How to book an apartment on Sonder, the vacation rental company that combines hotel service with the feel of a private home

Sonder Press Photo

Courtesy of Sonder

Sonder is fairly intuitive to use.

  • Sonder is an apartment-rental company that offers rentals in properties it leases and manages.
  • It's one of several new hybrid companies like Lyric and Blueground that combine elements of hotels and Airbnbs.
  • In contrast to Airbnb, which is mainly made up of individual owners listing their homes and apartments, Sonder leases, designs, furnishes, and manages all of its apartments.
  • Sonder has 9,000 properties in cities including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Diego, Austin, Miami, New Orleans, London, and Dubai.
  • I recently booked a Sonder apartment in New York City - here's what it's like to make a reservation on its website.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Vacation rental startup Sonder claims to combine the best parts of a home and a hotel.

In contrast to Airbnb, which is mainly made up of individual owners listing their homes and apartments, Sonder leases, designs, furnishes, and manages its apartments, which can be found in 26 cities in the US and abroad including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Diego, Denver, Austin, Miami, New Orleans, Montreal, London, and Dubai.

The apartment-rental company operates hotel-type leases in residential buildings, which allows it to offer the "consistency and service of a great hotel" but "in a space that feels more like a home," according to the website.

Sonder apartments come with fully equipped kitchens and in-unit washers and dryers. Some also include access to building amenities such as game rooms and movie theaters. A 24-hour concierge service can be contacted via the Sonder app.

Here's how to book a Sonder apartment.

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Sonder is an apartment-rental company that claims to combine the best parts of a home and a hotel. It rents units in 26 cities in six countries.

Sonder is an apartment-rental company that claims to combine the best parts of a home and a hotel. It rents units in 26 cities in six countries.

Sonder, which has a total valuation upwards of $1 billion and has Airbnb's former CFO, Laurence Tosi, as a board member, has at least 9,000 rentable spaces in cities like New York City, Miami, Washington D.C., Austin, Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, San Diego, London, Dublin, and Dubai.

In contrast to Airbnb, which is mainly made up of individual owners listing their own homes and apartments, Sonder leases, designs, furnishes, and maintains its apartments.

Sonder claims to combine the best parts of home and hotel.

Sonder claims to combine the best parts of home and hotel.

Sonder says it offers the "consistency and service of a great hotel" but "in a space that feels more like a home."

It's one of several new hybrid companies like Lyric and Blueground that combine elements of hotels and Airbnbs.

To book an apartment through Sonder's website, you first enter the city you'll be staying in, the dates, and the number of guests.

To book an apartment through Sonder's website, you first enter the city you'll be staying in, the dates, and the number of guests.

Most of Sonder's units have a two-night minimum stay.

Then, Sonder will show you a split page with available listings and their locations on the map of the city.

Then, Sonder will show you a split page with available listings and their locations on the map of the city.

When you click on a listing, it will show you a photo slideshow of the apartment and a price breakdown ...

When you click on a listing, it will show you a photo slideshow of the apartment and a price breakdown ...

... as well as details about amenities, number of bedrooms, parking, accessibility, and more.

... as well as details about amenities, number of bedrooms, parking, accessibility, and more.

Once you select a listing, Sonder will ask you to confirm your birthday.

Once you select a listing, Sonder will ask you to confirm your birthday.

It will also ask you to create an account and become a Sonder member, which gives a 15% discount on stays under 30 days.

Next, you'll enter your email and text message and wait for Sonder to send you verification codes.

Next, you'll enter your email and text message and wait for Sonder to send you verification codes.

You'll also need to verify your address.

You'll also need to verify your address.

Once these three verifications are completed, you can proceed to the payment section.

Once these three verifications are completed, you can proceed to the payment section.

Sonder accepts Visa, MasterCard, and AmEx.

Sonder accepts Visa, MasterCard, and AmEx.

After confirming your payment information, your Sonder booking is complete.

After confirming your payment information, your Sonder booking is complete.

Once you've booked your Sonder apartment, you'll get an email with a confirmation code and a prompt to download the Sonder app.

Once you've booked your Sonder apartment, you'll get an email with a confirmation code and a prompt to download the Sonder app.

Three days before your stay, you'll get an email with detailed check-in instructions.

Three days before your stay, you'll get an email with detailed check-in instructions.

In the check-in instructions for my recent Sonder stay, I was a bit confused about whether I'd be meeting a real person or some kind of digital concierge, but apparently, it can be both.

Sonder has a local team in each city to service their properties and provide concierge services. But at some properties, guests check in with their smartphones and access the unit via a lockbox or an access code.

When you log in to your Sonder account on the app, you'll find all the necessary information about your upcoming stay.

When you log in to your Sonder account on the app, you'll find all the necessary information about your upcoming stay.

It includes check-in instructions, luggage storage options, and parking options.

It includes check-in instructions, luggage storage options, and parking options.

You'll also find check-out information.

You'll also find check-out information.

While check-in is typically after 4 p.m. and check-out is 11 a.m., you can request a different check-in or check-out time via the Sonder app or on the website.

While Sonder may seem like an Airbnb competitor, you can actually book Sonder apartments via Airbnb as well.

While Sonder may seem like an Airbnb competitor, you can actually book Sonder apartments via Airbnb as well.

One thing to be wary of is that, like some of its competitors, Sonder's advertised fees are not the same as your final fees. Sonder charges a cleaning fee that I found to be pretty steep for a single night.

One thing to be wary of is that, like some of its competitors, Sonder's advertised fees are not the same as your final fees. Sonder charges a cleaning fee that I found to be pretty steep for a single night.

I spent one night in a two-bedroom unit that rents for about $258 per night (and can sleep at least four people) and I had to spend an extra $100 on cleaning fees — as well as almost $50 in taxes.

Then again, many Sonder apartments have a two-night minimum, which would put the cleaning fee more into perspective. Another Sonder unit in the neighborhood I saw charged a $110 cleaning fee for three nights, which seemed much more reasonable.

The only questions raised for me during the process were the lack of clarity about the in-person versus digital check-in, and at the end, the fees.

But overall, the Sonder booking process was pretty clear and straightforward, and ultimately, completely worth it.

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