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Vacation Rentals Are Going Full Service in Buenos Aires

Private clubs, personal concierges and stocked bars: This is not your ordinary homestay.

Buenos Aires vacation rentals

It’s not until I’m on the second floor of the house that I notice the “Sidekick” pin on Barbara’s jean shirt. That’s what Oasis, the Buenos Aires–born home-sharing company I’m staying with, calls its on-the-ground support crew. Barbara picked me up at the airport and is now walking me through my temporary digs in what locals call a PH – a narrow, multifloor house typical of Buenos Aires’ café- and boutique-filled Palermo Soho neighbourhood.

The privately owned house, which comes complete with a rooftop plunge pool and an Argentinian-style grill (parrilla), has undergone Oasis’ rigorous 50-point inspection. Are there enough tables and chairs to accommodate max capacity? Check. Storage in the bedrooms to fit at least a month’s worth of clothes? Check. Four plates for every two people and at least 12 wood hangers in every closet (no flimsy wire ones allowed)? Check and check.

Oasis bills itself as a middle ground between a home and hotel – one of a handful of companies elevating the humble homestay, made huge by Airbnb (which also introduced a selection of carefully vetted, upscale properties through its new Airbnb Plus service). Since Oasis launched in 2009, it has expanded to more than 2,000 properties in 22 cities and, thanks to an investment from Hyatt last fall (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em), it’s set to move into four more cities this year, with Toronto high on the list.

Before Barbara leaves, she points to the fridge filled with breakfast supplies, and the bar – officially, the MegaBar – that’s stocked with bottles of malbec and Tanqueray (these upgrades can be added when booking). She leaves me her number should I need a parrilla reservation or tickets to a polo match at the city’s legendary Campo Argentino de Polo. Barbara, it turns out, is more in-the-know concierge than sidekick. The only thing missing is the hotel lobby.

Buenos Aires vacation rentals

But soon I find that, too – well, the Oasis version of it. A 15-minute walk past colourful produce stands and a mural of a steely-eyed Frida Kahlo brings me to a gate and a silver placard marked “The Clubhouse.” The four-storey former home, now a private club for local members, and a central hangout for Oasis guests, opens onto a vine-covered garden with a pool, a bar and lounge chairs beneath string lights. Twenty- and thirtysomethings dangle their feet in the water, Fernet Sunset cocktails in hand, while others have casual work meetings over mini beef empanadas. Business travellers make up a large percentage of Oasis guests (Nike put up its employees in Oasis homes during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio).

It’s through the club’s cultural director and local insider, Flo Tagino, that I end up on a closed-door shopping outing with Sophie Lloyd, owner of Shop Hop BA, which offers custom tours of local designers’ studios, like the tiny workshop of leather accessories brand Nimes. Inside, a man operates a single sewing machine while I shop in the small showroom, settling on a simple black tote with a clever removable fabric pouch. Flo also sends me to Proper, a buzzy restaurant in a former mechanics’ shop. Every table in the 33-seat industrial room is filled with diners polishing off plates of grilled octopus, wood-fired steak and the best flan I’ve ever tasted – thick, creamy and infused with dulce de leche.

Back on my rooftop, surrounded by the hum of the city, I crack open that bottle of malbec and make a plan for tomorrow. I’ll eat breakfast at nearby Ninina, call Barbara to book a session with a trainer in Palermo Woods park and stop by the Clubhouse for jazz night later on — I’ll live like a local for one more day.

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