- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marylanders are taking advantage of their proximity to the sold-out hotels of Washington to list their homes in droves for President-elect Barack Obama’s January inauguration.

Craigslist.org, an Internet classified ad site, listed about 1,000 inauguration housing posts last week, 157 of them were from Maryland. Those numbers doubled by 3 p.m. the next day.

Since Mr. Obama won the election, Maryland tenants and homeowners have been posting away in hopes that as the date nears, they can cash in from travelers willing to shell out big bucks.

Posts range anywhere from $55,000 for a luxury home in Potomac with catering and maid service to $100 per night in a spare room in someone’s apartment in Montgomery Village. A few added extra perks like chauffeur services to would-be renters.

“It’s an enhancement to the tourist attraction that will bring people in, and those residents have recognized a demand,” said Stephanie Lundberg, spokeswoman for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who is one of six members on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. “There’s a lot of people visiting the area who will be spending money and contributing to the local economy. This is a massive event, from our office’s perspective.”

As of Thursday, Mr. Hoyer’s office had received almost 4,500 requests for inauguration tickets. Ms. Lundberg said they would not be able to fill all the requests, and people are still calling in daily.

Advertisers have been putting up their homes at high rates. There were at least 20 Maryland homes going for $10,000 or more, with one home as far as one hour away in Indian Head.

Destination DC, the official convention and tourism corporation for the District, estimates that as many 1.5 million people will attend the inaugural. It is expected to attract far more than President Bush’s two inaugurations, which drew about 300,000 people each.

Destination DC has received an overwhelming number of phone calls about the inauguration, said Natasha Day, a secretary for the corporation.

Although some are excited about making some extra cash from the event, others are a bit wary about letting strangers into their home.

“If I can rent the place for those days, why not?” said Zondre Morris, who is hoping to let her guest room in her three-bedroom Laurel home for $700 a night. “It’s just a matter of, how do you know if you got a crazy?”

Ms. Morris, 33, said she plans to get references and interview potential renters before renting her home. Other potential landlords said they plan on requiring security deposits and doing similar background checks.

“We would obviously go about it carefully in talking to the people,” said Jim Turner, who is attempting to rent out his four-bedroom Bethesda home for $4,500 for four days. “My thought is if somebody who may travel halfway across the country or driving four or five hours away for the inauguration, I would hope that they would be a fairly high-caliber person.”

Like other potential landlords, Mr. Turner plans to stay with friends and family nearby or go on vacation with his family to Las Vegas.



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