By LISA KLEIN
Throughout the pandemic many affluent consumers have taken solace at their vacation homes, some of them a COVID-driven recent purchase, but are finding themselves returning at least part-time to city and suburban life to go back to work or school or are taking advantage of extended telecommuting policies and traveling farther afield.
Rather than leave their carefully appointed second homes empty, many luxury homeowners rent them out, using highly selective home-sharing services that list properties a bit too exclusive for Airbnb.
“Beyond the financial and support benefits, listing a home on onefinestay provides homeowners with an opportunity to share their beautiful creations with others who equally value the time and attention put towards creating a stunning place to live,” said Amanda Dyiecinski, chief brand and marketing officer for London-based onefinestay.
The number of mortgages secured for second homes skyrocketed from April 2020 to April 2021, growing 178 percent, according to a Redfin analysis of mortgage lock rates.
That number may be slightly misleading, as both primary and secondary homebuying tanked at the very beginning of pandemic lockdowns in March and April of last year. However, April 2021 marked the 11th straight month of 80 percent-plus growth in second-home mortgages.
Those looking to snag wealthy renters for their vacation homes will need to stand out from the crowd, especially to secure a listing with a high-end service.
Onefinestay’s homes are handpicked and inspected by the team, passing 200-plus checkpoints before being listed on the site.
“Whether it’s a classic brownstone in New York, an LA bungalow, a cozy Aspen chalet, or a historic London town home, every home that is inducted into our curated collection is handpicked and inspected by our team,” Ms. Dyiecinski said.
“Our properties must be situated in prime locations, central to such conveniences as local amenities, shops, restaurants and cultural attractions,” she said.
A listing on the California-based BoutiqueHomes site is invite-only, although prospective owners can apply to be vetted.
“We look for individuality and homes in which we can get a sense of who the owner is,” said Stacy Suaya, an editor for BoutiqueHomes. “We are not looking for houses that look the same.
“We love a historic property with a cool former life, for instance: an old castle, farmhouse, fortress or watchtower, for example, especially if it has been given a faithful update and been modernized in an interesting way,” she said.
BoutiqueHomes focuses on both popular vacation destinations such as Mykonos, Ibiza and Lake Como and unexpected locales that include Goa, Spanish Basque Country and Tasmania.
The company also likes to showcase homes designed by famous or award-winning architects and new talent.
A cut above
The home itself needs to have all of the comforts, conveniences and aesthetics that a luxury traveler will expect for their stay.
Privacy is also important for the affluent home-sharer.
“Some of our must-haves include privacy, a distinct character, desirable location, and special features such as stunning views and outdoor spaces, or personal touches like an impressive art collection that make a home feel like a home,” Ms. Dyiecinski said.
“Spaces to entertain come high on our guests’ wish lists, as do toys and activities to occupy children, as well as outdoor space, whether that’s a balcony overlooking the buzzing streets of Covent Garden or a sprawling landscaped garden in the heart of St. Tropez,” she said.
BoutiqueHomes also searches for space and personality in its rentals.
“We look for homes that have thoughtfully landscaped and appointed grounds with plenty of different places to lounge, nap or entertain,” Ms. Suaya said. “That could express itself in many forms: a pool, hot tub, pétanque court, tennis court, outdoor kitchen or dining area with a view.
“The indoor decor should tell the story of the house and give a sense of who its owners are,” she said. “Nothing is thrown together. Everything is very thoughtful.
“Larger properties such as castles and estates are in demand, but the most important part for many of our guests is the view.”
BoutiqueHomes guests often want proximity to nature, be it a private island or an area with trailes to go hiking or biking. And, of course, there is the view – a sight of the ocean, mountain ranges, or the countryside are prized.
Guest experience and service cannot be discounted either.
Onefinestay offers renters tailored experiences, in-home grocery delivery and personal chefs and in-home spa treatments.
BoutiqueHomes renters are attracted to interesting amenities that showcase the lifestyles of the homeowner, and options include an in-home hammam and private chefs. One owner in Greece allows the use of his own boat, complete with captain.
SHARING THEIR HOMES and the thought that went into them is an important aspect of renting them out for owners.
“They are house proud and as such, they need a partner that is not only experienced in managing the rental experience, but also understands the energy, love, and investment that has gone into creating their beautiful home,” Ms. Dyiecinski said.
That goes for the home-sharing services, too.
“We love to discover homes with personality, explore how other people live, and marvel at their treasures,” Ms. Suaya said.
“We’re not just listing a house,” she said. “We’re telling the story of the owners and the history. It’s nice to get to know the soul of the place.”