AN INTERVIEW WITH ONEFINESTAY'S, LAVINA LIYANAGE
A London born business, Greg Marsh founded onefinestay in 2009. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it's most commonly described as the Airbnb for luxury homes. Now operating in Paris, New York, Milan and LA to name a few, onefinestay has hand picked a portfolio of beautifully designed homes for those seeking a unique travel experience. Guests of onefinestay can expect the hospitality and attention to detail of a hotel with the comfort and authenticity of staying with friends. As onefinestay's Personal Training studio of choice for their London guests, we wanted to take the opportunity to share how this exciting brand may work for you.
We have caught up onefinestay's General Manager, Lavina Liyanage, to learn what it's like to be a host.
What do you look for in a onefinestay home, are there certain attributes that appeal more than others?
Something special. onefinestay homes offer space, character and comfort – these attributes are at the core of what we look for in our homes but we also look for homes that have that extra something, be it amazing art, beautiful views or unique design features. We view every property in person before listing it on our website, and while we do have certain set standards for each home - fast wifi, comfortable beds, strong showers – what interests and excites us more is that our homes are distinctive, and will be one of the main contributing factors to our guests’ fond memories of London.
What is required of a onefinestay homeowner? Will they have to interact with guests?
Our service is designed to take on the responsibilities of opening up homes to guests, so that our homeowners have more time to do the things they love. We take care of the cleaning, store away personal items, meet and greet guests, and put anything we have moved back at the end of each booking. We ask our homeowners to embrace onefinestay by making us part of their travel planning, keeping their home’s availability up-to-date, and being responsive to booking enquiries. We also ask them to let us know if anything major changes in their home, as we don’t want our guests having any surprises. It is a relationship built upon trust, and it is important that our homeowners trust us to work with their best interests at heart.
We are also available 24/7 for our guests before, during, and after their stay, meaning that at no point is it necessary for our homeowners to interact with guests. That’s one of the key draws for our homeowners.
Aside from earning some extra cash, what are the perks of being a onefinestay homeowner?
Each month, we invite our homeowners to an exclusive event with one of our prestigious partners, courtesy of onefinestay. These are money-can’t-buy experiences - a compelling talk by Farrow & Ball at the South Kensington Club, an insightful look into the craft behind Christian Louboutin at their flagship store, a tea masterclass with renowned tea experts JING in one of our beautiful homes – with exciting, celebrated brands. Our homeowners are an interesting and diverse group of people, and our monthly events are a wonderful opportunity for them to meet and get to know each other. onefinestay members also receive discounted stays in our homes across the globe, so whilst we welcome guests to their city, they can explore someone else’s.
We love onefinestay’s attention to detail and the importance you put on the ‘little things’ – how do you go the extra mile for your homeowners and guests?
With our guests, our attention to detail starts right from when they make their enquiry. Our Guest Sales team is incredibly knowledgeable and wonderful at taking guests’ requirements, no matter what they are, and finding their perfect home. To make our guests feel immediately at home, we leave them a welcome pack of specially curated artisanal items including tea, coffee, and some delicious snacks. Our toiletries are also hand picked and reflect that nothing goes into our homes without a lot of thought and care into who we work with and the guest experience in mind.
What happens if something is broken or damaged during a stay?
If the guest damages or breaks something, we would primarily look to repair or, where this isn’t possible, replace like for like. If the damage was unavoidable – perhaps a leak that wasn't caused by a guest – our homeowners would have insurance to cover this. Part of offering your home for guests to enjoy is that your home can see some wear and tear, such as worn carpets or sofas, which our homeowners understand falls to them to remedy. These are the kinds of things one should expect from having people in their home, and we make sure our homeowners are aware of this. We are very reasonable in our approach, and can always be reached should a homeowner wish to discuss something.
How do you ensure an owner’s belongings are safe?
We take a £1000 deposit for each booking upon the guests’ arrival at the home. We also have a special sealing system whereby 'tamper tape' is placed on wardrobes or drawers which homeowners want to keep private. If this is removed then we will hold the guest deposit until we have established whether anything is missing. Many of our guests are homeowners themselves or repeat guests, and treat the homes with respect. We also require that the lead guest of each booking is over the age of 25, and we check their identity upon arrival. We are authorised to evict a guest during a booking should we feel this is necessary, however this is not something we have to do often as our guest booking process is very diligent.
What is the application process like?
Usually homeowners start their application by filling out our online questionnaire, providing us with some basic information about their home – a direct phone call is just as welcome, however. We look at factors such as location, home standards, how many homes we already have in the area and how well they perform to determine whether we think it could be a good fit for onefinestay. If it is something we think could work nicely, one of our New Members team visits the home to take a further look, and to talk over the finer details with the homeowner. If both parties wish to go ahead, we schedule a registration, where the home is photographed and all of the details taken down to build the listing on our website. Et voila! Each homeowner is then given an Account Manager to act as their point of contact throughout their time with onefinestay.
What are the hidden gems you tell travellers to London about?
The reason our guests continue to choose to stay with us is for that authentic experience of living like a local, and finding those truly hidden gems. London is one of the greatest cities in the world and exploring from your neighbourhood home is the way to truly see what we have to offer. Guests are given a complimentary iPhone to use during their trip, helping them to find their way around easily. We send out a monthly newsletter which gives seasonal recommendations of what to do during their stay – must-see exhibitions, one-off foodie festivals, summer pop-ups – and our service team are always available to give local tips and recommendations. Lastly, we also help our guests with the practical things, such as airport transfers, baby sitters and even GPs.
What does the future have in store for onefinestay?
onefinestay recently launched in four Collection destinations; Edinburgh, Southern California, the French Riviera and the Hamptons. We also just launched in San Francisco, which we are really excited about. This is just the start, and you will be seeing us launch in more destinations, providing our high level of service and exceptional homes to more places across the globe.
Quick fire round…
Best place for a rehydrating facial after a long flight?
I’m not a facials girl – much more likely to hit the gym and then sleep well that night.
It’s your last night in London, what do you do?
Go to Soho. It’s a diverse mix of hustle and bustle. Start with drinks at Bar Termini, move on to dinner at Blacklock and then finish off with late night drinks at 68 and Boston.
Top family friendly day out?
If it’s sunny, an afternoon at Hyde Park with a picnic and a ride on one of the boats on the Serpentine. If it’s raining, which is sadly more likely, the Natural History Museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in London, and has great exhibitions, is very interactive and will fascinate adults and children alike.
Green Park or Hyde Park?
As per above, Hyde Park but actually St James’ Park is quite the hidden gem itself.
National Gallery or Tate Modern?
The best city in the world
To read more about onefinestay, visit their webiste at onefinestay.com.
To find out what joining onefinestay could mean for you, please contact Abbi and the team - email@example.com - 020 3763 3804. If you'd like to make a booking enquiry, contact onefinestay's Guest Sales team - firstname.lastname@example.org - 0800 048 8588.