Starters for ten

  1. What’s an unhotel?
  2. How do you select the properties?
  3. Wait, are these really people’s actual homes?
  4. Will someone be living there while I stay? What happens to their things?
  5. When do you add more homes?
  6. Where are you expanding to?
  7. What services do you provide to guests?
  8. What will you do with my details?

  9. Booking your onefinestay

  10. How do I make a booking?
  11. How far in advance can I book?
  12. Can I book last minute?
  13. How can I pay?
  14. When am l charged?
  15. How do I get to the home?
  16. What is your cancellation policy?
  17. Why is a particular home never available?
  18. Do you provide beds, cribs, highchairs?
  19. Are there any restrictions on what I can do in a home?

  20. The skinny on your stay

  21. London stay FAQ
  22. New York stay FAQ
  23. Paris stay FAQs
  24. Los Angeles stay FAQs

  25. Share your place

  26. Can I list my home?
  27. How much will I make?
  28. How safe is it to list my home?
  29. How do I protect my valuables / privacy / priceless collection of molluscs?
  30. What happens if something goes wrong?
  31. Is it hard to prepare my place for a guest?
  32. Who cleans up afterwards?
  33. Can you find me guests at short notice?
  34. Am I allowed to do this?
  35. How about health and safety?
  36. What if I have pets?
  37. What if I house-share or have roommates?
  38. Are you taking on properties outside London?
  39. What’s your agency fee?
  40. What’s in it for onefinestay?

  41. And finally...

  42. Any more for any more?

Starters for ten

1. What’s an unhotel?

It’s a new way to stay in a city. It’s a home-away-from-home. It’s a way to live like a local and dig the soul of a city, while enjoying all the creature comforts and amenities that matter. We’ve invested in people to seek out the most characterful homes, learn from the homeowner how they work, and prepare everything so that you can enjoy onefinestay.

It’s as easy to book one of our members' homes as it is to book a hotel room. Our reservations team can help you find a home and neighbourhood to match your lifestyle. We’re available by phone or text 24/7 if you need us, but we step back when you don’t. And you’ll never get woken at 8.30am by room service's unannounced arrival.

2. How do you select the homes?

We started out by approaching people whose homes we had visited and stayed in and thought “wow”. Then we started to work with people who’d heard about the idea, and said, “That’s cool, can we join in?”

Then came the tricky bit – picking the best places. We start by asking: is it exceptional? Does it unlock the unique flavour of a city? And would we want to stay in it?

For us to say yes, at a minimum it has to be comfy, in a great location, easy to get to and safe.

It also has to be something else. It has to be someone’s home.

3. Wait, are these really people’s actual homes?

Yup. Our homes are lived in and well-loved. They are chock-a-block with personal touches and personality. That’s why they express the essence of our great cities and the character of the people who live here.

So how does this all work for the home owners? Basically, whenever one of our members heads out of town they let us know so we can help them share their home with you.

4. Will someone be living there while I stay? What happens to their things?

Rest assured, our homeowners will never be resident while you’re staying, as we only show their homes as available when they’re out of town.

When we’re readying a home for your stay we seal off some drawers, cupboards and (in some cases) spare rooms, for storing away the homeowners’ personal effects. Your Meet & Greeter will point out these places which are sealed with red ‘tamper-tape’, and we ask that you respect these private areas during your stay. Of course, we make sure there is plenty of storage space available for your things.

5. When do you add more homes?

Continually and inexorably. Sign up to the onefinestay mailing list to be kept up to date with our latest additions as well as any special offers we may have.

6. Where are you expanding to?

onefinestay launched in London in May 2010 and expanded to New York in May 2012. And in October 2013 we hot-footed it to Paris and Los Angeles too.

If you want to be party to our next move then get in touch.

7. What services do you provide to guests?

The short answer is: all the important things to make your stay a comfortable one. You’ll always find the place clean and tidy, with fresh, high quality linen, fluffy towels, and boutique toiletries.

And because we know the members who offer their homes personally, we’ve asked them what makes their place special, and what makes their area interesting. With their help, we’ve discovered the best local shops and restaurants, characterful local bars, hidden gems and the intriguing local landmarks – things you won’t find in any guidebook, but in our iPhone app instead. And by passing those pearls on to you, we’ll help you escape the tourist traps and to experience the same city locals do – the city you'd see if you were staying with your friends.

We're always available at the end of a phone while you’re in town, just like a hotel. If there’s anything extra, a maid service, bedding, or you get locked out, just give us a call.

8. What will you do with my details?

We hate spam. And we think it’s sleazy when companies share their users' details with third parties without permission. So we don’t. Cross our hearts.

Booking your onefinestay

9. How do I make a booking?

Start out by browsing the homes. Once you have found something which inspires you and fits your needs click the big pink ‘Book’ button and enter your details to seal the deal. Or, if you prefer, pick up the phone and call, or have us call you.

You can choose to pay by credit card or debit card. And, to give you peace of mind, all bookings made more than seven days before your stay have a 24 hour cooling-off period, during which time you can cancel, no questions asked.

The Fine Print - We arrange the bookings and provide services to you during your stay, although your contract for the accommodation is with the member directly.

10. How far in advance can I book?

Pretty much up to two years in advance, for those of you with superior organisational skills.

11. Can I book last minute?

You can indeed. But please give us your mobile phone number so we can reach you if there are any problems with your booking.

12. How can I pay?

You can pay by debit or credit card: VISA, Mastercard and American Express will all do nicely. You can also pay by bank transfer if the amount of time between booking and check-in is at least 7 days.

13. When am l charged?

When you book, we take the full payment for your stay. When you arrive, we’ll pre-authorise your card to cover damage.

14. How do I get to the home?

For security reasons, we don’t provide full details of the locations of any of the homes until after confirming your booking, when we'll give you the specific address as well as directions to the front door.

15. What is your cancellation policy?

Here it is.

16. Why is a particular home never available when I check?

Each property listed on our site is a real person’s home (which is what makes them all such fascinating places to stay). That means we can only offer them to guests when their owners – our members – are out of town for work or vacation.

17. Do you provide beds, cribs, highchairs?

Absolutely, but please do let us know in advance. Please note that there is a small charge involved with supplying these kind of items.

18. Are there any restrictions on what I can do in a home?

Beyond the law of the land? Well we’re not expecting any of our guests to go Led Zeppelin on us, but just in case, when you arrive you’ll be given a copy of the House Rules, requests made by the homeowner, that we ask all our guests to abide by when they’re in the home.

One other thing you should be aware of: you won’t be able to set up shop in a home. The terms of our agreements with our hosts absolutely forbid guests to conduct any business or commercial activity from within a home while staying.

The skinny on your stay

We've created a page about staying in each of our cities:

19. Our page of London stay FAQs

20. Our page of New York stay FAQs

21. Our page of Paris stay FAQs

22. Our page of Los Angeles stay FAQs

For those with a place to share

23. Can I list my home?

If you live in London, New York, Paris or Los Angeles, think your home is the acme of style, and your neighbourhood is top of the salubriousness charts, onefinestay wants to hear from you: Fill out the questionnaire here.

24. How much will I make?

In short, it depends. Well be able to give you a proper quote once we’ve seen your place. But typically, it’ll be comparable to the long term rental value of your home, which is usually more than enough to cover any mortgage, say – or the cost of accommodation overseas.

So you get a free holiday. And the undoubted love of your fellow onefinestay members.

25. How safe is it to list my home?

We want you to sleep well at night – just like your guests will. We know that means you need complete transparency, security and safety.

Before we hand over a key, we’ll have seen a passport, swiped a credit card and met guests in person.

What’s more, we even back it up with a global insurance guarantee. And we also have facilities to pre-authorise the guest's card to provide you with extra reassurance.

We’re here in person for guests when they arrive. We’re at the end of a phone 24/7 during each stay. We’re here on email and online if there’s any problem before the stay, or after you return to your home. And of course you’re more than welcome to drop by the onefinestay office.

Because all of that allows us to get comfortable, we can pass our peace of mind on to you in turn. So sweet dreams all round.

26. How do I protect my valuables / privacy / priceless collection of molluscs?

Security matters, and we know it matters, so we’ve developed a four layer strategy for creating the same degree of trust between you and your guest as you’d have with a close friend or member of your family.

Here’s how the layers stack up:

First, have knowledge. We know who your guest is. We’ve seen their passport or driving license. We even have their credit or debit card details.

Secondly, set limits. We use tamper-evident seals. It’s pretty clever stuff, which was originally designed for securing aeroplanes. You put a little piece of magic tape across the seal of any cupboard or door which is private or personal, to show areas of your place which are out of bounds. Of course, a guest could always choose to break a seal. But (a) we’d know, because we check if a seal has been broken at the end of a booking, and (b) they’d know we’d know. And because our guests have made a promise to us that they won’t ever break tamper tape, they’ll be in breach of our terms.

Thirdly, be insured. We offer a unique insurance service that supplements any existing contents insurance you have and protects your things in case anything should go wrong.

Fourthly and finally, be sensible. If you have very valuable, portable items, consider taking them with you when you travel, or leaving them with a trusted friend or neighbour.

It’s worth adding: if you have irreplaceable, fragile, non-portable items which you think that someone might steal (even though we know who they are) or break (even though they’ve put down a card pre-authorisation and we have their credit card details), then onefinestay may not be for you.

27. What happens if something goes wrong?

Things do happen. Glasses get broken, keys get lost, light bulbs blow.

We’ll deal with as much of these types of things as we can without bothering you.

In the case of broken appliances we’ll always try to contact you before incurring any costs. We want to keep you as a member, so we will do our best to sort things out as efficiently as possible by using reliable tradesmen known to us.

If there are bigger problems which make your home dangerous or uninhabitable – a major leak or flood, for instance – it’s in both our interests to fix them quickly and cost-effectively. Again, we’ll always try to contact you before proceeding with any repair work.

28. Is it hard for me to prepare my place for a guest?

Not at all. In fact, we’ll help you do it.

When we take on your home, we’ll walk through your place with you room-by-room to make a list of all the things that will need to happen prior to someone staying. These might include securing personal effects and priceless Ming vases, all the way to watering plants and clearing the draining rack. (Demetrios likes to call the process ‘ingestion’, but that word kind of scares the rest of us a little bit.)

The list will always include things like taking your linen off the beds and putting it into temporary storage, putting fresh towels in the bathroom (and putting yours away safely until you return), and making sure there’s a bit of storage space for someone in town for a few days.

When we’ve compiled the list, we’ll then divide it up between you and us.

Because we take the routine and tedious work off your hands, it greatly reduces the hassle you would otherwise experience preparing to have a house guest. Providing your place is reasonably tidy, you will pretty much be able to leave at a moment’s notice (only pausing on the way to update your online calendar to tell us you’re going to be out of town).

Best of all, because we’ve learned from you about all the little fiddly things like how to turn the heating on, and where your fuse box is, you don’t need to waste time repeating yourself every time you have someone to stay, or deal with annoying calls while you’re away.

29. Who cleans up afterwards?

That’ll be us.

We’ll make sure your home is professionally cleaned before you return to it.

And once it’s cleaned, but before you return to it, we’ll reverse all those boring steps we took to make it suitable for guests: put your toiletries back where we found them, your linen back on your beds and so on.

So you’ll find the place just as you left it. But less dusty.

30. Can you find guests at short notice?

Sure. Tim’s built an amazing ‘availability calendar’ thing. It sends e-mails, makes coffee, attends Davos, all sorts of useful stuff.

As soon as we know your place is available, we’ll start marketing it on the website for you. If you want, and providing you are flexible about taking off at short notice, we’ll even list your place while you’re in town, and let you know when you get a booking so you can pack an overnight bag, safe in the knowledge that the cash will cover the cost of your trip.

31. Am I allowed to do this?

In general, yes. Providing, of course, you’ve not received a specific legal injunction or enforcement notice not to (and boo hiss if you have).

Offering a license to guests is permitted by most long-leases and mortgages. Neighbours and tenant associations also generally can’t prevent you from doing it (though as a good neighbour, you may like to let them know).

Ultimately you have to make your own decision. As every official you’ve ever met has said, you should seek your own advice if you’re in doubt.

32. How about health and safety?

Well, obviously, we won’t compromise on the safety of our guests.

So the most important thing is make sure your home is safe. That means no risk of gas leaks, no dodgy old electrical appliances and no highly combustible sofas. In our experience most well-kept apartments and houses should be fine. And we work closely with all our new members to help them meet these standards in case there’s any doubt.

In particular, you should have appropriate certifications for your gas, any electrics and you’ll need to tell us the fire escape route. Also you should make sure that your furniture is fire-safe. It’s a good idea to ensure that smoke alarms are fitted (newly built properties are legally obliged to have these anyway).

33. What if I have pets?

Usually we would ask that pets are’t left in the home while you’re away.

34. What if I house-share or have roommates?

We can only take on properties that are unoccupied for the period they’re listed as available on the site. If all your housemates or lodgers will also vacate in the case of a booking, then it’s not an issue.

35. Are you taking on properties outside your current locations?

If you’re interested in listing a home outside our current cities, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know here.

Who knows, we may even try to get there sooner...

36. What’s your agency fee?

The short answer is: it depends. We don’t really think of it in those terms. In the end, our profits (what’s left after we pay our members, and cover all our costs) depend a great deal upon how much we charge for the homes. And that in turn depends on the time of year, the day of the week and the occupancy level of the home.

We want to provide income to our members, and we do all that we can to make that happen.

37. What’s in it for onefinestay?

Apart from the chance to have a nose round some fabulous house and make some money while we’re at it? Well, we reckon four things:

  1. Firstly, create a fun, supportive and dynamic working environment for our staff, look after them, and pay them a fair wage.
  2. Secondly, provide our members with an extra source of income for giving up their space when they’re not using it, and the small piece of them and their family that always lives in it. For our guests, we want them to have a break that beats the best hotel they’ve ever stayed in: bigger, more interesting and infinitely more chic than anything you’ll find in the pages of Condé Nast Traveller (at least except on those months when we’re featured in it).
  3. Thirdly, help everyone make better use of the world’s increasingly limited resources by making sure the cities and houses we live in get used properly, are appreciated – and don’t sit around empty just because we’re too lazy to fill them.
  4. And fourthly, make a profit for our shareholders every year, and reinvest it in the business. It’s how we, as a private company, will survive and thrive.
  5. We think that if we get the first three right, the fourth will follow automatically. But don’t tell our investors. They’re too busy counting their cashmere socks to read this far through an FAQ, anyway – and ignorance, as we know, is bliss.

    And finally...

    38. Any more for any more?

    If you have any other questions, about anything at all*, just drop us a line – or see the rest of our contact details here.

    *We reserve the right to demand a glass of champagne from you if you successfully use our answers on TV quiz shows.