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The Democratic National Convention: Caveat Renter

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There are rumors circulating around Denver that you can make money renting out your home during the week of the Democratic National Convention in August. Serious money. And serious rumors, considering that Bill Clarke of the Rocky Mountain News had a piece about exactly that on June 22.

As evidence, I refer you to Craigslist, which has become sort of a clearing house for all those things you might want to sell and/or rent: old furniture, collectibles, your body (at hourly rates), and maybe your home. In recent days, the list has been cluttered with DNC rentals: everything from a “nice” three-bed, two-bath home two miles from the Pepsi Center for $1,650 a night to a four-bedroom penthouse on 11th and Speer asking $25,000 for the week. (That last one boasts a 46-inch TV -- for a week at 25 large, I’d expect a wall-size television that would make Guy Montag drool.) The list goes on and on.

The question is, how many of these properties will be snapped up? And how many homeowners will reap the rewards supposedly available through this opportunity?

If my experience is any indication, the answer is: not many.

See, I lived in Tempe, Arizona in the 1990s, just a couple of blocks from Sun Devil Stadium. And in 1996, that’s where Superbowl XXX was played. You can imagine the hubbub, the money rolling in, the excitement in the air, the beer gardens and the guys peeing into the xeriscape. And along with that came the promises: “There’s money to be made!” one ad claimed. Scads of money, just for renting our house out for the weekend. Five thousand seemed to be the going rate -- six months worth of rent for most of us back then. Agencies were advertising anywhere they could, both for free (flyers on windshields and stapled to phone poles) and through normal means (ads in the paper, bus-stop benches, slides before movies started). It was everywhere. Everyone we knew was doing it.

And what we were doing, exactly, was paying to have our home on a "rental list." Some called themselves rental agents, others property management companies, whatever -- but the deal was the same. For a "modest" upfront fee (which ranged from a low of $50 to a high of $400) plus a percentage of the take, they’d rep the home and try to get it rented.

Problem was, no one we knew rented their places that weekend. Not one. And these were nice places, houses and condos literally a two- or three-minute walk from the stadium. It wasn’t that they were too far away, or dirty, or otherwise inconvenient. It was just that they weren’t in demand. Because there was no demand. Not like the rumors suggested anyway.

But the rumors and the advertising were right in one way. There was money to be made that January in 1996 -- off those of us who bought into the rent-your-house bonanza.

Renter beware. -- Teague Bohlen

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