It's a festival, not the presidential inauguration! But homeowners in Austin, Texas, don't seem to see the difference: They're trying to rent out their places to tourists for the week of SXSW at prices that rival the astronomical asks in Washington, D.C., during President Barack Obama's inauguration. You might recall that some D.C. natives were renting out their homes for as much as $10,000 for the four-day inauguration festivities in January. Now check out that cute apartment pictured above: It's a two-bedroom luxury pad in downtown Austin -- and it's going for $1,074 per night -- plus a $100 security deposit and $65 cleaning fee -- on Airbnb.com during the 10-day South by Southwest festival. Other apartments renting on Airbnb.com during SXSW are asking between $650 and $1,000 a night. (There is at least one free place to stay for SXSW, but you'll be required to room with this guy.)
So how does that compare to an average Austin rental any other time of the year? According to Austinist, the average rent in the city is $917 per month. The inflated price of the $1,074-a-night Austin apartment will come down after SXSW. If you book it in April, it only costs $538 a night. SXSW rental prices are undeniably pricey, but attendees at the festival (which has grown to include not only music but film and emerging technology) often have no other choice. Rooms at hotels affiliated with the festival sell out months in advance. Currently, all rooms set aside for the festival by hotels in and around Austin are booked -- and in any case, such hotel rooms also sport inflated nightly rates of up to 500 percent.
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Local Realtors say that it's "savvy" for homeowners to take advantage of the swell in short-term rental demand around SXSW, and many are making a killing -- but only for that short window of time. "We definitely see people renting their homes out for extremely high prices during SXSW," said Theresa Bastian, co-owner of KeepAustinWeirdHomes.com. "That may work once in a while, but I would say $700 a night for a one-bedroom condo is generally not the norm."
For cheaper rental alternatives, Realtors suggest booking with vacation rental sites like HomeAway.com, which lets users search rentals by price. Also, try your hand at some good, old-fashioned haggling (most homeowners will surprisingly be open to negotiation). If you're traveling to SXSW in a large group, consider renting an entire home a little farther outside of Austin and using a rental car to travel to the event. And, of course, if you're traveling alone (or just don't want to pay for lodging) there's also Couchsurfing.com.
Visiting Austin for SXSW? You May Want to Move There
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