- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2012

Need a place to stay during the presidential inauguration? An apartment in Southwest is going for $12,000 for the long weekend. Want something more suburban? How about the “light filled 19th century home” in Old Town Alexandria that will only set you back $5,500 for a four-day stay. If you don’t mind a drive, a $1,000-per-night condo in Springfield could be the place to crash after an evening of gala events. Just don’t forget to feed the cat.

With the 57th presidential inauguration drawing closer, the list of available homes, apartments and even mansions is growing as D.C.-area residents put their digs up for rent to the thousands of out-of-towners flocking to the city for the Jan. 21 ceremony and fancy balls.

Hospitality experts said it’s the natural result of increased demand and shrinking supply. Homeowners say it’s all about the extra crash.

Ashley Baker, a Capitol Hill resident, said she and her boyfriend decided to put his three-bedroom row house on Craigslist at the encouragement of a friend who successfully put his home up for rent four years ago.

“I did some research before posting on Craigslist and found that homes and rooms on the Hill were priced at a premium,” Ms. Baker said. “So we decided to list on Craigslist to see if we got any bites.”

The couple has listed the house, which features two full baths and space to fit 10 adults, at $1,200 per night. Ms. Baker said she has family to stay with if the home gets rented, and her boyfriend plans to use the money toward tuition for law school.

“It’s not a big deal if it doesn’t rent,” she said. “We just thought we’d try.”

If $1,200 a night seems steep, Ms. Baker’s asking price is well within the range of prices currently posted on Craigslist. As of Monday, more than 200 advertisements listing everything from one-bedroom studios to “million dollar historic” homes were available to potential renters.

The average daily rate for a D.C. hotel during the 2009 inauguration of President Obama was $600, according to figures from Destination DC, the city’s official convention and visitors bureau.

A study conducted at the direction of Destination DC showed that 98 percent of city hotel rooms were occupied the day of the 2009 inauguration.

Liang “Larry” Yu, a professor of hospitality management at the George Washington University, said the inauguration and the high number of occupied hotels provides an example of what he calls “compression of demand.”

“It’s the demand for hotel rooms in a particular geographic region, in this case D.C.,” Mr. Yu said.

The number of hotel stays skyrockets for the time around the inauguration, and as rooms are reserved around the District, it “pushes out to other parts of the city, then eventually parts of Northern Virginia.”

To be sure, a number of advertisements on Craigslist detailed the benefits of staying outside the city.

One person was offering a 100,000-square-foot home close to Dulles, Va., for the week of the inauguration at a cost of $6,500.

In Springfield, a homeowner was generously offering a three-bedroom home, complete with bunk beds for added sleeping space, for $1,000 a night — and a request to feed the cat.

If the demand is there, some Craigslist renters have yet to see it.

A woman in the Alexandria neighborhood of Del Ray offering a one-week stay at her one-bedroom apartment for $1,400 said she’d gotten no bites online, while a woman, who identified herself only as Lauren, said she wouldn’t be upset if no one rented her $500-a-night one-bedroom place in Dupont Circle in Northwest.

“I put up the ad because I figured that it couldn’t hurt,” the 29-year-old said. “I just finished grad school and have a ton of loans that I need to start paying.”

Logan Circle resident Eli said he checked out hotel prices before posting the $300-per-night rate for his one-bedroom apartment in Northwest. He hadn’t gotten much feedback, aside from the occasional spammer. Eli said he might lower the price if he doesn’t get any interest.

“I didn’t know what the market would bear, but everybody out there is totally crazy requesting unrealistic amounts,” he said. “It’s hard to come up with a fair market grade, so I took a stab in the dark.”

A quick search of hotel prices in the area put rates between $250 and $850. Others were already sold out from Friday to Tuesday inauguration weekend.

The prices found on Craigslist might be steep, but Mr. Yu said residents renting their homes are not really major competition to hotels.

“Hotels not only have higher rates they also have very creative packages they offer to guests,” he said.

“That’s why you see budget hotels at $150 and the Ritz at $1,000 minimums,” Mr. Yu said. “This demand is triggered by a big event. It’s not typically with us every day or every week. This is a mega event like the Oscars. This is our political show.”

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