picked up some listings from disgruntled Airbnb hosts. “Building a network of hosts globally without a massive marketing budget means you can get better rates because there’s no intermediary.”

While most properties listed on the site are in Britain, there are sprinklings in Mexico, the United States and Asia, including a trendy loft in downtown Montgomery, Ala. (from $120), a two-bedroom cottage in Napa, Calif. (from $305), and a yurt in Mongolia (from $120).

As for the properties he manages, he still uses other listing services as only 60 percent of his bookings come direct. With no marketing budget to promote the free service, growth of Zeevou Direct has been based on word of mouth.

“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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