By Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner
RISMEDIA, Nov. 25, 2008-A recent Washington Post article noted that many residents in the Washington, DC, area are hoping to make thousands of dollars renting their homes to people attending President-elect Obama’s four-day inaugural celebration. With hotels as far away as 90 miles from the capital already filled, even while charging triple their usual rates, the chances are that a lot of these residents will succeed, despite the fact that, as the Post article pointed out, the vast majority have little or no experience as short-term landlords.
Savvy vacation-rental owners in and around our nation’s capital are also hoping to cash in on the Obama inauguration housing demand. We saw an ad placed by one experienced VR owner who is asking $4,700 for a place that would normally rent for $740 for four days in January. Similar examples abound on the popular Craigslist site for Washington, D.C. These folks have a major advantage over people offering their personal residences: They don’t have to pack up and vacate the premises for their inauguration-week renters.
If you own a vacation rental within driving distance (or a short train ride) from Washington and you’d like to offer it to Obama inauguration visitors, it’s not too late. By tweaking the advertising program that you already have in place, you can be ready in no time.
Here are some pointers for getting your place noticed and ensuring a great rental experience–advice that applies anytime there’s a special event happening near your vacation property, whether it’s a golf tournament, a skiing competition, or an inauguration:
– Start by editing the headline in each of your online listings at sites like VRBO and HomeAway. Your goal is to call attention to the fact that your property is available and conveniently located for attending inaugural events. For example: “Picture Perfect DC Condo for Obama Inauguration, Just Three Blocks from Capitol.” Provide additional details in the text description for your property.
– Post an ad on the Washington, DC, Craigslist site (http://washingtondc.craigslist.org). You’ll find “Obama Inauguration” ads in two Craigslist categories: “Housing/Vacation Rentals” and “Housing/Sublets & Temporary.” We recommend using the “Vacation Rentals” category, because that’s the most appropriate for a property that’s regularly offered as a short-term rental. Take advantage of the Craigslist option to include four photos of your property, and a link to your own website or online listing.
– Review your rates and consider adjusting them… upward. In the Washington Post article mentioned earlier, reporter Elizabeth Razzi says that rental rates for houses range from less than $5,000 to as much as $50,000 for a four-day stay. Most, however, appear to be asking around $20,000. (Here’s the link to the complete article.)
– Be prepared to negotiate. In addition to all the usual considerations, prices for special-occasion rentals depend on how badly the person wants to attend and the availability of comparable alternatives. That means you should probably set your asking price a tad high, but be prepared to come down if you have to.
– Make sure your rental agreement is crystal clear on key issues like check-in and check-out times, the exact number of guests who’ll be occupying your property, the number of cars you can accommodate, restrictions on smoking and bringing pets, cancellation and refund policies, and so forth. Having everything spelled out clearly is always important, but even more so with special-event travelers, who may be renting a vacation home for the first time.
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are experienced vacation-rental owners and the authors of How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You! They also own and operate FullyBookedRentals (http://www.fullybookedrentals.com), a membership website devoted to helping other vacation-rental owners advertise, rent, and manage their properties effectively and profitably.