Recent months have seen rocketing popularity for renting somewhere to stay for just a few days. These aren’t dedicated rental properties, but people’s own homes that have been vacated for a wee while, perhaps because the owner is away on their own travels or because they have two homes and divide their time between them.

In the past few years, agencies have been founded to serve this demand. One is One Fine Stay, whose Madeleine Ito explains: ‘We launched in London in May 2010 with just six homes and now we have thousands of properties across London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles.’ Vive Unique‘s Jonny Morris reports: ‘The number of homeowners signing up to our service has increased fourfold over the past year.’ And Camilla Shaughnessy, who launched Eventful Stays in December 2010, comments: ‘Our business has grown hugely in recent months and we could fill our larger properties 10 times over.’

Guy van der Westhuizen, who established Ivy Lettings in June 2009, reckons 85% of his customers are overseas tourists, nearly two-thirds of them American, the rest mainly Australian. Mr Morris has found the same: ‘Our clients are typically families visiting from North America or Australia for a week or two, so properties that can accommodate four or more guests are popular. Four- or five-bedroom properties are also in demand. Kensington & Chelsea, Camden and Islington are some of our more popular destinations.We focus primarily on neighbourhoods in Zones 1 or 2, although Richmond and Wimbledon are also hotspots.’

Mr van der Westhuizen says: ‘Tourist areas such as Pimlico, Victoria, Belgravia, Notting Hill, Bayswater and South Kensington are most in demand. We mainly do Zone 1, but further out can also be attractive when there’s quick access to the centre.’

 
Ivy Lettings offers mini-lets such as this apartment in Cadogan Place, London SW1- an area that will be in demand for short-term stays during the Chelsea Flower Show

Eventful Stays doesn’t have the London-centric focus of other agencies, but provides accommodation near events and festivals. ‘Many owners simply rent their property out to coincide with a nearby festival, whereas others list their homes for dates throughout the year,’ explains Mrs Shaughnessy. ‘The Cheltenham Festival is hugely popular and equally in demand this year are places for Royal Ascot, Henley, Glastonbury and the Rewind Festivals in Perth and Henley.’

Owners need only make properties available for a few weeks a year. Typically, the agency will handle all bookings and payments and can clean before the guests come and put its own linen on the beds, meet the guests on arrival, then, after the stay, clean up and restore the owner’s bed linen. The agency can also provide a 24-hour response service to deal with emergencies such as malfunctioning boilers.

Although Eventful Stays works on a 15% commission basis, most firms agree a payment for owners for every night booked. ‘We agree a fixed nightly rate, which varies from about £100 per night to more than £1,000. This allows us to vary the amount we charge guests according to factors such as stay length and seasonality,’ explains Miss Ito. ‘For a two-bedroom property in London, owners can expect to receive about £100 a night,’ confirms Mr van der Westhuizen.

The advantage to owners is that they normally need to do little other than vacate their home. Unlike dedicated rental properties, where personalization is often a no-no, in this case, guests expect to move into someone else’s home, with family photographs and the like. ‘We’re particularly popular among families who appreciate the space and character of real homes,’ explains Miss Ito. Sometimes, owners might be encouraged to declutter a bit, but that’s about it, and owners can make certain areas off-limits by advance agreement.

‘Homeowners renting out their property just a few weeks a year can expect to earn between £6,000 and £12,000. It’s an effortless way to earn extra income,’ enthuses Mr Morris.

Short lettings companies compared:

Ivy Lettings
(020-7349 7016; www.ivylettings.com)
Where London
Minimum availability Six weeks, minimum five-day stays

Vive Unique
(020-7993 5599; www.viveunique.com)
Where Cities worldwide
Minimum availability None

One Fine Stay
(020-3627 8036; www.onefinestay.com)
Where London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris
Minimum availability Four weeks

Eventful Stays
(0845 519 1140; www.eventfulstays.com)
Where England, Scotland and Wales
Minimum availability None

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