Hoping for Pay Dirt On Super Bowl Weekend

| 17 Feb 2015 | 12:59

Renting out apartments to out-of-towners, sometimes at sky-box prices

Real estate broker Ralph Auerbach owns a number of residences he's been renting out for a few years through the website AirBnB, including one on the Upper West Side that is going for $5,000 for Super Bowl week.

The rate for a normal week in January? $1,500.

"I tend to be very selective and usually pass up more leads than I bring to fruition," explains Auerbach of his vetting process. "These are people coming into my home."

With only days remaining before the Super Bowl, New Yorkers -- many of whom seem largely ambivalent to the big game -- nevertheless are hoping to cash in on the influx of visitors, offering up their apartments at prices that can triple or quadruple the usual rate. So far, though, game-goers aren't biting. (Super Bowl ticket prices also, apparently, are off, with scalpers worried that cold weather may be keeping traveling fans at home.)

For the Super Bowl, Auerbach was hoping to rent his Upper West Side studio out to a single professional who might come to town for the game, not a gaggle of inebriated frat boys.

"The Super Bowl does not draw a sophisticated crowd," he explains, "maybe not the crowd you want in your house."

Auerbach hasn't yet had a single bite on this property. Auerbach blames his lack of success with AirBnB, in part, on the website itself -- and, curiously, not on the price tag he has put on his property.

"I don't have a high success rate," he says. "I think because they filter communications, it's hard to do business. A lot is lost in feeling out the renter - you lose human contact so you can't judge a person's caliber. One thing I look for is level of education and you can't feel [a person] out using all your senses."

Auerbach said he has no intention of lowering the price to draw hits and is still hoping for a bite for this upcoming weekend.

Gordon (not his real name), who frequently rents out his four bedroom apartment in SoHo, has been using AirBnB successfully since November of last year to rent his apartment in a prime Manhattan location. He receives many requests from couples as well as the occasional girls' weekend trip.

Typically Gordon will price his property at $600 a night for weekends and $500 a night for weeknights. When seeking out Super Bowl pricing, he saw a similar four bedroom apartment in Union Square asking for $25,000 for Super Bowl week.

"That seemed high to me," explains Gordon, "but I figured I'd start there." He raised the price to $5,300 a night for the Super Bowl.

Like Auerbach, Gordon wasn't getting any bites at his asking price. He ended up lowering the price to $11,000 for a full week.

"I think that's a pretty reasonable price, if you break it down per person," he says, adding he'd lower the price again but hopes he won't need to. Gordon also inflates his prices around Christmas and New Year's.

Kathleen Gaffney, also on the Upper West Side, listed her property on Craigslist and notes, "the most interesting thing is [she] hasn't had a legitimate inquiry yet."

Gaffney rents her apartment, which sleeps five people, so she explains this is more like subletting.

"I heard from friends and around the neighborhood that the city's hotels were booked and visitors were paying top dollar to rent apartments during Super Bowl week/weekend," says Gaffney. "I already had plans to go away so I thought I'd give it a try."

At press time, several Manhattan hotels still had rooms available for the weekend, but for steep prices. The Hilton Times Square is going for $619 a night, the Westin Times Square for $685, and the Marriott Marquis for $999 a night.

While we were unable to find anyone on the Upper East Side willing to comment on the process, a search on both AirBnB and Craigslist reveals no shortage of listings in the area, many of which advertise the Super Bowl as a major draw.

One three-bedroom apartment at 81st St. and 2nd Ave. (11 miles from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey) lists its asking price on Craigslist as $1,250 with a three-night minimum. It also lists a "party package," which promises discounts and connections to NYC nightlife. Unlike AirBnB, Craigslist does not require pictures, something that might keep potential renters at bay.

James, who is listing his 73rd. St. and 2nd Ave. apartment on AirBnB, calls it "the ideal SuperBowl weekend spot." His Upper East Side apartment sleeps up to five people, and his thorough listing includes a full weekend itinerary for potential guests. James's listing has received five out of five possible stars on AirBnB by past renters. He's asking for $1,120 per week, though his apartment remains unclaimed for the Super Bowl weekend.