This story originally ran online Nov. 16, 2012.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering the inauguration hustle. In January, when temporary real estate is at premium, out-of-towners traveling to D.C. will presumably look to pay top dollar to see President Obama sworn in for his second term. And the demand has begun already, according to Capital Business’ Jonathan O’Connell.
But is it worth it? The cons are numerous. Do my girlfriend and I
really want randos populating our condo for a weekend? Plus there’s the ethical dimension: Are we bad people for trying to profit of off a historic event? What if we get some wacko wild cards that threaten our personal safety?
But on the other hand, thousands of dollars for just a weekend of anxiety could be helpful. Heck, we might even meet the next president of the land, who at that point is just another eager grad student looking to be part of history.
Still, after careful considerations, we decided against it. Mainly because I don't feel like dealing with the hassle of having someone else in my crib. But some did play innkeeper back in 2009. It's not an urban legend.
Chris Myers, 29, and his then-fiancee took the plunge in 2009. They were motivated by their neighbors in Capitol Hill Tower near the Navy Yard Metro station. And they had a financial goal in mind.
“I was against it originally because I wanted to attend the inauguration . . . but my fiancee and I were saving for our wedding, and if we really could get paid a couple grand to go away for the weekend, I was convinced,” Myers said.
They decided on the somewhat reasonable amount of $1,000 for 3 nights, or the best offer. And then a little luck came in. After posting an ad on Craigslist and copying the price friends posted, they got a hit. It turned out to be the parents of another neighbor.
Myers downloaded a sublease from the DCRA Web site, packed up some jewelry and a laptop and went away for a weekend. It worked out perfectly.
“They actually left the place cleaner than when we left,” Myers said.
Myers was lucky. And this year clearly people are trying their hardest to repeat his good fortune. A quick search of the word ‘inauguration’ on Craigslist calls up countless entries. Some of them seem ridiculous. Does anyone really need to know where the nearest Washington Sports Club is to see the president get sworn in? Others are borderline threatening. I can't imagine anyone wants to live, even if for a short time, with someone who makes it clear that I will definitely be doing the wrong thing if I don't stay at their place. Gee, thanks.
And with a few of them, the authors are clearly caught up in the meta-language of group house verbiage, which is hilarious.
And then the promises become downright obsequious. “I will provide fresh linens and toiletries as well as stock the fridge per your requests,” one post reads. Seriously? Then I’ll request 18 gold bars every morning. And toothpaste made of diamonds.
My favorite are those that tout the transportation options. “NO OVERCROWDED METRO SUBWAY NEEDED!!!” one says. Nor caps lock.
And we can’t forget the loud and proud. “Good Democrats is a bonus!” touts one prospective renter. I’m not sure that’s the kind of information you should be sharing, lest you inadvertently end up housing someone that doesn’t jibe with your politics.
Four years ago, it wasn’t exactly profitable unless you got on the bandwagon early. The Washington Post’s David Nakamura reported that in the days leading up to the big event, “the inaugural housing market has gone bust in record time.” So, I understand why folks are so eager.
But I have to say, some of these ads present themselves as advertisements for robberies. They seem to say: “I’m going to be out of town! I have a plethora of useful electronics and other luxury goods pictured here! All you have to do is act like you want to rent my place, and you’ll know exactly where to come get my stuff, free of charge!”
I don’t mean to be a cynic, because I understand that everyone is trying to make a buck. And others are just looking to foster some positive vibes on an historic day for the nation. But be smart, people; it could pay off.
Take it from someone’s who’s been there. “Make them pay in advance. Remove small valuables, don’t worry about the big ones. People aren’t going to pay you $1,000 or more to steal your 5-year-old TV,” Myers said, who now lives in a two-bedroom with his wife and is considering renting out the side room.
Yates is a columnist for The RootDC.
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