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The Truth About Renting Out Your Home During a Big Event

Becoming an Airbnb when something like the Super Bowl comes to town

By Chris Farrell

Super Bowl LII will be played on Sunday, Feb. 4 at the new U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis and organizers expect some 1.3 million people to visit the Twin Cities during the week. Little wonder that popular questions among local homeowners have been: “Are you renting out your home?” and “How much do you think we could make?”

Super Bowl

If a big event will be coming to your town — a professional golf tournament, a giant conference, the NCAA finals, whatever — you may be wondering if you can rake in a tidy sum by renting out part or all of your home, too.

The truth is: you may be able to find a taker, but you probably won’t make a fortune.

Super Bowl Is Drawing Many Airbnb Hosts

Even so, Twin City locals are increasingly planning to welcome visitors to their pads in hopes of padding their wallets.

Airbnb, the largest online home sharing service, now has 3,300 active hosts in Minneapolis and St. Paul for Super Bowl week. That’s up from just 1,000 last February when the company launched its PROJECT 612 initiative (612 is the Minneapolis area code). Other online home-sharing businesses, such as VRBO, are also busy signing up hosts.

All of this is adding to the excitement caused by the don’t-jinx-it! chance that the Minnesota Vikings may play in the Super Bowl, whose stadium is actually shaped liked a Vikings ship.

But Twin Cities homeowners dreaming of pocketing big bucks from their side hustle are likely to be disappointed.

Yes, there are high-end condos on the market for $15,000 a night blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium. And a 20,000-square-foot home on a Lake Minnetonka island is priced at $250,000 for the week. But Airbnb bookings are averaging $173 a night during Super Bowl week. This is about 2½ times the typical rate for the area, though hardly a sum that fantasies are spun from.

The modest rate reflects the experience of Greg Candelaria, an IBM retiree, and his wife, Brooke, last year. That’s when they rented out a spare bedroom and bath in their Houston home, six miles from the NRG Stadium where the Super Bowl was played.

What One Super Bowl Host Brought In

In the weeks leading up to the game, the Candelarias posted a high price of $1,000 a day. No takers. Three days before game day, they lowered their price to $399. The couple was approached by an Atlanta couple with an offer of four nights for a total of $1,000. They grabbed it.

Even though that wasn’t a huge sum, it was better than the $60-a-night they typically raked in through Airbnb.

Keeping Earnings Expectations Realistic

The keep-earnings-expectations realistic was a theme of a Dec. 19 meeting of roughly 50 prospective Super Bowl hosts at a hip space in downtown Minneapolis.

Reece Anderson, manager of hospitality for the Super Bowl Host Committee, said he hoped hosts would meet the needs of the game’s 10,000 volunteers (some coming from as far away as Australia) and discouraged residents from thinking they could charge $30,000 for the week.

“The people who can afford to pay that will fly in their private jets to be at the game and then leave,” he said. “They’re already take care of. Those are VIPs.”

New Fees for Some Home-Sharing Hosts

Also concerned: city governments in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Both passed legislation aimed at the sudden growth in the local home sharing market.


For example, Minneapolis hosts who leave their homes when guests stay there must now get a $46 annual license and may face periodic inspections. Hosts who remain in their properties don’t have to pay a license fee.

Taking in a Needy Family

Trudy Ohnsorg, 53, author of Air Be & Me, has been renting out her St. Paul home through Airbnb since 2015 to offset the risk of leaving her stable state government job for a consulting group focused on nonprofits. “It’s brought a steady stream of remarkable people into my life,” Ohnsorg says. “I still love to travel, but now I do it in reverse.”

Although she wasn’t planning to take in someone during Super Bowl week due to fears of partiers trashing her home and disturbing neighbors, she relented when a needy family came knocking. They had to make a work-related move to the Twin Cities during, of all times, the Super Bowl festivities.

So the couple with two kids, two dogs and a cat will stay at Ohnsorg’s house from mid-January through mid-March at her regular rate. That “gets me the $9,000 I was hoping to receive during this time period,” she says.

Advice for Prospective Home-Sharing Hosts

If you’re considering renting out your home during the next big local event, here’s some advice from Candelaria, Ohnsorg and Airbnb itself:

Candelaria sent the following checklist (lightly edited for clarity):

  • Go with a secure platform like Airbnb or VRBO
  • Use an attention-getting headline for your listing, like "Stay at Your Own Super Bowl Headquarters in the Heart of the Twin Cities!"
  • Draw attention to your home-sharing ratings, amenities and location
  • Compare your pricing to other homes in the area
  • Set realistic expectations and know your bottom price
  • Take only fully verified guests that have previous reviews
  • Use caution when considering "first-timers," since they may create stories to encourage you to rent to them (for instance, they may say there will be four people and then invite more friends for a party)
  • Set a strict cancellation policy (such as 50 percent refund if canceled more than a week before the event but 0 percent refund within a week of the event)

To protect yourself from scams if you plan on opening your home to strangers, do it through one of the major home-sharing platforms. Companies like Airbnb routinely run background checks and risk assessments to lower the odds of a bad experience.

Airbnb is even beefing up its customer support during the Super Bowl to help prevent problems. “We will have a Super Bowl swat team for support services,” says Nick Shapiro, global head of trust & risk management at Airbnb.

Ohnsorg’s advice: Try out sharing your home before a major event.

That experience, she says, will allow you to build up a clientele, understand your pricing, meet all the regulatory requirements and get your insurance in place.

“Get some practice,” she says.

Photograph of Chris Farrell
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for American Public Media's Marketplace. An award-winning journalist, he is author of the books "Purpose and a Paycheck:  Finding Meaning, Money and Happiness in the Second Half of Life" and "Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life." Read More
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