TAMPA — A sign at Henderson and Watrous avenues offers a phone number and a promise.
"RENT YOUR HOME FOR THE BOWLS! UP TO $1,000 PER DAY!" it screams in black letters on neon orange above the number. When called, a recorded man's voice says, "Yes, it's true! Let's cash in!"
The Super Bowl's coming to town, and with it, lots of visitors in need of shelter. Perhaps enticed by signs on street corners, many Tampa residents are hoping to lease out their own digs for big bucks — hotels be darned. But for now, it's the homeowners who are shelling out the cash. And that bold-lettered promise? A gamble.
Most of the signs and phone numbers lead homeowners to Web sites that list home information and photos online for a fee of a few hundred dollars. There's generally no guarantee that a home will get rented and no refund.
Out-of-town corporate sponsors often pay thousands per night to rent large waterfront homes for parties and events during the Bowl week, but Amanda Holt, a spokeswoman for the Tampa Bay Super Bowl Host Committee, said visitor demand for most residential leases is low, and there are always plenty of hotel rooms available.
"These are instances where people are trying to use the Super Bowl as a catalyst to make extra money," Holt said. "We would strongly caution any bay area residents interested in that to be very careful."
The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, Renaissance Tampa Hotel at International Plaza, Marriott Waterside, Hilton Tampa Airport and Holiday Inn Express Hotel — all near Raymond James Stadium — are already booked up, according to receptionists. But less expensive hotels also near the stadium — the Comfort Inn, Howard Johnson and Days Inn — still have availability for time around the Feb. 1 game, receptionists said.
Hans Hess, owner of Reservations Direct Inc., which features listings on its site for a $200 fee, said finding a hotel room can be stressful for visitors. He thinks Tampa homeowners should stake money on it.
"Yes, nobody wants to spend their last $200, but I bet there are a lot of people who want the opportunity to rent their place for $10,000 or $20,000," he said.
Hess wasn't sure how many of those who advertise with him secure leases. He's heard complaints from some who were left empty-handed, but he said the gripes are unwarranted. "We just offer the ad, like your paper does. It's just like a classified ad," Hess said. "We give them visibility."
Rodney Rumble, owner of another online rental forum, www.tampabaysuperbowlrental.com, charges $50 for a listing. Before last year's Super Bowl in Arizona, 60 to 70 people put their homes on his site. He said about 20 percent secured renters.
"That's not up for me to decide — whether or not they're going to get a tenant. I can't say," he said.
Cynthia Presti, who owns two condos near the stadium and a three-bedroom home in Brandon, put her places on Craigslist, which doesn't charge for listings. She's hoping to get $1,000 a night for each condo and $800 for the house. She hasn't consulted a Realtor or paid for any Web space.
"I've considered it. I think it's a good idea," Presti said of the ad providers. "Besides the fact that they're trying to get a big chunk of the change."
Henry Lam-Kuo said he doesn't mind the $500 fee he paid to list his 1,481-square-foot, three-bedroom home on www.super-week-rentals.com. He found out about the site on a side-of-the-road sign. Lam-Kuo lives about a mile from the stadium, and his asking price is $3,000 a night.
He's never done this before and knows he may end up with nothing, but he said he doesn't feel swindled by the Web listing.
"It's a win-win situation for them, and its a shot in the dark for me," Lam-Kuo said. "But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I'm just taking a chance."
Kim Wilmath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.