Monday, April 21, 2014
By LAUREN BEALE Los Angeles Times
Move over, Airbnb. A new competitor in the rent-your-home-to-vacationers business is expanding with the aim of giving visitors the feel of living like a local -- or at least a local with money.
Onefinestay staffers Jason McGrath and Lilla Cosgrove ready the Los Angeles home of David Hertz for vacationers. Hertz’s home is among about two dozen in the L.A. area available through the Onefinestay service.
Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times
The London service, Onefinestay, is focusing on popular neighborhoods and niceties such as fresh linens and snacks from trendy restaurants. Along with a nicely appointed pad, starting at $250 a night, travelers also get use of a iPhone loaded with insider info on things to do and places to eat.
With its recent debuts in Paris and Los Angeles, Onefinestay joins the emerging "sharing economy," in which technology-driven businesses, including Lyft and TaskRabbit, tout rides and expertise.
That one can use the Internet to look at Onefinestay home offerings is about the extent of similarities to online listing platforms for travelers such as Airbnb or HomeAway.
Service-oriented Onefinestay aims to arm home-stay visitors with local knowledge gleaned from the homeowners -- and not just where to eat and shop or the route to the nearest cup of good coffee.
Yoga practitioners, a local acupuncturist and a good masseuse are among contact details that Los Angeles-area architect David Hertz has compiled for whoever lands in his family home in the Venice Beach canal area.
"We tend to feel like we live in a spa-like environment, a resort-like environment," Hertz said.
He also included walking and biking routes to shops and points of interest along hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard and at the beach.
To make the most of the Southern California penchant for indoor-outdoor living, he designed and built a Bali-inspired, four-structure compound, which is connected by three bridges and centers on a lap pool.
Onefinestay homes are a "curated" collection of distinctive dwellings, company co-founder Evan Frank said. Staff visits member houses to be sure they meet company standards and interviews the owners. Most homes on the roster are primary residences.
"The personal stamp of the owner is something we look for," Frank said. "We would not have the character and richness of our portfolio if the homes sat empty all year-round."
A West Hollywood home once owned by "Wonder Woman" actress Lynda Carter, a Bel-Air house with a swimming pool and an ocean-view house in Pacific Palisades are among the nearly two dozen choices available in the L.A. area. Prices range from $250 a night for a one-bedroom Western-decorated apartment in West Hollywood to $2,159 a night for Hertz's four-bedroom home in Venice. Most stays are at least a week.
The owners are often involved in creative fields or endeavors that require extended travel during which the homes would otherwise be vacant.
Work can take Hertz away from home for a month at a time. With children away at college, his wife usually joins him.
"This gives us the freedom to travel and have our expenses covered," Hertz said.
Plus, he is spared the expense of hiring a house-sitter for the notable residence, which was used as a location for two seasons of "Californication."
The epiphany that family homes can offer a broader experience than hotel stays came to co-founder Greg Marsh in his own travels and led to the company's formation in 2010. New York City homes were added last year.
All the legwork is done for the homeowner members, called hosts by Onefinestay despite their absences. The company takes photos for the website, markets the property and screens guests.
Onefinestay cleans the house and makes sure it is returned in the shape in which it was found. Hotel-like amenities are stocked, including high-quality linens and towels, toiletries and even snacks. Guests are met on arrival and are given use of an iPhone loaded with local information.
That greeting at arrival isn't all about goodwill, however. Onefinestay staff checks that passports match those of the expected visitors and takes other security measures.
"We provide assurance that everything will be managed and controlled," Frank said. "Should anything go wrong, we will be there to rectify it."