Though Vancouver-area> hotels have been booked for months, property owners hoping to cash in on an influx of Olympics visitors are having mixed success.
Whenever there s a large event in a town whether it s Austin City limits or the Olympics we see an increase in demand of people asking for properties and for owners putting up their properties for rent, says Alexis de Belloy, vice president of HomeAway.com, a vacation rental site. De Belloy says the number of Vancouver properties listed on HomeAway.com at the end of 2009 was up 90% on the previous year, while Whistler properties were up 73% for the same period.
More than 70% of the Vancouver and Whistler listings on HomeAway.com during the Olympics were fully booked as of last week, de Belloy says, and owners are receiving nightly fees ranging from $570 to $880 for a three-bedroom home. That compares to $140 to $330 for a similar-size property during the rest of the year (data are anecdotal from HomeAway.com).
Other sites still have an oversupply of properties in the area: Only about 30% of the 3,000 Vancouver-area homeowners who are advertising on rent2010.net, have been successful in renting out their homes, says Mark Szekely, who launched the site in 2006.
Kristin Shoemaker is one of those owners. Shoemaker is renting out her Vancouver vacation home to four separate parties from Feb. 12 through the end of the Games. She and her husband, who live in suburban Minneapolis, bought the 700-square-foot condo in the Kitsilano neighborhood two years ago, hoping it would be a good investment property. And at least during the Olympics, it is: Shoemaker is getting $500 a night a significant increase from the $2,600-a-month rate she usually charges renters when her family isn't using it.
A cheaper option
Besides the availability, staying in a private residence offers more space, more privacy and usually a better value, especially if you re renting with a group.
Not surprisingly, room rates in Vancouver are hugely inflated during the Games, as hotels hope to capitalize on the tourist bonanza. Moda, a 57-room boutique hotel in downtown Vancouver, for instance, has some rooms still available (as of last week), for $609 a night. (A search on its web site turned up rooms for $158 a night for a stay in April.)
By comparison, a search on HomeAway.com found a loft-style 800-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Vancouver going for $374 a night (or $2,522 a week). The apartment sleeps up to five people and is three blocks from the Olympic Village.
Already, Londoners are gearing up for the next summer Games, as evidenced by the myriad web sites listing homes for rent specifically for the Olympics. Owners with spare accommodation in reasonable proximity to a major venue are expected to profit handsomely come July 2012.
When landlords realize the huge rents that can be demanded for a short let, they will take advantage, even if it means renting out their flat or house and staying with friends, Matt Parker, who operates londonrentmyhouse.com, says in an email. Parker, who is originally from England and lives in Australia now, created the site after hearing how successful private renting was for Sydney homeowners during the 2000 Olympics. He says he expects the 2012 Games to be a bigger boon for homeowners.
Indeed, a stay in the UK won t come cheap for Americans. One listing on londonrentmyhouse.com for a penthouse apartment on the south coast of England close to Portland and Weymouth, where the sailing events will take place is going for least 2,500 pounds a week (about $3,900, in the current exchange rate).
Tips for renters
Most online rental sites connect owner and renter directly, and pricing is negotiated between them. Often, a 10% to 50% deposit will be required when you book, with the balance paid on arrival. Many owners also require a security deposit to ensure against property damage.
Owners should provide prospective renters with the necessary assurances that their home is as advertised especially when renters can t physically check the place out before their actual stay. Some homeowners use law firms as their go-betweens, Szekely says; firms hold the payment funds in an account until the renters are done with their stay. That way, any disputes are settled before one of the parties has control of the money. Other owners use a property-management firm to handle the deal. The firm will typically charge owners a commission to advertise their homes, but they mitigate any risk involved.
If you re dealing directly with the owner, ask for a rental contract, de Belloy says. The agreement should include arrival and departure dates, payment schedules, pet policies, as well as cancellation or refund terms and conditions.
Keep in mind that, wherever the destination, renters who can stay for a longer time will be in a better position and have more properties to choose from. Many spectators coming to Vancouver are there for four to seven days. From the perspective of homeowners, that short time period is not practical. Owners see this as an opportunity to go on vacation, says Szekely, and the brief stay doesn t provide for that.