Royal Rents for Republicansby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Thousands of delegates, journalists, lobbyists and other folks will be in the Twin Cities for the Republican National Convention, which starts September 1.
Perhaps they'll be looking for nice homey places to stay instead of hotels. At least that's what dozens of Twin Cities homeowners are thinking. They're trying to rent out their homes to convention-goers, in some cases, for thousands of dollars a night.
St. Paul, Minn. — If you peruse Craigslist, the free online classified ad service, you'll find about 150 homeowners offering to abandon their abodes for a week or so to accommodate visitors attending the convention. You'll find offerings ranging from simple studio apartments to magnificent Summit Avenue mansions.
The Republican National Convention has locked up about half the hotel rooms in the metro area. And many homeowners are betting they can rent out their homes, especially if they're close to the convention in downtown St. Paul.
"We were hoping that we could get $7,500 for a week, or two weeks," said Mary Englund. She hopes to rent out her home on Randolph Avenue in St. Paul, not far from the Cretin-Derham High School. It's about a ten minute drive or bus ride from Xcel Energy Center, the convention site.
Englund didn't just list her property on Craigslist and wait for some bites. She put out feelers to the BBC, protest groups and other potential renters. But Englund has had no takers so far.
"I don't know of anybody that's actually gotten any bites. Any," she said.
Indeed, some homeowners are starting to think the odds are against them renting out their homes for the convention, including Anne Maertz.
She's asking $1,300 a night. That doesn't include her pet rabbits, who will be staying elsewhere if she can rent out her Dayton Avenue home in St. Paul. She tells visitors to place shoes up on a radiator so the rabbits don't nibble them.
Maertz has rented her home in the past when she's traveled overseas. But she's losing hope about renting it out for the convention, because there are so many properties available. "On this block alone, there are 14 empty condos. For sale. That's another reason I'm not optimistic," Maertz said.
But it seems some homeowners are managing to snare renters, though they're staying mum about their success.
"Someone I know rented out their house for a zillion bucks, and I said you know it, I got a house. I can rent out mine," said Tom Coleman of St. Paul. He said his friends, who wish to remain anonymous, are getting $5,000 to rent their home for a week.
Coleman is optimistic he'll hook a renter for his two-bedroom house near St. Paul's Central High School. He's asking $2,900 for a week. Coleman notes he's only a few steps away from the 21 bus line, which can provide a quick--and often entertaining--ride downtown.
Standing in his front yard, Coleman said he's willing to make significant alternations to his home to accommodate Republicans. Such as, "the 'Obama '08' sticker. Yeah, I could take that off the front," Coleman said.
Some homeowners figure convention attendees may want to stay a bit out of town.
That's what Michelle Gobrecht is counting on. She's offering her St. Paul Park home for $18,000 for the week. It's on a private lake, not far from the Mississippi River, but about 20 miles from the convention center.
"It's a very unique piece of property, being on the island with the secluded atmosphere, the peaceful atmosphere," she said. "And the benefits we have and the amenities."
"Driver and car," she said. "And executive chef and the daily maid service."
Gobrecht has had no inquires so far about her property.
But Ryan Kelly said his firm, Take'08 Events, has rented dozens of properties. He said homeowners and renters generally want to remain anonymous, though.
Kelly said many of the folks who'd be in the market for home rentals aren't likely to look on Craigslist. They want to work with someone they know. Someone who's got political and community connections. People like Kelly, the son of former St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly. And then there's Ryan Kelly's business partner, Erich Mische. Mische once served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Norm Coleman.
Kelly said he's rented homes for amounts ranging from $4,000 to $40,000 a week.
"Some of the major CEOs and executives directors of some of these national trade associations may want to stay in accommodations that they're more used to staying in on a daily basis," he said. "That could be something like a stately manor up on Summit Avenue where you've got seven to 10 bedrooms. And almost packaged together as their own mini-hotel."
You might think there'd be some hesitancy among St. Paul's Democrats to open their homes to their political rivals. But capitalism trumps politics. Kelly said most renters are Democrats.
"You know what whether you're red or blue, the money is all green," he said.
But Twin Cities homeowners seem to be overly optimistic about how much green they can garner from convention attendees.
Realtors in Boston say many homeowners in that city thought they could make a killing renting out their homes during the 2004 Democratic convention. But in the end, there wasn't much demand for home rentals during that convention.
- All Things Considered, 04/03/2008, 5:54 p.m.