High-end homestays


Stay in an alpine chalet in Niseko.


Imagine staying in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, throwing a party for your pals Hogwarts style in The Great Hall, complete with a roaring Inglenook fireplace. Then an elaborate meal served at a 16-seater dining table, after which you retire for the night in a king-sized poster bed. Or how about a weekend in a hilltop villa on Lake Como in Italy, a five-bedroom dream home with lake-facing bathrooms and a covered terrace?

It may not belong to George Clooney but you never know whose house you're staying in when you sign up as a member of Stay One Degree - a Hong Kong-based service that lets holidaymakers stay in private apartments, chateaus, ski chalets and even super yachts, and for owners of such properties to rent them out.

Think of it as a super-exclusive, membership-based Airbnb, which allows you to connect with the homeowners, who in turn feel more secure in that they're renting their abode to a friend or a friend of a friend.

Thomas Bennett is the co-founder of Stay One Degree.


"There is a chain of trust as the guest staying in the house is a trusted connection," says co-founder and CEO Thomas Bennett, a former investment banker.

Stay One Degree has properties listed in 42 countries and hopes to have 1,000 homes by the first quarter of 2018. Mr Bennett says they have "thousands" of members. Membership is free, and you don't need to list your home to be a member.

Sit back and relax in this villa in Morocco. 


Members are screened to ensure that they're of the "right" background. If they're keen on a particular home, they can connect directly with the owner through the website. Sometimes, Mr Bennett makes the introduction. The social network model allows members to grow their connections into a large community of sorts, who are comfortable renting to and from each other.

Homeowners have the final say on whether they want to rent their home out to a particular guest. "This way, they can be sure that their home is not rented out to strangers or the wrong crowd," explains Mr Bennett. The company charges an 8 per cent commission for every booking made through the website, which he says is lower than other luxury rental companies.

Rents are set by the homeowners. "Sometimes, guests even get a discount because of this trusted friendship," he adds.

Spend the weekend at this castle in Scotland. 


Like the members, all the properties listed are strictly vetted before they're listed on the website. They must meet certain criteria such as stunning architecture, interiors or a fantastic view. Rents vary from £100 (S$186) to well over £10,000 per night.

 Mr Bennett himself knows the pitfalls of holiday rental. Not only has he paid inflated prices for nondescript homes, his holiday home in Spain which he rented out to a bunch of strangers, was thrashed by them. Hence he decided to start Stay One Degree with his partner, Jorge Munoz.

So far, things have worked out, with no ugly experiences reported by guests or homeowners. "Most homeowners choose to list with us, because of our social network model, which means some of the homes can only be found through us," he adds.



Written by Tay Suan Chiang for The Business Times

TOPICS: home stay, luxury