High-Priced Airbnb and Vacation Rentals Fall Flat at Super Bowl


Skift Take

Nobody likes price gouging, especially from the sharing economy.

— Jason Clampet

Some San Francisco Bay Area residents hoping to rent their homes for thousands of dollars a night to deep-pocketed Super Bowl attendees are finding themselves short of the goal line.

While vacation rental companies, including Airbnb, HomeAway and others, report doing a brisk business in advance of this weekend’s Super Bowl 50, some of their most expensive offerings have found no takers.

Still available on the website Super-Bowl-Rentalz.com, for example, is an 11,000 square-foot, five-bedroom, eight-bathroom “executive mansion” that comes with helicopter and limousine service for $7,500 per night, reduced from $15,000 in January.

Airbnb said it has booked housing for more than 11,000 guests into Bay Area rentals for Super Bowl weekend, but 85 percent of bookings were for $300 per night or less.

The typical Airbnb host renting for the Super Bowl will make about $1,000 for the entire event, a company spokesperson said.

That’s a far cry from the $10,000-per-night price Katrina Johnson sought for her four-bedroom, four-bath home in Santa Clara, which is walking distance from Levi’s Stadium, where the game will be played.

Johnson said she turned each bedroom in her home into a master suite last winter in anticipation of renting it out for the big game. Despite throwing in high-end amenities, such as car service and a personal chef, she has yet to close a deal.

After dropping the price to $8,000, Johnson said, she is talking to a few possible takers found through friends, but nothing is certain yet.

“It may happen, it may not,” she said.

On Super-Bowl-Rentalz.com, the average listing for game rentals is between $1,500 and $2,500 per night, but managing director Bill Ryan said he is seeing more price cuts as the game approaches.

He couldn’t provide an average booking price but said the site’s listings receiving most traffic were “value priced,” a change, he says, from past Super Bowls, including the recent games in Scottsdale, Ariz. and East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“At other Super Bowls there’s been a nice mixture of high-end and value-priced listings, maybe there was a little more leaning toward the high end,” Ryan said.

For HomeAway, parent company of VRBO and 10 other short-term rental companies, some expensive listings were reserved early, which helped boost the site’s average booking price.

Sean Duff, who runs Stay and Play, a company that sells luxury travel packages to marquee events, said that with just days to go until the big game, there is still plenty of housing available in San Francisco.

“Things aren’t selling as well as they should,” he said. “I have three houses I could rent.”

He said comments like those by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who predicted residents would make “a killing” by renting their apartments on Airbnb, created an unrealistic market expectation, which inflated prices.

One thing in high demand, however, is helicopter rides to the stadium in Santa Clara, he said. The new stadium has been criticized for being difficult to get to and park at.

He sold two helicopter round-trip rides, which carry 5 people each, as soon as they were put on the market. “That sold right away,” he said. “People are concerned about the traffic.”

(Additional reporting by Rory Carroll Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Sue Horton)


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