ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
If you're thinking of going to Washington for the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, think again. A hotel room may cost you a small fortune, and that's if you can find one. DC tourism officials say that demand for housing leading up to the big day, January 20th, is unprecedented. NPR's Allison Keys reports that there may be hope for room seekers thanks to some locals who are trying to cash in.
ALLISON KEYS: George Anderson doesn't even live in the city. He's about 10 minutes away in Camp Springs, Maryland. But Anderson is still hoping for big money to rent his upscale three-bedroom apartment in a two-month old building. The price: $22,500 for just three nights.
Mr. GEORGE ANDERSON (Resident, Camp Springs, Maryland): There's a certain class of people that would really appreciate the scale or the level of amenities.
KEYS: So what do you get for your buck?
Mr. ANDERSON: There's exclusivity that you're going to get. There's security, there's concierge service, indoor swimming pool.
KEYS: Anderson says he got the idea, despite his wife's initial skepticism, from the hoards of people who were calling him for suggestions on where to stay because hotel rooms are a little tough to find.
Mr. ANDERSON: Most people understand that this is a very historical moment. Most people want to be a part of it in some shape, form or fashion.
KEYS: Anderson listed on Craigslist, but Google 'inauguration housing' and you'll find many Web sites simply brimming with people willing to vacate their homes and apartments for the masses blowing into town to see the nation's first black president sworn into office. On viscape.com I found everything from 2,000 a night for a four-bedroom house in nearby Alexandria, Virginia to 30 bucks a night for a one-bedroom in northeast Washington. Oh, wait, that one bedroom just jumped to 200 a night.
Mr. ANDERSON: We're just going to do a flat rate of 4,000 for the whole week.
KEYS: Doug Harris posted an online ad for his big colonial-style house in Washington, DC. He says his niece came up with a whole idea.
Mr. DOUG HARRIS (Resident, Washington DC): She was telling me like, things were going for like 950 and she has seen 500 a night on - you know, that's what people were offering in the area. I was like, oh, I've got that kind of property.
KEYS: But Harris is quick to specify. He's offering two bedrooms, a fireplace, some cooking privileges, but he's not clearing out of his property.
Mr. HARRIS: I'm not handing over the keys to the castle.
Mr. BRENT COLLIER (Inauguralhomes.com) There's a certain level of risk on both sides.
KEYS: Brent Collier and two friends set up a website called inauguralhomes.com, and they're matching would-be guest and landlords for a 10 percent cut of the deal. He says people wanting to give this a try should use common sense, secure their personal belongings, and be careful.
Mr. BRENT COLLIER (Resident, Washington DC): We're asking people to just be smart about how they present themselves and smart about who they decide to allow in their homes.
KEYS: Collier anticipated the demands for housing after seeing people listing their homes in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. He started passing out fliers at metro stops, set up the Web site, and says he's has over a thousand request in just a couple of days. If you don't have thousands to spare, give Tim Siegel a call into Tacoma Park. He's renting out his daughter's room in his three-bedroom house. But, he says, the twin bed might be a bit dicey for anyone over five feet 10.
Mr. TIM SIEGEL (Resident, Washington DC): That's really the limit on comfort for that bed.
KEYS: But the price is pretty sweet.
Mr. SICKLE: We're offering it for a $100 a night for two people, or $55 a night for one person.
KEYS: There's a caveat though. He'd like you to keep it down if you come home after midnight. Allison Keys, NPR News Washington.
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