The last NFL playoff game was barely past halftime on Sunday when requests for Super Bowl-week rentals started rolling into Jessica and Peter Prudden’s Minneapolis real estate office.
By Tuesday night, they inked more than 30 high-dollar deals, including two weeklong luxury house rentals for more than $200,000 each. They’ve burned through nearly half their inventory of high-end houses and condos available for the event.
“So now we’re playing matchmaker,” said Jessica Prudden. “It’s been crazy.”
With just over a week before the game, luxury houses and downtown digs are renting swiftly for jaw-dropping prices. But it’s still a renter’s market for Super Bowl weekend.
Visitors to the Twin Cities next week have no shortage of offers from homeowners. From bare-bones bedrooms in suburban houses to lakeshore mansions with a private helicopter pad, there are still thousands of would-be hosts with dollar signs in their eyes waiting for their own Super Bowl windfall.
A year ago, Airbnb, the leading online exchange for overnight rentals, had only 1,000 listings in the Twin Cities. This month, it had nearly 5,000. Craigslist and websites set up by entrepreneurial real estate agents list hundreds more.
Since Sunday, there have been 1,000 bookings in the Twin Cities on Airbnb, Benjamin Breit, a spokesman for Airbnb, said. Local listers on Airbnb typically get a nightly rate of $72 per bedroom. But on Monday, the average price was $173 and, on Thursday, it was $240.
Though short-term rentals are always a hot commodity in Super Bowl host cities, it’s impossible to predict how many units will be needed and much visitors will pay. Super Bowl LII has been particularly difficult to predict. U.S. Bank Stadium is the most urban venue for the game, and there are far fewer hotel rooms in the Twin Cities than in Houston, San Francisco and other recent host cities.
Then, there’s the issue of winter and whether fans will spend thousands of dollars on a winter vacation when they could be going somewhere warmer.
“We don’t know who’s out there and what they’re looking for,” said Margie Pierce, who has listed two houses and a triplex on Airbnb for next week. “We’re all kind of in the dark.”
She has had no one sign up for any of her properties, including a 4,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house that’s five blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium. “With hotels going for $2,000 to $3,000 per night I was hoping to make $70,000 off that house,” she said. “I just cut my price drastically.”
Pierce, a chemical engineer, bought two of the houses last year in anticipation of the Super Bowl, fixed them up and fully furnished them. Though she’s a seasoned landlord and business person, she’s taken a crash course in the short-term rental business. It’s a niche, she said, that’s full of hosts who are doing it for the unique connections that come with hosting people from all over the world.
“It’s hard to compete with them,” she said. “I don’t make blueberry muffins for my guests.”
Pierce said that she’s doing it for the money and hoped to earn enough to make a down payment on another rental property. Now, after keeping her units empty, warm and well-maintained, she’s wondering if she’ll even break even.
Airbnb, which takes a cut of every booking, set a goal of 2,000 Twin Cities house listings by February. To help make that happen, the company launched Project 612, an initiative aimed at helping the Twin Cities expand lodging capacity to take full economic advantage of the influx of Super Bowl travelers. At the last Project 612 host meeting before the final playoff game, about 125 attended. Breit said the size of the gathering was “unprecedented.”
Ron Baumgartner, a construction worker with some seasonal down time, last week listed on Airbnb his 500-square-foot house near White Bear Lake for $400 a night during Super Bowl week. He’s still waiting for a booking. “I’m trying hard to make the best of it,” Baumgartner said. “We’re pretty green at this.”
If he lands a renter, he plans to move in with his mom, who lives a few blocks away. He’ll even be free to pick up his renters from the airport, and to provide shuttle service to and from the stadium. “I’d be at their beck and call,” he said.
The Pruddens said the vast majority of their inquiries are for housing that’s within walking distance of the U.S. Bank Stadium. Suburban houses aren’t renting as well, they said, in large part because many visitors want more flashy party pads.
So far, the bulk of their business is coming from fans of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I haven’t closed many deals with Patriots fans,” Jessica Prudden said. “Maybe it’s because they’ve been-there-done-that. But the Eagles fans are really excited.”