Republican National Convention rentals not living up to the hype

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CLEVELAND - Many people living near downtown thought Cleveland's selection to host the Republican National Convention would lead to a major pay day if they rented their home or apartment to visitors. With the convention days away, some are now realizing demand for rentals and the price visitors are willing to pay hasn't lived up to the hype.

"We're ten minutes walking distance to the Q, the heart of where the RNC is going to be," said Melissa Balsiger, who lives with her husband in the Pinnacle, a luxury condominium building in the Warehouse District.

She said RNC rentals were touted as a selling point when they purchased their condo last year.

"We were told initially when we were looking to buy the condo up to $20,000 for the week," she said.

With the help of a realtor, they listed the 2 bedroom unit for $7,000 for the week. Initial interest from a media outlet fizzled after the outlet opted for less expensive hotel accommodations in Northwest Ohio, according to Balsiger. She said five other units listed for rent in her building weren't yet leased either.

"Price was a driving factor," Balsiger said. "I think a lot of attendees of the convention are looking for less expensive options. I've heard they're staying in university dorm rooms and as far as Toledo."

Some downtown residents have successfully rented their units, including as recently as within the last two weeks.

Several large downtown apartment buildings allowed residents to rent their apartments for the week through the Downtown Cleveland Alliance at a capped rate of double their monthly rent. Tenants had to pay for a background check for prospective renters.

A spokesperson for DCA said the organization estimates of 600 people who expressed interest in the housing program, 250 to 300 followed up and listed their unit, and just under 200 units received a tenant through the host committee.

Dwayne Caldwell, who lives in a 2 bedroom penthouse at the Bingham on West 9th Street, said he independently listed his place on web sites like Airbnb. He said he turned three offers that didn't meet his listing price of $2,000 per night.

"They wanted to negotiate and so forth, make offers. And I said, 'look, it's a hassle to move in and out,'" Caldwell said. "I totally wanted to stick with my price. I thought it was fair and reasonable."

Ali Rose, a real estate broker and president of Lake Realty Ohio who specialized in luxury lakefront homes, said of her company's 406 listings within a ten minute drive of Quicken Loans Arena, only seven have been rented for the RNC.

"It's extremely disappointing," she said.

She said she believes more expensive full home rentals aren't leasing because fewer people are coming to this convention, including the Bush family and past GOP presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney.

"I'm just a realtor, but it feels like to me that Cleveland is being boycotted," she said. "It's really very strange."

Caldwell said he's holding out hope of renting his place if some visitors are unsatisfied with their accommodations far from downtown once they arrive.

But Balsiger said she's given up.

"I think at this point, it's not going to happen," she said.