D.C. Residents Make Big Bucks Renting Homes to Inauguration Visitors
This weekend hundreds of thousands of Americans are flooding the nation's capital, overtaking trains on the metro and annoyingly standing on the wrong side of the escalator. What better revenge for D.C. residents than charging exorbitant rates for those visitors to camp out in their studio apartments?
Jokes aside, some D.C. residents are making a pretty penny off inauguration attendees this weekend by renting out their spaces through social media sites.
Airbnb, a website that allows people to rent their homes to travelers and vice versa, is expecting roughly 2,000 people to stay in D.C. to partake in the inauguration festivities using its service, up from 150 people in 2009.
Ellen Boomer, a freelance writer who started using the site in July, said she sees renting out her space as a way for her to make some money while out-of-towners experience a historic moment.
"I'm so close to the Capitol and the inauguration," Boomer said. "Since I'm not going to the inauguration, why not let someone else enjoy the proximity and stay here?"
For $600 per night, a renter will be staying in her two-bath, two-bedroom, two-story home, about five blocks from Capitol Hill. Boomer said her client made the reservation about 10 weeks in advance - the night before Election Day.
Last week, some D.C. Craigslist users were banking on the idea that visitors might have procrastinated.
One poster listed her Dupont Circle apartment on Thursday and heard back from three interested parties by Friday afternoon.
Shar, who preferred to go by her first name since her apartment has a policy against this type of subleasing, advertised her "large, clean, sun-drenched, fifth-floor floor studio" for $179 per night.
Like many D.C. residents, Shar has no desire to brave the cold and crowds on Monday. Instead, she is staying at a friend's apartment a few blocks away from her guests. The two plan to split the profits.
"We tried to price it reasonably," Shar said. "We figured super rich people would already have somewhere to stay."
Both Boomer and Shar offer certain conveniences not found in many run-of-the-mill hotels. Boomer leaves her guests baked goods, bottles of wine and fresh lavender from her garden. Shar's ad said visitors could take advantage of free Wi-Fi and a Keurig one-cup coffee maker with K-cups.
"I was just trying to think if I were renting, what I would want," Shar said. "Everything's here, you don't need anything extra."
An Airbnb spokesperson said big events like the inauguration, where hotels often book up fast, drive more and more travelers to their site.
That means renters can drive up the price. For inauguration, Airbnb anticipates hosts will increase prices by 2.5 to four times the usual rate. A quick search shows rooms for the weekend in D.C. going for as high as $2,050 and as low as $15 per night - but, of course, you often get what you pay for.
"I'm a nudist, but you can be as comfortable as you'd like," writes the host offering the cheapest rental, who identifies himself only as " M." The ad went on to imply that guests would be sleeping on a couch in the living room.
Though Airbnb charges hosts a fee that Craigslist users avoid, it also offers a level of safety and comfort, with customer service agents available to help both guests and owners through their stay.
Shar didn't have much of a plan for what to do if her clients trash or burglarize her place, as happened to an Airbnb user before the company upped its security.
"If it looks shady or feels shady, the deal's off," Shar said. "I don't need money that bad."