Hol­i­day home rentals and the ‘cir­cle of trust’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

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

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