Inauguration Rentals: DC’s Gold Rush?

by Mark Wellborn

Inauguration Rentals: DC’s Gold Rush?

Soon after Barack Obama was elected president, we wrote an article about what seemed to be a very lucrative opportunity for DC-area residents: renting out your apartment or house for the week of inauguration. Within days of Obama’s win, Craigslist was flooded with hundreds of posts from residents offering to rent their homes, and it looked like you stood to make a nice profit off the historic occasion if you were willing to have strangers come lodge at your place. However, just like those who headed west in search of gold in the 1850s, it seems that, for most, the opportunity has turned out too good to be true.

“At this point we have no one scheduled to rent our place,” Julie Hamilton, whose house has been listed for about three weeks, told UrbanTurf. “So, I really doubt we’ll rent it out but if a good fit came up it would be a great way to pay off three months of our mortgage!”

Hamilton and her husband put their four-bedroom, five-bath townhouse in North Arlington on the market at $15,000 for the week of inauguration. So far, there has only been one interested party, a man who wanted to help them rent the home, but bump up the price to $20,000 and keep a $5,000 referral fee for himself.

“It took me a little while to get back to him and I was skeptical when he never got back to me,” Hamilton said. “So, I figure he either found someone else or I started asking too many questions.”

The fact that the Hamilton’s home is not in DC proper may be one of the reasons that they have had trouble garnering interest, but maybe not.

A 26-year-old professional and his two roommates told UrbanTurf that their three-bedroom in the U Street Corridor has been listed for about a month at $1,500 a night and they have gotten no responses. Carol Simms listed her Capitol Hill one-bedroom on November 10th for $1,200 a night and has not gotten any bites. Local real estate agent Jen Angotti offered to help one of her clients rent out his place in Columbia Heights, but he balked at her proposed rental price of $2,000 a night, saying he could get much more, and decided to rent it on his own. So far, there have not been any takers.

In fact, in all the research that UrbanTurf did, we were only able to find one person who was successful in renting his place. The man, a lobbyist who wished to remain anonymous, rented his one-bedroom on Massachusetts Avenue and 10th Street to a business associate for three nights at $1,000 a night. He is taking the money and heading to Colorado for the week of the inauguration.

The lack of interest may be the result of a number of factors.

Two weeks ago, about 4,500 hotel rooms in the DC area became available when advance room contracts were not signed. Even though the average price per night is still around $650 for these rooms, it is much cheaper than many of the Craigslist offerings, so visitors may be opting for a hotel stay now instead of staying in a stranger’s apartment. 

A more practical reason may be that supply is simply far outstripping demand. Despite the fact that there are going to be an estimated 2 million people in DC for the inauguration ceremony, the ads for inaugural lodging have now completely saturated the listings on many rental websites. For example, if you search for “Dupont Circle” now on the apartment rental section of Craigslist, there is as high a likelihood that you will find a place to rent for the week of the inauguration as you will to find a place for the year starting February 1st.

But perhaps the most compelling factor is that the prices are just too high for many people, especially given the state of the economy.

“I think there was more hype than anything else when this started and people are now not finding any takers,” Michael Moore of Tutt, Taylor & Rankin told UrbanTurf. “I really think that these listings are sitting because of the astronomical prices that people are asking. Three, four and five thousand dollars a night is a lot of money these days.”


  1. Juliet Zucker said at 11:45 pm on Monday December 22, 2008:
    A client of mine who's listed his property on Long & Foster's inaugural rental web site (www.january20.us) and works for the Marriott Wardman Hotel, said they've been booked solid for over a month (rooms & parties). He speculates that people who plan ahead & are highly organized reserved early, while the likely large number of procrastinators and last minute/impulse driven free spirits will be getting serious about putting their plans in place after Jan. 1. This is going to be an incredible event.
  1. Nicholas D Sardone said at 7:59 am on Friday December 26, 2008:
    I remember reading the same thing happened in Denver, CO for Obama's acceptance speech earlier this year - a frenzy developed as motels and inns, and bed and bfast's all booked up. Some residents did well though...I've listed on DC craigslist with inquires, but no takers yet, and recently picked up http://www.crashtheinauguration.com in google reader which I'm looking into. This could be the economic surge we need. Good luck everybody!
  1. Veronica Logan said at 5:40 pm on Friday December 26, 2008:
    My friends and I are renting our homes in DC at very reasonable prices ($500 per night). Check out our listing at http://www.inauguralrentals.blogspot.com/ or email me at veronicalogan72@yahoo.com
  1. inaugural housing said at 4:19 am on Tuesday December 30, 2008:
    Thanks for the great post guys. I've been trying to get the word out about a place I have for rent as well. Will post and let you know how it goes.
  1. joe said at 11:19 am on Friday January 9, 2009:
    Hello I am a young professional/grad student who is renting my brand new 1bd condo for the inauguration weekend. I am 25 ft from metro system bus stop, 4 blocks from Irving St metro (both accommodate metro smart-trip cards) the building has been newly renovated in 2007 and occupied by working professionals. I have highlighted some key points bellow. I am leaving the price open and will entertain offers. joevoros@gmail.com Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/joevoros/Appartment#
  1. SAT said at 8:44 pm on Monday January 12, 2009:
    GREED GREED GREED- the same beast that brought down the housing market, investment schemes, and this economy. Praise be to the the almighty dollar, the want of it, price your neighbor out of house and home, promote global hunger, put the cost of basic living necessities farther and farther out of reach. It's the Judeo-Christian ethic. Can I get an AMEN.

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