Holiday home rentals and the ‘circle of trust’
what sets Stay One Degree apart from the rental crowd. For all their properties are only leased to friends or friends of friends, putting them, at most, one degree away from someone they trust. This circle of trust is key to those who would love to rent out their home or second home, and cover their running costs, but are wary of a stranger stepping into their undefended castle. This, though, the first social network for luxury holiday homes, offers a reassurance that their homes will be treated as they would treat a friend’s home – with respect.
And it works both ways. For Tom Bennett, the mighty oak that he and his co-founder, Jorge Munoz, are growing came from Lego bricks, not acorns. Both are from an investment banking background and had homes that were empty for much of the year, as they were loathe to pay exorbitant fees to rental agencies or risk having them trashed by unvetted visitors.
A conversation among friends in a similar position, all keen to cover running costs, led Tom to try out the idea of staying with a network of friends, on a long trip to New Zealand with his family. It snowballed quickly until he had his whole stay booked through friends or friends of friends. That degree of familiarity meant that they arrived to a welcome that included contacts for tried-and-tested babysitters, access to exclusive members’ clubs, and a huge box of Lego bricks brought up from the cellar for their youngest child.
Happy children, happy parents. As Tom travelled, he became more and more convinced that this was an idea that would be embraced by many, as a solution to the thorny issue of trust in the rental market. Fast forward a year, and Stay One Degree now has more than 650 homes in 44 countries to choose from, and still counting…
What I needed to find though, was not a seductive retreat in Bali, Barbados or the Bahamas, but simply a weekend cottage to take our three teenage girls from their school on the Wiltshire/ Dorset border. And that is how I came across The Craftsman’s Cottage.
Featuring Shaftesbury greenstone under a slate roof, this early 19thcentury cottage is set back from the country road that runs through the quiet hamlet of Semley. Postcard-pretty, it has a red telephone box beside the welcoming village store where bunches of wild flowers sit outside, and homemade cakes, organic breads and very drinkable rosé sit inside. It looks on to a Victorian church, complete with spire and tower, and opposite that is 17th-century Church Farm, which produces wholesome fresh milk from its herd of free-range, grass-fed Friesians.
Bottles of this will be waiting for you in the fridge of the three-bedroom Craftsman’s Cottage, but so much more too, from owner Amanda’s banana bread to local craft cider. Antiques have been carefully chosen and mixed, with examples from the arts and crafts movement and pieces from contemporary furniture makers Sign up for free to Stay One Degree (stayonedegree. com) and see who you have connections with.
Request to connect with homeowners who you know or who have places that you may be interested in renting.
You cannot rent from someone who you are not connected with.
Once connected, a messaging facility will allow you to discuss details. If you’re looking to place your home on the site, check to see if you know anyone who is already a member.
Renting out involves an extensive due-diligence process. The focus is on quality, not price.
Homeowners are charged a 12 per cent fee for each accepted booking. While each property is considered luxurious in its own way, prices vary widely, and depend on size, so comb through properties in your chosen destination with care.
The properties stayed at by the writer were: The Craftsman’s Cottage, Wiltshire (sleeps six) Owner: Amanda Bannister. Reference No. 208; from £225 per night.
Casa Opala, Olhao, Algarve, Portugal (sleeps four) Owner: Richard Walraven. Reference No. 487; from £138 per night.
Casa Fuzetta, Olhao, Portugal (sleeps 24) Owner: Tara Donovan. Reference No. 228; from £1,211 per night.
such as Pinch Design. There is a sprinkling of taxidermy, paintings by Danny Rolph and Fiona Winning, ceramics from John Julian Ceramics, and wood-burning fires all framed by exposed stone walls and woodbeamed ceilings. Upstairs, plump beds come with tweed-covered hot-water bottles, William Morris wallpaper and Bramley bath products. It is, in fact, a tribute to British craft in all its forms, echoing perfectly the little hamlet it sits in, reached through winding lanes and bordered by banks of snowdrops.
Closer to my home in the Algarve, Olhao – known for having the best fish market in the region – was somewhere I had never lingered in, mostly due to the lack of appealing hotels, bar one small one. I seized on the opportunity of a weekend or two there, seeing houses in the narrow streets of its old town on Stay One Degree. It has avoided the overdevelopment that other towns in the area have fallen victim to, by dint of its large fishing port, and remains authentically Algarvean. Its landmark red-brick fish market, designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1915, sits on the waterfront and boasts an incredible display of local bounty.
The old town has a Moorish feel, with houses mostly whitewashed or clad in tiles and topped with flat roofs and squat chimneys. From up there, you can look across the roofs, where washing blows lazily, and watch the sun sink into the ocean. Tiny Casa Opala, an old fisherman’s house, whitewashed with a sea-blue shuttered door, was a ruin when Richard and his partner bought it, giving them a free hand to turn the interiors into the chic, clean-lined gem that they did. Two bedrooms, a bathroom and a shower room downstairs lead up to a sunny kitchen and dining area, with a terrace for al fresco dining. One flight up, and a tiny swimming pool awaits, only visible to the storks that nest on the nearby church tower.
You could probably see Casa Fuzetta from there if you knew which way to look for it, as it is one of the largest houses nearby and very noticeable, with a stained-glass dome protruding from the flat roof. Owner Tara Donovan has written the story of renovating it on Stay One Degree’s website, and so successfully has it been done that waking up there you find yourself falling in love with Portugal anew. The way its particular light plays on the stones, the characteristic outdoor terraces off bedrooms, the courtyards that stretch straight up through the storeys of a building to a ceiling of vivid blue sky. It brims with sense of place: the neighbours chatting to each other in the street, the timbre of the church bells, the sea breeze that ripples the surface of the rooftop pool.
With 12 bedrooms to fill, Tara has a team on hand to look after it, renting it out for yoga retreats when the family aren’t there. She is keen to safeguard the energy she feels the house has, so operates a vetting process; something she feels can be delivered with Stay One Degree.
Casa Opala in Olhao, left; Olhao beach, above right