Rooms for rent, but not many takers

Few choose private housing for RNC

KINGFIELD — Ryan Foltz was among the dozens of Twin Cities homeowners who hoped to get in on a rental bonanza when the Republican National Convention came to town.

Like many others, Foltz found rumors of a gold rush were a bit exaggerated.

In the spring, he logged onto Craigslist and posted his three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the Kingfield neighborhood for rent to convention-goers who couldn’t or didn’t want to find a hotel room. Asking price: $1,000 a night.

Then, he waited. Two months went by.

Foltz said he was about to give up and take the posting down when, finally, his phone rang. But it wasn’t some GOP bigwig or corporate honcho calling; it was an employee of the Fine Line Music Café.

With all the hotel rooms full, the employee said, they needed a place to put up a band for a few nights. Foltz thought about negotiating for a higher security deposit.

“Right now, I’m not super-hopeful,” he admitted.

Still, Foltz at least got a phone call.

Sally Blood of Linden Hills reported zero interest in her three-bedroom home near Lake Calhoun for which she’s asking $1,000 per night.

“Whether everybody’s asking too much money, that may well be,” Blood said. “But I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t a silly amount of money. It’s too much of a risk.”

Whether or not it’s a silly amount of money, it seems many Minneapolis homeowners who posted convention rentals on Craigslist hit on about the same price: about $200–400 per bedroom, per night. Rentals closer to the action in St. Paul were advertised for several times as much, up to $1,000 per night.

In some ads, homeowners offered to chauffeur renters to the convention or even cook gourmet meals.

Even that may not be enough to entice convention-goers, suggested Leslie Wilcox of GOP 2008 Convention Strategies, a St. Paul firm specializing in logistics and event planning for out-of-town groups.

Wilcox said her company planned months ago to connect convention guests with private housing, but ultimately found no interest. She added there were a number of hotel rooms still available for $200–$1,000 per night during the convention, even in the two downtowns.

Wilcox said some people attempting to rent homes and condos simply had “unrealistic expectations” for how much they could charge. And with time running down to the convention, the pool of convention-goers who might have considered a rental is shrinking, she added.

“We’re getting down to two months to the convention and people are trying to lock down their logistics, or already have,” she said.

So, was the rental bonanza just a myth?

The experience of one Tangletown resident suggests it was a bit overblown, at least. The only people to respond to Heidi Stenne’s Craigslist posting were local reporters looking for a scoop.

“I’ve gotten three different calls and they were from three different members of the media,” Stennes said when the Southwest Journal called.

Stennes said she began advertising a duplex apartment she owns back in March, when she learned her tenants planned to move out by convention time. She even sweetened the deal with an offer to drive renters to and from the convention — hardly an inconvenience, since she’ll be working there as a volunteer.

By the beginning of July, it was looking as if she might be driving alone. “It might be a rental bust instead of a boom,” Stennes said.