21 Nov 2012

Renting out your place for Inauguration Day: Not so easy or profitable

Decked Out

Photo by María Helena Carey

Four years ago DC was buzzing with the excitement of the upcoming inauguration of President Barack Obama.  Amid all the planning for inaugural balls, crowds of millions, and extended bar/restaurant hours, stories began to pop up about DC residents renting out their houses/apartments for insanely high amounts to the people coming to town for this momentous event.  Property owners (and even some college students) saw dollar signs (and an opportunity to leave town for a long weekend, avoiding the crowds) and immediately took to Craigslist and other sites to put their property up for rental at an exorbitant nightly fee.  The DC government even relaxed its requirement that homeowners obtain a business license for renting out their homes.

So how did that all work out?  I have yet to hear of anyone who was able to pull in hundreds or thousands of dollars for an inauguration rental in 2009.  Craigslist listings went unanswered (or got plenty of contacts from wire fraud scammers), and even in the run up to Inauguration Day, hotels still had some availability.  Unless you had friends coming into town (or had a friend who had some friends looking for a place), you probably didn’t have much luck earning college tuition for your kids over Inauguration Weekend (by all means, if you were able to get tons of cash from some unsuspecting reveler, let us know!).

With another Obama inauguration just around the corner, we have been asked what the process is like to rent out your place, and whether it is worth it.  You can probably guess that my answer is no, it’s not worth the time and effort.  To begin with, DC has yet to relax any regulatory rules regarding renting out your property (and I doubt they will due to how the market fizzled last time around), so if you want to do this above-board and not risk any sort of fine, you’ll have to shell out a couple hundred bucks for a license, fees, and applicable taxes (note that four years ago, the DC Office of Tax and Revenue announced that residents renting out their homes for Inauguration Day would not have to pay sales tax).  Then you’ll want to make sure to have a clear-cut contract drafted that explicitly sets all the terms of the agreement (price, duration, who pays for damages, etc.).  And, of course, you’ll need to find someone willing to rent out your place at a price that makes sense to you.  Although this Inauguration is sure to bring large crowds, I doubt it will bring the numbers we saw in 2009, and if people didn’t have much luck renting out their places then, there’s no reason to think the market will be more favorable this time around.

If, after reading all of this, you’re still interested in giving it a shot, good luck!  No matter how it goes, we’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment or drop us a line.

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  • HillmanDC

    Chris Rock rented a place at 3rd and C NE last time, for from what I hear was over $10,000.

  • Rukasu

    AirBnB exists now, It didn’t four years ago. This makes it an even less savory option to go it alone through Craigslist.

  • DesertRat25

    I was a big success story in 2009 – I rented my two bedroom place five blocks from the Capitol for $6,000 for seven nights, to an Australian film crew. However, I have been a landlord for many years, knew the possible downfalls and agree that many people got greedy and ended up with nothing. There were so many scams around, here is how I convinced the Aussies that I was legit: I emailed them the DC Assessor’s page that proved I owned the property, plus a diagram of the unit, plus photos. It worked out great for both me and them.