Property owners hope to cash in by renting their homes during Republican National Convention

Published March 31, 2012


Even Democrats could cash in during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Certainly developer and hedge fund manager Joel Cantor hopes to. On his walls, he has pictures of his family with First Lady Michelle Obama at a fundraiser he hosted in October at his 12,000 square foot mansion on Davis Islands. But he's willing to hide the photos if he lands a Republican to rent his place for the convention.

The price: $40,000 for the week.

"The dollar is bipartisan," he said, laughing. "Money has no boundaries."

A renter could make dinner in the outdoor pizza oven and sip martinis near the pool or host a gala for a few hundred people. Cantor has already fielded calls from a national media outlet and from the campaign staff of one of the Republican candidates. He declined to reveal which one.

Property owners across Tampa Bay are trying to turn their apartments, condos and homes into rentals for the convention. Nightly and weekly rentals are popping up online, targeting 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and journalists who will invade downtown Tampa as the event begins on Aug. 27.

Units range from one-bedroom apartments at $500 a night to waterfront homes at $18,000 a week. Some owners will hit big. Oprah Winfrey spent $50,000 a week for a home in Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Out-of-town corporate sponsors and wealthy donors often pay thousands per night to rent large waterfront homes and mansions for social events.

Prospective renters proceed at their own risk. The Republican Party has no connection to any private housing being offered.

Currently, the Tampa craigslist page has more than 55 listings for convention-related rentals.

Demand for housing will be enormous. Hotels within 35 minutes of downtown Tampa will be filled. The GOP has about 15,000 hotel rooms booked for four nights.

The same was true for the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Then, hundreds of home rentals were listed online with prices ranging from $500 for a room in a home to $20,000 for a five-bedroom house.

Prior to the Democratic convention, the Denver craigslist listed more than 7,000 homes for rent, with prices starting at $750 a night for a one-bedroom to $100,000 for a house for the week. In the end, many prices dropped.

The same could happen here.

"We were disappointed during the last Super Bowl," said Marvin Meeks, owner of Urban Living TampaBay, a boutique real estate company minutes from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Still, he has been deluged in the past two weeks with inquiries from media and security firms seeking rental properties for the convention.

Residents have also called him to market their properties.

"I have been bombarded," he said. "I foresee this growing as it gets closer."

Properties closest to the forum will draw the highest rental rates. But in the many condo buildings closest to the event, owners will have trouble cashing in because most homeowners associations prohibit rentals for less than seven months.

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• • •

Joshua Cahill wants to travel on someone else's dime.

The agent with Quicksilver Real Estate Group recently listed his 783-square-foot condo in Tampa's downtown SkyPoint building. He is asking $2,500 a night, touting a luxury kitchen with granite countertops and private balcony with water views.

He hasn't had any inquires for the one-bedroom unit. But Cahill said he'll drop the price as the convention approaches.

"It's basically a money-making opportunity," he said. "It's hot here at the end of August. If I can rent the place, I might go on a cruise or to Europe for the week."

Michael Boken and his wife see the Tampa convention as a way to pad their savings account.

The couple, who moved to Tampa from New York City in January, want to rent their 2,800 square-foot home near Bayshore Boulevard for $15,000 to $20,000 for the week. The home has a pool and a separate guest house.

Boken commutes to New York for work at an investment-management firm. He and his wife, Leena Danan, are expecting a baby; the rental money would allow Boken to take unpaid time off from work.

"If we could make money from renting the home, we could stay together when the baby is born," Boken said. "We wouldn't have to dip into our savings. That would be great."

Clarissa Grose has two listings. One is a 5,000-square-foot home on Davis Islands for $6,500 a week; the other is a 1,600-square-foot condo on Bayshore Boulevard for about $200 a night.

She knows the dangers of renting to people online, but she plans to do background checks on applicants. She listed the properties after hearing from a friend at Tampa City Hall that some convention attendees might stay as far away as Ocala.

"We have other places we can stay," Grose said. "Why not pocket a little extra cash?

Grose, the office manager for a law firm, also offered herself — for an fee. Her ad states: "For the benefit of the renter, a personal concierge can be provided for planning, errands, transportation, food . . . or any other work related assistance."

She'd like to participate in the buzz around the convention.

"For me, it's a way to put me in the mix of everything," Grose said. "If someone needs groceries, I can do it."

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at