By Kamran Rosen
With athletic phenomenon Zion Williamson and his star-studded Duke Blue Devils leading the hype, this year’s NCAA tournament has been exceptional. Preliminary data for the tournament has viewership up 8% compared to last year’s tournament during the same time – and this year is currently tied for the third-highest-rated NCAA basketball tournament in the last 25 years. While Duke’s upsetting 1-point loss to Michigan State last week may have busted everyone’s bracket (including the now famous best bracket ever) there may still be cause for celebration – if you live in one of the tournament cities.
That’s because according to data from home-rental site Vrbo (subsidiary of HomeAway and Expedia), vacation rental prices in cities hosting NCAA tournament games can increase by as much as 188% during tournament dates. This is the case in Minneapolis – host of this year’s Final Four and NCAA Championship Game – where home rental prices increased to $460 per night during for this weekend’s tournament, compared to $160 per night this time last year.
The increase in home rental price is in line with the broader economic boost Minneapolis anticipates from the Final Four weekend – estimated to be the tune of $142 million according to a study released by the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee.
“We anticipate approximately 94,000 people in Minneapolis this weekend, which we’re very happy about,” reports Kathy McCarthy, the director of PR and communications at Meet Minneapolis, the local Minneapolis tourism board.
“Since we last hosted the Final Four tournament in 2001, we’ve added roughly 3,912 hotel rooms – bringing our total up to 9,293 in the city,” she adds. “We were able to take a lot of our ideas from hosting the Super Bowl and apply them here.”
While Minneapolis’s capacity for hospitality has increased, it still may not be enough to handle the influx of zealous college basketball fans. A survey conducted earlier this week by Meet Minneapolis found that 30% of hotels in the city had “no rooms available” and 60% had “very limited availability.”
Third-party vacation rentals may act as a sort of pressure release valve during these times of increased demand, though it’s possible they may even supersede hotels as the location of choice for many fans.
“College events have something special about them,” says Vrbo vacation rental expert Adam Annen. “You have a lot of alumni coming – large extended families and fraternities and sororities and such. The ability to rent a home for a family and build memories together is really quite special.”
The home vacation rental boost extends beyond the Final Four and Championship Game to many of the hotly-anticipated games of the tournament. This year, Louisville, one of the hosts of the Elite Eight games, saw a 58% increase in rental home prices – from a standard nightly price of $190 per night to $300 during the game dates. Considering that the average rent in Louisville is $779, a Louisville resident could cover three-fourths of their monthly rent in just two nights.
The boost is rental demand is not isolated to basketball alone. Representatives at Vrbo confirmed that demand for vacation home rentals see similar spikes during other large sports events, including marathons, college football games and NFL games.
“College football is an interesting one because if you think about some of the larger football schools, they’re not in very large towns,” says Annen. “So people are organically drawn to renting homes that are in and around the town.”
The discrepancy between existing tourist capacity and demand could explain why unlike Louisville, Washington D.C. and Anaheim saw virtually flat vacation home prices despite also hosting Elite Eight games this year. According to Annen, these are also both cities that already anticipate high tourism during this time of year, from the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Disneyland, respectively.
However, with the NCAA having already selected their preliminary tournament round sites through 2022, and their Final Four tournament locations selected all the way through 2026, it’s certainly worth examining if your home may be worth a little more than normal. Whether or not your home will see triple digit value growth, it will still probably payoff more than having your office bracket busted.
Until then, pick your favorite bar (or couch) this Saturday, and get ready for what are sure to be a nail-biting couple of games.