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Regal Rentals

Whether It's a Mansion on Mustique or a Castle in Cork, Renting A Luxurious Vacation Home May Cost Less Than You Think
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 2)

Of course, you can also rent entire homes in Europe, as in the Caribbean. Unique to Europe are large homes located on working vineyards or olive-producing estates. Jonathan Peress and his wife, Martha, both attorneys living in Vermont, recently attended a lavish 40th birthday party for a friend thrown in a medieval castle in Tuscany called Castello di Montegufoni.

Jonathan Peress recalls their visit: "The castle was built in the twelfth century, and there were about 25 suites, all unique, with carved wood ceilings, tiled floors and beautiful murals. Some had several bedrooms. We [about 60 guests] had the whole place to ourselves. There was a pool, elaborate gardens, salons and courtyards. It was situated on a hill above the vineyards, and the estate's wines and olive oil featured the castle on the labels. Our stay was so pleasant that I brought home a case of Chianti as a memento."

One of the attractions of European rentals is the history of many of the properties, with some homes dating as far back as the thirteenth century. How about a 600-year-old manor house in the Cotswolds with Roman ruins on the premises? Perhaps a fourteenth century chateau in Côte d'Azur, previously owned, restored and decorated by Christian Dior? Or maybe a nearby stone castle built for King Leopold of Belgium as his summer home?

Many European rental properties feature windmills, chapels, ruins, battlements, walled courtyards and even moats. One English manor, Faringdon House in the Cotswolds, has a swimming pool built in the style of an old castle; the pool is surrounded by water-spraying stone gargoyles. Stately English mansions hundreds of years old begin quite reasonably at about $600 a day. The Cotswolds home with the Roman ruins, for instance, rents for around $650 a night, making the six-bedroom manor far less expensive than a nice hotel. Rentals in Tuscany and the south of France have rates comparable to those in the Caribbean. The Dior chateau, for example, will run you upwards of $17,000 a week during the summer.

The nicest rental homes in the United States tend to be at a handful of resort areas, including some beachfront destinations, but the most popular luxury rentals are at the major ski resorts. Wonder-ful residences can be found in Colorado, at Aspen, Vail, Brecken-ridge and other big ski towns, where many very expensive second homes create a rental market. Skiing lends itself to groups, and skiers often want and need more space than hotels offer.

Rentals in the United States are not as commonplace or as organized as those abroad, and the market relies more on local property management firms. Bob's At The Beach, an agency in Lake Tahoe, California, offers the cream of the crop for rental homes in this four-season resort area. Popular for skiing, golf, gambling and water sports, Lake Tahoe is home to one of the largest congregations of luxury rental properties in the States.

Bob's masterpieces include a 7,000-square-foot home that has appeared on the syndicated television show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." This contemporary home, which has been a destination for many celebrities, including actors Roseanne and Charlie Sheen, is an exercise in redundancy.

Within the all-glass exterior, this beachfront home offers four bedroom suites, each with its own kitchen and laundry room. There is also a large commercial-quality kitchen and an extensive outdoor barbecue and kitchen center. There are indoor and outdoor hot tubs, an indoor pool and even a waterfall. There are seven fireplaces, seven bathrooms, a dance floor (complete with mirrored ball), a well-equipped gym and seven wet bars, including one fashioned from a 1949 mahogany Chris-Craft runabout. Outside there is a private beach on the lake and boat dock, illuminated with gas tiki torches.

Just as there are a tremendous variety of homes for rent, there are a variety of ways to rent them. One way is to go directly to the owners, who are often found through classified advertisements or by referral. At the other extreme are full-service agencies. The middle ground is occupied by agencies that put renters and owners together. Each method has its advantages.

"By working closely with the owners, we instill a degree of professionalism," says Karen Squires of LaCure, a full-service agency with an impressive catalog. "We go and see the actual homes, looking at the view, the furnishings, the staff and the amenities. We go into minute detail, even checking the linens. We then grade each house by stars. This way we can provide all details of the house."

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