From my understanding, a homestay is defined as a place where the guests stay with a local family. The idea is to gain experience on local culture, food and activities. But the impression that I have from my conversation with large number of people in Malaysia, they consider a fully equipped house or apartment as a homestay, ie without any host staying together with them. For local travelers, the idea of not having a host suit them perfectly as they can do everything by themselves. However, for overseas travelers, the idea of having a host staying with them would be preferable.
Therefore, it seems that there are 2 perceptions on the word ‘homestay’. I would strongly recommend those who are using the term homestay to clearly define whether there is a host staying with the guest or not. On the same token, an overseas traveler needs to clarify with a homestay whether there will be a host or otherwise.
In my opinion, the term apartment or holiday apartment would be safer used for rooms without host set in a building as it would internationally be understood as a fully furnished place of stay without having any host. Whereas, a fully equipped house without a host should be called a ‘holiday house’.