Rental lodging

Overnight addresses trust issues in peer-to-peer rentals

overnight

Overnight is a private network for peer-to-peer rental homes. It’s a lot like Airbnb, but Overnight is a membership organization and listings are not open to the public. Instead homes are listed only within networks or friend groups. Founded in 2015, Overnight officially operates in four U.S. cities: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Austin. But they also have listings elsewhere around the world.

 

Anyone can join Overnight using a facebook login. The app requests access to your facebook friend list to search for people you know on Overnight. You can also search for friends directly by email address. I think the facebook friend list is interesting because you might have some friends from school or an old job who you aren’t really in touch with much anymore. I find it awkward to reach out to relative strangers to ask about a place to stay. But if I found someone I used to know on Overnight already advertising space for a reasonable price I’d be likely to contact them.

In addition to the network of people you know, Overnight offers public networks you can join. The Girls Love Travel group has over 20,000 members. There’s also a Travel Nurses group, a few pride/queer networks, a cannabis lovers group, academia, church and dog lovers networks, and some smaller more niche groups like vegans, Blockchain entrepreneurs, tech nerds, bikers, and even a small group for deaf travelers and sign language users. The network I joined sent me an email claiming that all new members have to be approved by an administrator, but my membership was instant so I’m not sure that’s really happening, nor can I think of any screening they could do to prove I’m really a dog lover/vegan/teacher/queer/travel nurse.

The concept of staying with folks who share your values or who can provide for your needs (i.e. dog care or a meat-free household) makes sense. And it can be fun to stay with folks with whom you share a career or hobby. But there’s not much unique about the 20k people in Girls Love Travel except that none of them identifies as male. I know some women feel safer staying with other women though, so the network certainly can serve a purpose.

Of course joining these networks removes the element of staying with people you trust. You open up your home (or stay in homes) with people who are complete strangers. The only thing you have in common initially is having joined a network based on a personal characteristic or interest. Overnight members can also create new groups, which is no doubt what led to the interesting selection of groups currently on the network.

After joining Overnight you can search for lodging by city. The content is identical to AirBnb, no doubt pulling the info over directly for members who have listings there. And it looks like lots of hosts have set their homes to be publicly available. If they are listing publicly on AirBnb there’s no reason to make the Overnight listing private.

However, within the networks you can see homes from only people in that group. This is the interesting part of Overnight: it does feel like you’re searching within a community once you browse within a smaller network. And certainly if you’re a gay couple and worried about how your host will handle this, finding lodging within a queer network eliminates that concern.

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