50,000 out-of-towners are expected to flock to Milwaukee this July for the Democratic National Convention, and they’re going to need somewhere to stay. Airbnb is already estimating more than 1,000 expected guest arrivals in Milwaukee County during the week of the DNC, totaling combined earnings of more than $650,000, and it expects those projections to rise considerably as the convention nears.
That unprecedented surge in demand for temporary housing has many Milwaukee renters and home owners seeing dollar signs: Some rental units have already been booked for more than $1,000 a night during the DNC, and some hosts are hoping for even bigger paydays. One property a short drive from Fiserv Forum is listed at $2,423 a night, while one uncommonly beautiful Glendale home is holding out for $5,000 a night.
With the possibility of windfalls like that, even many Milwaukeeans who’d never thought about renting their place before can’t help but consider the prospect. But are those paydays worth the headache of converting your place into a rental? Experienced Airbnb hosts weighed in with their advice, and they agree that for anybody seriously considering renting their home during the DNC, it’s probably worthwhile – although there are caveats.
Ask almost anybody who’s listed their place on Airbnb and they’ll tell you the notion of hosting strangers isn’t nearly as odd in practice as it may sound in theory.
“I tell people if they’re nervous about hosting strangers, we’ve probably has over 200 reservations now, and we’ve yet to have a really bad experience,” says Derrick Bordeleau, who’s been renting out a spare bedroom in his Riverwest home for nearly three years. “We haven’t had a situation that’s required follow-up with Airbnb. Nothing’s ever been broken. If you respect your guests, you can expect that they’re going to respect your place, too.”
Most renters on Airbnb are looking for a clean, uncluttered place to stay, Bordeleau says, but given the demand during the DNC, many will be willing to settle for somewhere more makeshift. Just be clear about setting expectations, he advises.
“If you don’t want to put in a ton of work as far as changing things around or making things look nicer than they are, the main thing is just being clear with your listing so when people come they aren’t surprised or aren’t expecting something different,” Bordeleau says. “And as far as being honest in your listing, if you’re not offering a really nice looking place or a really clean place, you should probably adjust the price as a result.”
Daniel Cruz, who runs a pair of Airbnb rentals in Walker’s Point, says Airbnb makes it easy for first timers to list their properties, but the actual process of renting may involve more work than some expect.
“Laundry is a big time challenge when you run an Airbnb, because you’re always washing a whole bed’s worth of bedding, you’re always washing a lot of towels and linens,” he says.
Messaging and coordinating with guests can be demanding, too. “Messaging back and forth to guests is usually a couple of hours a week, but it seems to happen at odd times,” Cruz says. “You think it comes with a great amount of freedom, but what it means is you’re always tied to your phone because you never know when that next business message is going to come in.”
Sam Randall, a spokesperson for Airbnb, offers a few more pieces of advice: Be specific in outlining house rules, including any quiet hours you may have. “Many guests are attending events in the downtown area that can have them leaving early or arriving late,” he says.
Randall also encourages hosts to limit all their interactions with guests to Airbnb’s messaging platform. “Bad actors may try to take advantage of the surge in activity by luring people into offline scams,” he says. “For people’s own protection and coverage under the host guarantee, all communications should stay on the platform. We find that the secure messaging platform is a great way to get to know their guest prior to the event.”
Randall says that in other cities that have held a one-off, big-draw event — a Super Bowl, for instance — many first-time listers have taken advantage by renting their place. While many of those first-timers never host again, others “find that that they really enjoy hosting,” Randall says.
“We have a number of hosts who have some wonderful stories about getting to know their guests and continue to stay on the platform,” he says. “And Milwaukee is a city that has a lot of large events. Look at Summerfest. You also have some exciting sports teams in the Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers, so it’s not just one isolated event. It’s not like The Masters in Georgia where it’s just the one big event in the area. There are a number of things that bring people to Milwaukee.”