Renting homes out for Super Bowl? Both sides need to take precautions


HACKENSACK, N.J. — Al Wright, a 70-year-old widower, is pretty fussy about his space. “I want the spoons in the drawer lined up a certain way,” he admitted. “Everything has its place.”

But for the right price — he’s hoping for at least $1,500 a day — he’s willing to let strangers take over his East Rutherford home for a few days next winter, when thousands of football fans descend on New Jersey for the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.

Wright is likely to be among a large number of nearby homeowners who’ll be renting space to short-term tenants.

The home-rental website HomeAway.com, parent of several rental sites, says that in recent Super Bowls in New Orleans, Dallas and Indianapolis, demand from travelers for home rentals more than doubled as fans either were shut out of hotels or looked for bigger spaces.

The number of owners offering places for rent also jumped during recent Super Bowls. The payoff can be big for special events. The average nightly rental rate in all locations across HomeAway’s rental sites is $200. But the average nightly rate for the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas was $2,000, and the average rate for Austin during the recent South by Southwest music and film festival was $1,500, the company said.

The idea carries risks, of course. Homeowners have to be concerned about damage to their homes and injuries to their temporary tenants.

And they have to take steps to make sure they’re paid. On the other side, travelers have to make sure there’s a real property behind the ad.

In some Super Bowl cities, including Indianapolis, scam artists have been accused of charging hundreds or thousands of dollars with false promises of listing homeowners’ properties. There have also been reports of con artists advertising fake listings that end up fooling travelers.

To avoid those kinds of scams, homeowners and travelers are both advised to use reputable websites or agencies, and to use credit cards and PayPal for payments, rather than wire money through Western Union or Moneygram.

“Travelers should avoid paying by wire transfer because these types of payments are untraceable,” said Julie Cassetina, a spokeswoman for TripAdvisor, whose FlipKey website offers home rentals.

Listing a home on FlipKey costs $35 a month, $299 a year, or 3 percent per booking. Listing a home on a HomeAway site (including vrbo.com, for “vacation rentals by owner”) costs $49 for a two-month listing or $349 for 12 months.

Jon Gray, a senior vice president of the Austin-based HomeAway, said that when they list, homeowners should post a lot of photos and set a price in line with nearby, similar properties. He said they should check with their municipality and homeowners association, if they have one, to see if short-term rentals are allowed.

To protect travelers who want to rent, HomeAway says it has a process to check the property and make sure it’s really there, and of sufficient quality to rent. In addition, the HomeAway sites and FlipKey have user reviews that travelers can check.

Homeowners are advised to have renters sign an agreement setting out the payment, length of stay, number of guests and other details. Homeowners often charge a security deposit, though Gray said it’s “very rare” for short-term renters to damage homes.

And many homeowners protect their privacy by putting their personal papers and belongings into a locked closet or room.

“I wouldn’t leave anything out I didn’t want people to find,” Gray said.

Homeowners should alert their homeowners’ insurance company before agreeing to a short-term rental, advised Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute in New York. “You don’t want to find out afterwards that you’re not covered,” she said.