PHOENIX (AP) — Hundreds of people gather each year to hobnob with A-list celebrities at a charity bash in the Super Bowl's host city. But instead of sending this year's guests to a trendy nightclub or swanky restaurant, organizers are throwing the party at a private home.
The choice reflects a trend in the Phoenix area, where homeowners are renting out their houses and condos to visitors in town for big events — a move that can bring big money for those willing to take the risk.
Vacation home rentals have been available for years privately and through websites such as Vrbo and Airbnb, but the focus on the Valley of the Sun has never been sharper with Super Bowl 49 and the Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament attracting tens of thousands of visitors on the same weekend.
Amanda Thomas, a small-business owner, has been leasing her home and her condo for nearly two years. This weekend, she will rent out her house to Super Bowl attendees for $1,700 a night.
She said home rentals are attractive for big groups. Co-workers traveling together for work "would have to get four or five hotel rooms, but they could easily stay in one house," she said.
But it's not always that easy.
Dale Blue owns a three-bedroom home near University of Phoenix Stadium, where the Seattle Seahawks will play the New England Patriots in the NFL title game. Blue said he's received several inquiries but hasn't been able to book any guests.
The Portland, Oregon, resident and his wife purchased the home as an investment property when the Phoenix housing market crashed a few years ago. They have been renting it to tourists, charging $90 to $150 a night. But by Monday before the big game, Blue hadn't confirmed any boarders and had lowered the rate from $4,000 to $2,400 for one week.
"I think we're just gonna hope that somebody comes across HomeAway," Blue said, referencing the website where the home is listed. "There could be people that don't have tickets yet. It's hard to say what's holding up somebody."
Some point out other risks, both for homeowners and renters.
Hotels are heavily regulated with safety measures that keep visitors safe, said Kristen Jarnagin, senior vice president of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. That's not always the case with independent rentals.
"People should always be cautious when they're booking rooms that are not regulated by the hotel industry," Jarnagin said. "I think it's another option for visitors for sure, but people need to always make sure you look at what your needs are, what you're looking to get out of the stay."
Homeowners, meanwhile, should take extra precautions and have backup insurance when they lease their properties to tourists, said John Candaso, an insurance agent with AAA Arizona.
He suggested landlords treat short-term vacation rentals as long-term leases, by doing extensive background checks and requiring that renters have homeowners' or renters' insurance.
"Find out if your home is protected under the situation," he said.
Dominic Hrabe is renting out his house for the Super Bowl but said he isn't too concerned about property damage. He's advertising his three-bedroom, three-bathroom Phoenix house for about $1,500 a night on Airbnb. He said the website vets users carefully and has a backup insurance policy for homeowners.
"Considering the demand for it, I figured it was a kind of a necessary thing to do for me as a business person," Hrabe said.
He has a weeklong vacation planned to clear out the home and avoid the crowds.
As for the big gala, Major League Baseball manager Matt Williams, of the Washington Nationals, and his wife, Erika Monroe Williams, won't make any money from letting guests into their home to party with the likes of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Michael Bay. The organization behind the event plans to donate the proceeds.
Monroe Williams, however, said she and her husband were happy to make their place available because it provides a "much more personal and so much more of an intimate event."