Golf fans by the score will be flocking to Medinah Country Club during Ryder Cup week. And many won't be staying in hotels, but in the homes of area residents.
This cottage industry, if you will, gives the locals a chance to accommodate guests from all over the world -- while making good money in the process.
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Monique and Russ Felker are renting out their 2,200-square-foot home for the four days of the international tournament pitting the best golfers from the U.S. against a European team. The Felkers' home is within walking distance of the entrance to Medinah and has a direct view of the golf course. It also has a spacious living room, big screen TVs, pool table and a furnished patio.
Although she wouldn't say exactly how much rental income the family will receive, Monique Felker said that it will be enough to almost fully pay her three children's private school tuition for next year.
The Felkers listed their property on a website devoted to the renting of homes for fans looking to attend big sporting events. People pitching their homes for a Ryder Cup stay are offering top-of-the-line amenities: fireplaces, Jacuzzis, pool tables, private bars, theater rooms -- and in some cases, a maid, if requested.
Those creature comforts come with a cost: $1,500 per night for a 2,000-square-foot home and $2,500 per night for a 4,000-square-foot home are typical offerings. But one night in a high-end home can also cost up to $6,000 -- although mostly, homeowners prefer not to communicate prices publicly.
"Home rentals have become a big business," said Robert E. Hayes, chief executive officer of Phoenix-based Sports Event Rentals, which lists and finds properties for rent for more than 300 sporting events worldwide, including the Ryder Cup, the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games. Residents who want to offer their homes on the website, www.sportseventrentals.com, pay a one-time fee of $49.95.
Sports Events Rentals solicits business through search engine optimization, which improves the rank of a website when certain keywords are entered into search engines. And before specific events, Hayes said, the website is advertised in magazines tied to the event and in neighborhoods close to the event.
The Felkers put their house on the market in March, where it sat until a few weeks ago when a contract was signed allowing four golf fans to move in.
So what happens to the Felker family during that week?
They're going camping in their mobile home trailer. While four strangers are living in their house, the Felker family, including three of their own kids and two Korean exchange students they are hosting, will be on the road.
"The kids are pretty excited," said Monique Felker, and it's about more than just the camping. The children's rooms are being repainted and equipped with new furniture at the wish of the company renting the dwelling, which wanted the house to be more "adult friendly," she said.
Toys and personal items are being temporarily stored, something the children don't like so much, Monique Felker said, noting the family picked up the tab of the remodeling.
The upcoming Ryder Cup isn't the first opportunity for Medinah-area residents to rent out their homes. In fact, one of the online ads for this year's tournament boasts that the home was rented to Tiger Woods during the 2006 PGA Championship held at Medinah. The couple running the ad were not available for comment.
It's unclear how many homes are being rented through such websites or in privately brokered deals. Local convention and tourism bureaus, which track hotel business, said they don't monitor home rentals.
"It's happening, but we don't hear much about it," said Dave Parulo, president of the Woodfield Chicago Northwest Convention Bureau in Schaumburg.
But just being ready to become a Ryder Cup landlord isn't a guarantee it will happen.
Addison resident James Duda said he noticed the home rental company's advertisements on fliers and postcards. He decided to try to rent out his house "to make a little extra cash." Friends of his had done it before, said Duda, and the family of four thought, "Why don't we try it?"
So far, however, the family hasn't been able to close on a contract, although they have had numerous inquiries. For their three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot home, Duda is asking for $1,000 per night. That's discounted from the higher price when the home was first put online, he said.
"We had high expectations," he said.
Maybe that's proof one can never start to early in the sports home-rental business. Homeowners already are marketing their residences for the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland.