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Yes You Can…Find Inaugural Housing

>>All Washingtonian.com Inauguration 2009 coverage

Want to go skiing in Park City, Utah? How about a week in Jamaica? Or maybe you’re just strapped for cash? For Washington residents, inauguration-week options are plentiful. All you need is a home you’re willing to hand over to a stranger.

Many hotels are sold out, including everything from the Marriott to Motel 6, or charging an exorbitant amount for a room—the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown’s starting price has risen from $549 to $899. All eyes are fixed on Craigslist. On November 11 alone, almost 500 people posted their houses and apartments as inauguration-week rentals. Many others, from all over the country, offered their houses for a swap. One posting came from a Duke University professor who offered a trade of Duke basketball tickets for housing in DC.

Gary Karr, a Vienna resident who voted for McCain, is thinking about making the most of the opportunity by doing a house swap. “I really don’t want to take advantage of someone,” he says. “I’m just thinking it would be great to help someone get to see history, and I’ll go on a nice vacation.”

Anna Smith and her husband posted their Alexandria townhouse for rent on Saturday: $4,400 for the week. They’re no strangers to Craigslist: They sold their Seattle home and bought their car on the site. By Tuesday they had a verbal agreement with a professor from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. He’s taking a group of students to DC for the historic event.

When Alice Morton, an Obama supporter, put her Silver Spring house on Craigslist, she was hoping a family would take it. She has the space and wanted to help someone be a part of the movement. “I’m also broke,” she laughs.

Amanda Martinez, a consultant from Boston, was the second person to contact Morton. She’s coming to DC to celebrate with her 19-year-old brother who voted for the first time. “After the primaries, he caught the bug and became very interested in what was going on,” says Martinez. “A week after, he said, ‘I want to go the inauguration.’ I said, ‘I’ll give you the opportunity to go, but you have to be responsible for booking the hotel.’ Unfortunately, he never did.”

The only hotel options she could find were either an hour outside of DC or astronomically priced. So she looked on Craigslist and found Morton’s house: $1,000 for two nights. “It’s a bargain compared to what most people are charging,” says Martinez. On Craigslist, prices range from $175 a night for a Dupont studio to $20,000 for a week in a Dupont rowhouse.

Some of the most interesting deals involve house swapping. “You ski Utah, we do inauguration,” says one posting. “My daughter & boyfriend will be staying in basement bedroom/bath, but will share kitchen; they are quiet.” Another offers a Jamaican vacation home complete with a pool and two live-in maids. Or, if you like to fish, you can trade for a lakefront home in Maine.

One San Francisco couple opted to put their house up for a swap after Travelocity directed them to the Hilton for a $920-per-night price tag. The husband and wife, who both worked for Obama during the campaign, already have inauguration and plane tickets but are desperate to find a place to stay. “It’d be sad if after working for him for over a year we couldn’t go,” says the wife.

Chevy Chase resident Andrea Rouda has other plans: “I’ve lived here on and off since 1970, and I’m over it. I’ve been to enough of these things. I have another house out of town and am planning to go away anyway, so why not make some money?”

Competition is stiff on Craigslist, with people inundating the site with posts—and there are still two months to go. Our recommendation? If you’re not sticking around for the festivities, opt for a swap: Lock your valuables in a closet and dust off your bathing suit or skis—your choice.

Are you renting out your house for the inauguration? Did you get a great house swap for a ski chalet in Utah? Tell us in the comments!

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